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Chuck Schumer Challenges Republicans To Oppose Bill Establishing A Capitol Riot Commission
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Chuck Schumer Challenges Republicans To Oppose Bill Establishing A Capitol Riot Commission

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pledged Tuesday to hold a vote on legislation establishing a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol, daring Republicans to oppose an effort that has bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.

“Republicans can tell their constituents whether they are on the side of truth [or] want to cover up for the insurrectionists and Donald Trump,” Schumer said at his weekly press conference.

Last week, lawmakers in the House reached a bipartisan agreement to form a 9/11-style bipartisan panel made up of unelected experts to investigate the deadly attack on the Capitol by hundreds of former president's supporters. Each party would choose an equal number of members, and any subpoena issued would require approval from both the chair and vice chair of the commission — a major concession by Democrats.

Republicans, on the other hand, showed more signs of disarray on Tuesday, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) coming out against the commission in a statement, saying it needed to focus on unrelated events before January 6. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said GOP members were debating whether to support it.

“At this point, we are undecided on how to proceed,” McConnell said, adding, “We want to read the fine print.”

Both McConnell and McCarthy expressed concern that a commission would jeopardize the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into the riot, which has resulted in criminal charges against more than 400 people.

McCarthy reiterated his previous complaint that the proposed commission has a “shortsighted scope that does not examine interconnected forms of political violence in America.” In other words, McCarthy wants the commission to blame the Capitol riot on violence related to Black Lives Matter protests last year.

McConnell has previously stated that he would like a commission to investigate Black Lives Matter on January 6, but he refused to say so again on Tuesday.

“We are discussing this whole matter in our conference,” McConnell said when asked if he would accept a commission solely focused on the Capitol riot. “We are evaluating what is appropriate given where we are, and I don’t have any other answers.”

In contrast to McCarthy's claim that the commission has an overly narrow scope, nothing in the legislation prevents the panel from investigating past political violence if it is somehow relevant. The legislation, introduced by Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.), directs the commission to investigate the facts and causes of the attack, "as well as the influencing factors that fomented such violence."

The bill is expected to be passed later this week by the House.

Schumer's pledge to hold a vote on a commission on Jan. 6 puts Republicans in a difficult position. If the Republicans decide to filibuster the commission, it will be their first use of the filibuster in this Congress, giving Democrats a talking point in their efforts to repeal the chamber's long-standing supermajority requirement.

Allowing the commission to proceed, however, carries risks for the GOP as well. For one thing, it would almost certainly enrage Trump, who continues to lie about the 2020 election and hold the party hostage by doling out critical endorsements in primaries for the upcoming midterm elections.

More broadly, the cancellation of a bipartisan commission on the Capitol attack could lead Democrats to question the Republican Party's willingness to reach a compromise entirely, particularly in ongoing negotiations over infrastructure, police reform, and gun control legislation. Some progressives are already urging President Joe Biden's administration to abandon efforts to reach an infrastructure deal.

“If Republican leaders are going to throw their lead negotiators under the bus, why do they even participate in negotiations?” Schumer asked on Tuesday.

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