GOP senators thwart Dems, block commission to probe Capitol unrest

Despite a push from congressional Democrats to form a bipartisan commission to probe the unrest that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Senate Republicans succeeded on Friday in blocking the effort in what represents the first GOP filibuster mounted during President Joe Biden’s first term, as Fox News reported.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives – bolstered by the aggressive advocacy of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – passed a measure to create a 10-person panel charged with investigating the actions of protestors unhappy with the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. In the end, those in support of the commission managed to attract the support of 35 Republicans in the lower chamber.

Even so, the bill was always certain to face a more difficult path to passage in the Senate, and in the end, it would have required 60 votes to overcome the Republican filibuster. Ultimately, the legislation was stopped via a 54-35 vote on a procedural measure from even getting to that point, with six GOP senators siding with the Democrats.

Defectors from the GOP on this measure included Sens. Rob Portman (OH), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Ben Sasse (NE), Bill Cassidy (LA), Mitt Romney (UT), and Susan Collings (ME). Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) was absent from the vote due to a family obligation, but reportedly said he would have supported the commission’s creation, though it would not have made a difference in the final outcome.

Republican opposition to the commission’s creation was underscored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who opined that sufficient probes of the events of Jan. 6 are already being undertaken, saying a day before the vote, “I do not believe the additional, extraneous ‘commission’ that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing. Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to.”

In the run-up to the vote, a number of other Republican senators expressed skepticism about the true purpose of the commission, with Sen. John Thune (SD) suggesting that the work of the panel might be “weaponized” against his party’s candidates in the upcoming midterm elections, as NBC News noted. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana lamented the fact that the idea of the commission had, in his estimation, “such a heavy political overtone to it.”

Democrats have continued to insist that the investigatory commission is crucial to determining the underlying drivers of the unrest that gripped the nation’s capital in January, with Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer chiding Republicans in advance of the vote by saying, “What are you afraid of? The truth? Are you afraid that Donald Trump’s big lie will be dispelled?”

Pelosi, for her part, also slammed the outcome, saying in a statement, “In bowing to McConnell’s personal favor request, Republican senators surrendered to the January 6th mob assault. Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans’ denial of the truth of the January 6th insurrection brings shame to the Senate,” as NBC News added.

That the establishment of the Jan. 6 commission went down to defeat as the result of a Republican filibuster is certain to fuel ongoing debate among Democrats about the possibility of eliminating the procedural maneuver once and for all. Whether they will be able to overcome the objections of party members such as perennial skeptic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and firebrand Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) however, remains very much in question.