It’s been more than two weeks since Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans killed the bipartisan Jan. 6 commission with a filibuster. Without the filibuster it would have passed, easily. McConnell, however, counted on enough Republicans doing him the “personal favor” of killing the bill, and that’s what they did.
Immediately following that vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded like she was ready to do … something. She blasted Republicans, anyway. “Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans’ denial of the truth of the January 6th insurrection brings shame to the Senate. Republicans’ cowardice in rejecting the truth of that dark day makes our Capitol and our country less safe,” Pelosi said. “In not taking yes for an answer, Republicans clearly put their election concerns above the security of the Congress and country.”
But since then, she’s done little. She’s not even decided how to proceed with a larger inquiry. They’ll talk about how to move forward on it in the “next day or so,” one of her leadership team, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, said. Some of that talk, unbelievably, involves asking the Senate to vote again. Rep. Adam Smith, House Armed Services Committee Chair, met with Pelosi Tuesday morning and told reporters afterward: “We are still going to try and get the Senate to change their mind and get 60 votes to set up a commission. And short of that, we are looking at a select committee on our side.” He said that the Senate could change the bill to make 10 Republicans vote for it.
Remember what Senate Republicans were trying to change? Things that aren’t real.
McConnell deputized Sen. Susan Collins to be his instrument of destruction on this one. Her requirements were that that the bill has to say that the commission’s work must be done by the end of the year. The bill as passed by the Senate says: “Not later than December 31, 2021, the Commission shall submit to the President and Congress a final report.”
She also insisted that the commission’s staffing had to be bipartisan, which the Republican author of the bill, Rep. John Katko, of New York, already took care of. “There is an equal number of members on both sides, appointed by both sides, they have equal subpoena power—they can’t subpoena one person without the other person on the other side of the aisle agreeing, they have to hire a staff together, all those things,” he said. “We did this for a reason, because that’s exactly what made the 9/11 commission successful.”
The things Republicans are arguing for aren’t real. They’re already in the bill. They already make the bipartisan commission way too watered down. It’s the middle of June. It would take at least a week for the Senate to get a revised bill, and that’s being ridiculously optimistic about Republicans’ 1) actual intention to do a bill and 2) their ability to do it. But we’ll be generous. It would take another week, at least, to get a bill on the floor. That already puts us at the beginning of July, best case scenario, and the start of the July 4 recess. The Senate doesn’t come back until July 12, and the House July 19.
Presuming it passes both chambers by the end of July, the chairs and members have to be named by congressional leadership, meaning Minority Leaders Kevin McCarthy and McConnell. They have free rein to pick members they know will sabotage the committee, but they also can waste some time making those nominations—not a ton of time in the bill as it’s currently written, but that could change too. Best case scenario—since nothing happens in August—is the commission starts organizing in September. And then has until just Dec. 31 to issue a final report. That’s ridiculous.
Thinking the Senate, which is 50% McConnell’s, is going to do anything in good faith on the Jan. 6 insurrection is ridiculous. Because they were complicit in it! But this is what she says she prefers!
The nation doesn’t have 14 months to spare and this is a horrible comparison. The 9/11 Commission was looking at an external threat, one that had already been stymied from further action by a military response. The Jan. 6 threat is domestic and it’s still out there. Republican members of Congress are still refusing to refute the Big Lie that is keeping the flame of insurrection stoked. Republican legislatures all over the country are using that Big Lie to give themselves the power to overturn the results of the next election.
All of this is rather urgent. Which means the investigation—a public and thorough airing of how this attack happened and what needs to happen to prevent another—is rather urgent. Democracy is kind of at stake here, something that Pelosi and the rest of Democratic leadership doesn’t really seem to grasp. There are committee hearings taking place, but House chairs don’t have the heft, the importance, and the subpoena power they need to tell the American people what we need to know about Jan. 6.
There’s one good choice for Pelosi, and that’s a select committee in the House. As Kerry Eleveld writes in explaining why, “Republicans will spend the remainder of the 2022 cycle skewering everything as a Democratic power grab or a witch hunt. It’s Democrats’ job now to uncover enough credible and damning information to convince Americans that 2022 isn’t a question of Republicans versus Democrats, it’s a question of Republican versus democracy.”
The sooner the better.