By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday is expected to approve creating a 10-member commission to probe the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, testing Republicans’ loyalty to former President Donald Trump, whose supporters mounted the attack.
Democrats narrowly control the House and expect to pass the measure with or without significant Republican support. Its fate is far less certain in the Senate, where Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he had “pushed the pause button” on the idea.
Multiple senior Republicans on Tuesday objected to the probe, which could place more scrutiny on Trump’s role in inspiring the attack with false claims the election was marred by fraud.
In the evenly split Senate, Republicans have the power to block legislation because a minimum of 60 votes is needed to advance most legislation in the 100-member chamber.
On Tuesday, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, along with other senior Republicans, announced their opposition to the commission. It would look at security and intelligence failures surrounding Jan. 6, when Trump’s supporters violently stormed the Capitol, some brandishing weapons, Confederate flags and anti-Semitic T-shirts.
Their goal was stopping Congress’ certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
The rioting resulted in five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Dozens more were injured and two other police officers subsequently took their own lives.
In the run-up to the 2020 election, Trump railed about the likelihood of a fraudulent result. Following his November defeat he attempted to stop the certification of Biden’s victory, falsely claiming the election had been stolen from him.
Numerous court rulings, the Department of Justice and state election authorities have dismissed Trump’s claims.
Congressional Republicans now face the risk of drawing Trump’s ire if they vote for the commission, which could call the former president as a witness to explain his actions in the run-up to and on Jan. 6.
Conversely, opposing the commission could further alienate independent voters troubled by the violence. Many lawmakers fear that a failure to create an independent commission could hurt chances the U.S. public will learn the full story about the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“An independent 9/11-style review is critical to removing the politics surrounding Jan. 6,” Republican Representative John Katko told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday. Katko, a co-sponsor of the legislation, added, “This is about facts, it’s not about partisan politics.”
The panel would be modeled after a special, bipartisan commission created to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants.
It would labor under a tight Dec. 31 deadline for producing a public report with recommendations for preventing another attack on the Capitol.
But McCarthy and McConnell have complained that the commission’s mission should do more than concentrate on Jan. 6 by investigating other acts of “political violence.” One such incident occurred as far back as 2017, when Republican Representative Steve Scalise was shot during a softball practice.
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