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Pelosi rules out having Biden create Capitol riot investigative commission

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ruling out a presidential commission to study the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, telling House Democrats that having President Biden appoint a panel would be unworkable after the Senate blocked an independent probe last week.

Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on Tuesday laid out possible next steps after last week’s Senate vote, in which Republicans blocked legislation to create an independent, bipartisan panel to investigate the siege by former President Trump’s supporters. She proposed four options for an investigation, according to a person on the private Democratic caucus call who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

The first option, Pelosi said, is to give the Senate another chance to vote on the commission. Six Republicans voted with Democrats to move forward with the bill, and a seventh missed the vote but said he would have backed it. That means Democrats would need support from only three additional GOP senators to reach the 60 votes needed for passage. The commission would be modeled after a highly respected panel that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The other options involve the House investigating the attack, meaning that the probes would be inherently partisan. Pelosi suggested that she could appoint a new select committee to investigate the siege or give the responsibility to an existing committee, such as the House Homeland Security panel, which wrote the original bipartisan bill to create the commission. Alternately, Pelosi said committees could simply push ahead with their own investigations that are already underway.

Pelosi said a commission appointed by Biden — an idea pitched by some in her caucus after Friday’s Senate vote — was “not a workable idea in this circumstance” because Congress would still need to approve money and subpoena authority for the panel.

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Pelosi’s comments come as members of both parties have pushed for a deep dive into the insurrection, which was designed to interrupt the presidential electoral count and was the worst attack on Congress in two centuries. Four rioters died in the attack, including a woman who was shot by police as she tried to break into the House chamber while lawmakers were still inside. The rioters brutally beat police and broke in through windows and doors as they hunted for lawmakers and called for Trump’s defeat to be overturned.

Senate Republicans use the filibuster to block a Jan. 6 commission on the pro-Trump Capitol riot. Here are the questions that may go unanswered as a consequence.

The White House has not yet said whether Biden would try to appoint a commission without Congress. On Friday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that “the president has been clear that the shameful events of Jan. 6 need to be independently and fully investigated” and that he remains committed to that.

“We will continue to work with Congress to find a path forward to ensure that happens,” she said.

After the Senate vote, some Democrats urged Biden to move on his own.

“In light of the GOP’s cowardly filibuster of a bipartisan January 6th commission, I urge President Biden to form and appoint a Presidential Commission to fully investigate the insurrection at the United States Capitol, to identify the individuals and organizations who plotted or were involved in those violent acts, and to make recommendations to prevent such an attack from ever recurring,” Virginia Rep. Gerald E. Connolly said in a statement over the weekend.

A serious investigation of the Capitol riot is the right thing to do. But it could turn into a nationally televised embarrassment for the GOP.

It’s uncertain whether the Senate would hold another vote on the commission and whether any additional Republicans would support it. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) left open the possibility of a second attempt, saying after the vote that “the events of Jan. 6 will be investigated.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opposes the commission, saying he believes the panel would be partisan even though it would be divided evenly between the two parties. McConnell’s criticism came after Trump opposed it and called the legislation a “Democrat trap.”

Still, six members of McConnell’s caucus defied him, arguing that an independent look was needed, and Pennsylvania’s Patrick J. Toomey would have brought the total to seven but for a family commitment, his office said. The Republicans who voted to move forward on the bill were Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah.

The House passed the bill in May, with 35 Republicans voting with Democrats to pass it.


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