WASHINGTON (AP) — The House
is set to vote on a 9/11-style commission
to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 insurgency at the United States Capitol, a first step toward establishing an independent, bipartisan panel to investigate the siege and try to prevent it from happening again.
While the measure is expected to pass the House on Wednesday, establishing a commission will be a more difficult sell in the Senate
, where Republicans
have indicated that they will try to stymie – or at least slow down – the effort.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell
said Tuesday that he is “pushing the pause button” on legislation to create the commission. Democrats
would need at least 10 Republican votes
to pass the measure while controlling the Senate, according to Senate rules.
McConnell told reporters that his caucus is “undecided,” but he is willing to hear arguments about “whether such a commission is needed.” He also questioned whether the panel’s work
would interfere with the hundreds of criminal cases stemming from the Jan. 6 attack
, in which rioters brutally beat police, broke in through windows and doors, and hunted for lawmakers as they fled.
McConnell also questioned a separate $1.9 billion spending bill for security upgrades that the House is expected to pass this week, saying, "We're not sure what we're going to spend the money
McConnell's reluctance comes just hours after House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy
said he would oppose the bill. The two leaders' positions almost certainly mean fewer Republicans will support the commission in both chambers, as most in the party are still afraid of upsetting former President Donald Trump
Tuesday night, Trump issued a statement urging Republicans to vote no on what he called a "Democrat trap."
The votes in the House and Senate will also reveal party divisions, as some Republicans believe an independent review is required.
Members argued for and against the idea in private GOP
caucus meetings held throughout the Capitol on Tuesday.
According to one Republican familiar with the private session who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it, several Republican lawmakers joined McCarthy in speaking against the commission early Tuesday during a meeting of House Republicans, while New York
Rep. John Katko, the Republican who negotiated the bill with Democrats, argued in favor.
“I recognize there are differing perspectives on this issue, which is an inherent part of the legislative process and not something I take personally,” Katko said in a statement. “However, as the Republican Leader of the Homeland Security Committee, I feel a deep obligation to get the answers U.S. Capitol Police
and Americans deserve and ensure an attack on the heart of our democracy
never happens again.”
McConnell said his caucus had a "good discussion" behind closed doors during their lunch.
Some Republicans, including Missouri
Sen. Roy Blunt, have advised his colleagues to oppose the commission. Blunt, the top Republican on the Senate Rules Committee, is working on a bipartisan report with his Democratic colleagues that will include recommendations for security upgrades. He believes an independent investigation would take too long and, "frankly, I don't think there are that many gaps."
Other Senate Republicans have expressed support for the commission, including Utah
Sen. Mitt Romney
, who stated on Tuesday that in light of the violent attack, “we should understand what mistakes were made and how we can prevent them from happening again.”
The bill, modeled after the investigation into the September 11, 2001, attacks, would create an independent, 10-member commission to make recommendations for securing the Capitol and preventing another insurgency, with a final report due by Dec. 31.
The commission debate comes at a time when some Republicans have begun to downplay the gravity of the Jan. 6 attack, and many Republicans argue that the commission should only be established if it can investigate other violent acts, such as racial justice
protests last summer in response to the police killing of George Floyd
Some have suggested that McCarthy could be subpoenaed by the panel because he spoke with Trump as the Capitol was breached. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney
, who was kicked out of GOP leadership last week for criticizing Trump's false claims of a stolen election
, suggested as much in an interview with ABC News
, saying she "wouldn't be surprised" if McCarthy was questioned in the investigation.
Cheney and Katko were two of ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the insurgency for telling his supporters that day to "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat, but he was acquitted by the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
, D-Calif., called McCarthy's opposition to the commission "cowardice," adding that he doesn't want to find the truth. She released a February letter from the GOP leader, in which he asked for an even split of Democrats and Republicans on the commission, equal subpoena power, and no predetermined findings or conclusions listed in the legislation.
“Leader McCarthy will not accept yes as an answer,” she stated.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
, D-N.Y., promised to bring the House bill up for a vote. “Republicans can let their constituents know: Are they on the side of truth or are they going to cover it up?” Schumer said.
He questioned why Republicans bother negotiating with Democrats "if Republican leaders are just going to throw their lead negotiators under the bus."
The Biden administration
has stated that it supports the legislation and that the American people
are entitled to “a full and fair accounting to prevent future violence and strengthen the security and resilience of our democratic institutions.”
This story was contributed to by Associated Press writer