While they prepared to filibuster the bill to set up a January 6 commission, many Republicans senators cited the coming report from two Senate committees as evidence that there would still be a fulsome investigation without the commission.
But now, hours after the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees released the 128-page report, Democrats say that the narrow treatment falls far short of the investigatory work a commission would perform.
“We are still hoping the Senate will pass the January 6th Commission,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a dear colleague letter hours after the report’s release. “If not, we will be prepared to seek and find the truth of the assault on the Capitol, our Congress and our Democracy.”
Since the commission’s demise in late May, Pelosi has dodged when asked about next steps. One potential path forward is entirely under her control: a select committee, peopled by lawmakers, that would only have to pass through the Democratic-majority House. President Joe Biden has ruled out standing up a presidential commission unilaterally.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) too has kept hope alive that the Senate may pass the bipartisan commission bill at some point, after six Republicans joined with the Democrats to move the bill to debate (Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said he also would have voted with the Democrats had he not missed the vote). That effort fell short of the 60 votes needed to surpass the legislative filibuster.
It’s not clear where the three additional Republican votes would come from if the Senate did vote on the bill again. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is the only remaining member of the caucus who voted to impeach former President Trump after the insurrection, but he voted against the commission in May, explaining that he preferred for the congressional committees already working to be the sole investigators.
It seems that, in light of the new report, the Republican Senate caucus is going to basically assume Burr’s position.
“Today’s report is one of the many reasons I’m confident in the ability of existing investigations to uncover all actionable facts about the events of January 6,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday morning from the Senate floor. “I continue to support these efforts over any that seek to politicize the process, and I would urge my colleagues to do the same.”
McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have tried to spin the January 6 commission as a partisan product of Democratic leadership, when in reality the legislation was written by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and ranking member John Katko (R-NY).
Schumer used his floor time Tuesday to bash the report as incomplete, narrow by design and forced by Republican lawmakers to omit information on the cause of the insurrection, which would have most clearly implicated former President Donald Trump.
“The report did not investigate, report on, or hardly make any reference to the actual cause — the actual impetus — for the attack on January 6th,” he said. “With the exception of a brief reference to former President Trump’s remarks at the ellipse, Senate Republicans insisted that the report exclude anything having to do with the cause of the insurrection.”
“If anything,” he added, “the joint report by the Homeland Security and Rules Committees has strengthened the argument for an independent commission on January the 6th.”