- The House passed a bill that would create a commission to investigate the January 6 MAGA riot, with a vote of 252-175
- Thirty-five Republicans defected from leadership and voted in favor of the bill that would create a bipartisan commission with subpoena power
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy came out against the bill Tuesday, followed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday
- ‘I beg you to pass this bill,’ said Republican Rep. John Katko, who had negotiated with Democrats to get the bill finished
- Katko received applause on the House floor for saying the legislation was dedicated to members of the Capitol Police and their families
- Earlier, an un-official letter from some members of the Capitol Police circulated shaming Republicans for not wanting to investigate January 6
Thirty-five Republicans defied House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and top GOP leaders and voted with Democrats on a bill that would form a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol riot.
The final vote tally Wednesday evening was 252-175, which was announced on the floor by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she banged her gavel.
In the run-up to the vote, a handful of Republicans came to the floor and pleaded with their colleagues to vote for the bill.
‘I beg you to pass this bill,’ said Rep. John Katko, the New York Republican who negotiated with Democrats to get the bill finished. ‘My friends on both sides of the aisle. I welcome honest, vigorous and civil debate. At the end of the day I strongly believe this is a fair and necessary legislation.’
He received applause on the House floor after naming the police officers who died on January 6 and in the immediate aftermath, and other officers who’ve publicly recounted what they experienced.
‘I want these officers and their families to know that we are not doing this for us. And not for politics,’ Katko said.
Katko’s work had been blown up when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday he would not support the legislation – and GOP Whip Steve Scalise told Republican lawmakers not to vote for it. Earlier Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also said he was against the bill.
In the lead-up to the vote, a letter on what looked to on Capitol Police letterhead circulated Capitol Hill, expressing profound disappointment that Republicans were not backing the bill. But later a Capitol Police spokesperson said the letter didn’t come from the agency.
‘A statement is circling on social media, which expresses an opinion about the proposed legislation to create a commission to investigate January 6. This is NOT an official USCP statement. The Department has no way of confirming it was even authored by USCP personnel. The U.S. Capitol Police does NOT take positions on legislation,’ the Capitol Police statement said.
Real Clear Politics reported that the letter was being circulated by Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin’s office and came from a number of unnamed officers the congressman and spoken to about January 6.
‘The brave men and women of the USPC were subjected to hours and hours of physical trauma which has led to months of mental anguish,’ the un-official letter read. ‘It is inconceivable that some of the Members we protect, would downplay the events of January 6.’
The family of deceased Capitol Police officer Howie Liebengood, who committed suicide in the days following the attack, asked Congress to pass the legislation.
‘We believe a thorough, non-partisan investigation into the root causes of and the response to the January 6th riot is essential for our nation to move forward. Howie’s death was an immediate outgrowth of those events,’ a statement from the family said. ‘Every officer who worked that day, as well as their families, should have a better understanding of what happened.’
‘Uncovering the facts will help our nation heal and may lessen the lingering emotional bitterness that has divided our country. We implore Congress to work as one and establish the proposed Commission,’ his family added.
The legislative agreement worked out between Katko, the ranking member, and House Homeland Security Committee Chair, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, gave Democrats and Republicans an even number of commission members. Subpoenas would have to be agreed to by members of both parties.
During Wednesday’s floor debate a handful of Republicans came forward and spoke in support of it.
Rep. Peter Meijer, a Michigan Republican, said the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6 would help the country to heal.
‘This is not picking at a scab,’ he argued.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer thanked Katko for ‘having the courage and the integrity to stand up, fighting for what the minority leader asked for.’
‘What if George Bush had said we shouldn’t have a 9/11 commission?’ Hoyer asked. ‘Perhaps out of fear that somehow the administration would have been perceived as being responsible for 9/11. They weren’t.’
‘Wouldn’t all of us had said, “What are you talking about?”‘ Hoyer mused.
Earlier, Republican Rep. Tom Cole applauded the work of Katko, saying it’s now a ‘much better bill’ but said he still had reservations about it.
House Democrats were aghast at the Republicans’ about-face.
‘The distinguished minority leader sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking for an equal five-five ratio in appointments of Democrats and Republicans on this … commission. He got it. He asked for co-equal subpoena power. He got it. He asked for no inclusion of findings or other pre-determined conclusions, which ultimately should be rendered by the commission itself. He got it,’ said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat. ‘Now maybe he didn’t think he would.’
‘But Chairman [Bennie] Thompson and Ranking Member Katko … came to a deal. A genuinely bipartisan deal, to look into the horrific acts of what happened in this chamber on January 6,’ McGovern continued. ‘I was here. They were not ordinary tourists who came in here, my colleagues on the Republican side, who are here today, there are pictures of them helping to barricade the doors, they know exactly what happened on January 6.’
McGovern urged Republicans to vote for the bill on behalf of Congressional staff and the Capitol Police, who he said were ‘traumatized’ by what took place.
‘And our response to all of this is: well, let’s move on, let’s not do this – in spite of a truly bipartisan negotiation and a bipartisan commission,’ he continued.
‘This is so disappointing,’ McGovern said.
‘Don’t talk to us about bipartisanship and when you get it, turn your back on it,’ he added. ‘I’m sick and tired of those who want to hover around mistruths and lies and spread conspiracy theories. What happened 133 days ago can never be normalized.’
Rep. Tim Ryan, yelling into the microphone, chided his Republican colleagues for their years of investigations into Benghazi.
‘You guys chased the former secretary of State all over the country and spent millions of dollars,’ Ryan said. ‘We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the ehad and we can’t get bipartisanhip. What else has to happen in this country?’
Katko took control of the floor after Ryan’s tirade. ‘I’ll ask everybody to take a deep breath right now,’ he said.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a New York Democrat, said, ‘We must ensure that these sacred halls will never be overrun by racist thugs against our democracy.’
While Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, brought along a sign showing Jack Nicholson from ‘A Few Good Men’ with his quote, ‘You can’t handle the truth’ written on it.
‘If we don’t have this commission and reveal the truth, it will happen again,’ Cohen said. ‘If you can’t handle the truth. Get the truth out.’