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The House on Wednesday passed legislation to create a select committee focused solely on investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, a move that was panned by Republicans as too partisan but hailed by Democrats as necessary to give the American people a full accounting of what happened during the deadly attack.
The vote was 222-190 with two Republicans – Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger – joining with all Democrats to establish the committee.
Democrats had wanted to form an independent panel modeled after the respected 9/11 Commission and the House passed a bipartisan bill to do so on May 19. But Senate Republicans filibustered the commission and effectively killed the creation of a nonpartisan body to probe the Jan. 6 attack.
Without any pathway forward in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took matters into her own hands and used her power to pursue a select committee in the House that will be controlled by Democrats.
The committee is charged with investigating the circumstances surrounding the “domestic terrorist attack” and issuing a final report with recommendations for corrective measures. There’s no timetable for the work to be completed, meaning the committee could keep the Jan. 6 attack in the headlines well into the 2022 midterm election year.
“It will find the truth, which clearly the Republicans fear,” Pelosi said Wednesday in a floor speech ahead of the vote.
House GOP leadership recommended a “no vote” on forming the committee, dismissing the legislation as politically motivated and unnecessary in light of ongoing criminal probes and the work already conducted by bipartisan Senate committees. The office of GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said in an alert to fellow Republicans that a Pelosi-backed committee is “likely to pursue a partisan agenda to politicize the January 6th attack” rather than conducting “a good faith” investigation.
The select committee will be a 13-member body, and Pelosi will appoint eight members, including a Democrat chairperson. An aide says Pelosi is “seriously considering” including a GOP member on her list of appointments, which would presumably be someone who has been a vocal critic of the attack, such Cheney or Kinzinger, who also backed former President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
Cheney Wednesday voted in favor of forming the committee, saying it’s the only option remaining to thoroughly investigate the “unprecedented assault on Congress.” Already ousted from her GOP House leadership position for routinely blaming Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack and spreading false information about the election being stolen, Cheney Wednesday lamented that “the courage of my party’s leaders has faded” since the Jan. 6 attack “but the threat to our Republic has not.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will have to be consulted on the other five members on the committee, but Pelosi could potentially have veto power over his picks. McCarthy has not yet indicated whether Republicans would even participate, though he’s facing pressure from some police officers who defended the Capitol to take the matter seriously.
In all, about 140 police officers were injured during the Jan. 6 attack. Two police officers died by suicide in the days that followed, and a third, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner later found he died of natural causes.
Pelosi invited members of Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the U.S. Capitol Police to attend Wednesday’s vote, including Officers Harry Dunn, Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges. Sicknick’s mother, Gladys, and partner Sandra Garza, were also scheduled to be in the House balcony.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who addressed the demonstrators along with Trump on Jan. 6 before the riot and led an effort in the House to challenge President Biden’s Electoral College win, said he hoped McCarthy would not dignify Pelosi’s select committee with appointments.
“I think Leader McCarthy and the GOP should have their own select committee that does an investigation,” Brooks told Fox News. “If the Democrats are going to have a partisan investigation, so should the Republicans.”
The Jan. 6 select committee will have subpoena power to conduct its investigation and to compel testimony. Such committees have been dismissed in the past for serving political goals, notably the Republicans’ House Benghazi Committee that took aim at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during its investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya.
On Jan. 6, people stormed inside the Capitol to protest Biden’s Electoral College certification in support of Trump. They violently overtook police officers, destroyed Capitol property, called for the killing of then-Vice President Mike Pence and were on the hunt for Pelosi.
The mob briefly stopped the certification process in Congress as lawmakers had to evacuate the House and Senate chambers and take cover. One protester, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed that day while trying to break into the House chamber, and three others died of medical emergencies.
Roughly 500 people have since been arrested around the country and charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack.
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