Bipartisan Deal Reached On Jan. 6 Commission, Giving Democrats Win On Scope

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A large group of pro-Trump protesters raise signs and flags on the grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol earlier, break... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A large group of pro-Trump protesters raise signs and flags on the grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol earlier, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 14, 2021 10:44 a.m.

The idea of a January 6 commission, previously on life support, was resurrected Friday as Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, reached a deal with ranking member Rep. John Katko (R-NY) to investigate the attack and events that led to it.

The two are proposing legislation to set up the commission, which will comprise 10 commissioners from outside the government. Each party will get to appoint five of them. 

Most importantly, the scope of the proposed commission seems to be exactly what Democrats wanted. “The commission will be charged with investigating and reporting upon the facts and causes of the January 6th attack on the Capitol as well as the influencing factors that may have provoked the attack on our democracy,” read a fact sheet attached to the new bill.

Up to this point, Republicans have ardently opposed any investigation that encompasses the election fraud conspiracy theories — peddled in the months leading up to the attack by former President Donald Trump and his GOP allies — wanting to solely focus on the security breakdowns on January 6 itself. And if Democrats insisted on including the lead-up to the attack in the investigation, many Republicans warned, they wanted the commission to investigate “left-wing violence” like the Black Lives Matter protests last summer as well.

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The new commission created by this bill would have subpoena power like the much-lauded 9/11 commission. A final report of its findings would be due to Congress and the President by December 31, 2021. 

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the bill to set up the commission is set to reach a House floor vote “as soon as next week.”

The text of the bill itself refers to the January 6 riot as a “domestic terrorist attack,” a far cry from the peaceful image of the insurrection some hard-right congressmen have tried to paint during recent congressional committee hearings. 

Various congressional committees have taken bites out of different parts of what happened that day, though they’ve been mostly constrained to law enforcement and intelligence failures. Even then, buck-passing and noncooperative witnesses have left the facts very muddied. So far, Trump’s second impeachment trial has been the most thorough investigation of the events and behavior that ultimately fomented the mob, though the impeachment managers chose to omit mention of Trump’s GOP lawmaker stooges so as to not alienate potential conviction votes. 

While there are concerns that a January 6 commission would be riven by partisan bickering due to the complicity of one of the parties and a general GOP discomfort with putting any blame on Trump, alumni of both the 9/11 and Financial Crisis Commissions told TPM that an independent commission is still critical. 

If the bill passes, all eyes will be on who the Republicans choose to fill their five commissioner slots: pro-Trump firebrands, or old school Republicans who may be willing to implicate the former President. 

Read the text of the new bill here:

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