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This week: Democrats move forward with Jan. 6 probe

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during her weekly press conference on June 24
Greg Nash

Democrats are poised to move forward with a probe into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack after Republicans stonewalled an independent commission. 

The House is set to vote this week before leaving for a three-week July 4 break on establishing a select committee to investigate the attack.

“Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history … it is imperative that we establish the truth of that day and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen and that we root out the causes of it all,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters late last week. 

The decision comes after the Senate, which has started a two-week recess, failed to break a 60-vote legislative filibuster on legislation to establish an evenly divided commission of outside experts. Six Republicans voted for the bill establishing the commission and a seventh, Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), said he would have voted for it but missed the vote.

House Democrats have been chewing over multiple options for how to probe the attack, where a mob of former President Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol as lawmakers and then-Vice President Pence were counting the Electoral College vote.

Some Democrats had pushed for the House Homeland Security Committee, an already established panel, to take the lead on an investigation given that Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), a moderate Republican, negotiated the deal on the legislation for the independent commission. 

But a select committee would empower Democratic leaders to dictate the ground rules of the investigation, including the scope, the numerical composition of members, the parameters surrounding the panel’s subpoena powers and the timeline for ending the probe.

Sources told The Hill last week that Pelosi was mulling tapping Thompson to lead the select committee. 

Infrastructure 

President Biden is working to save a bipartisan infrastructure deal after he caused a GOP firestorm by suggesting late last week, just hours after the agreement was announced, that he wouldn’t sign it unless it was accompanied by a larger, multitrillion-dollar Democratic-only bill.

Biden tried to clean up his previous statement over the weekend, saying that it was not his “intent” to suggest he would veto the bipartisan agreement.

But Biden also tried to balance his competing pressure points, arguing that Republicans shouldn’t oppose the bipartisan deal just because Democrats, as they’ve been telegraphing for weeks, are going to try to pass a second larger bill under reconciliation that allows them to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster. He also argued that progressives shouldn’t vote against the bipartisan deal just because it doesn’t go as far as they want.

“I will ask Leader [Charles] Schumer to schedule both the infrastructure plan and the reconciliation bill for action in the Senate. I expect both to go to the House, where I will work with Speaker Pelosi on the path forward after Senate action. Ultimately, I am confident that Congress will get both to my desk, so I can sign each bill promptly,” Biden said.

Biden’s remarks appeared to appease Republicans in the core negotiating group, who remained supportive of the agreement during appearances on the Sunday shows. 

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he was “blindsided” by Biden’s remarks, but added that he was “very glad to see the president clarify his remarks because it was inconsistent with everything that we had been told all along the way. We were all blindsided by the comments the previous day.”

“I’m glad they’ve now been de-linked and it’s very clear that we can move forward with a bipartisan bill that’s broadly popular,” Portman told ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he trusted Biden before signaling that he accepted the president’s clarification.

“I do trust the president and, he made very clear in the much larger statement that came out over the weekend, the carefully crafted and thought through piece by piece, as that if the infrastructure bill reaches his desk, and it comes alone, he will sign it,” Romney said during an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But it remains to be seen if Biden’s remarks are enough to quell the larger GOP furor, after Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) panned Biden’s rhetoric and two Republicans in the larger gang of 21 — Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) — threatened to pull their support. 

Biden will have to balance any overture to Republicans with the challenge of also keeping progressives on board amid worry from the left that the two-track system could cause centrists to boot priorities like expanding Medicare and climate change.

“Let me be clear: There will not be a bipartisan infrastructure deal without a reconciliation bill that substantially improves the lives of working families and combats the existential threat of climate change. No reconciliation bill, no deal. We need transformative change NOW,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted on Sunday. 

Amid the wrangling over Biden’s plan, the House will vote this week on a $547 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill to invest in roads, bridges, transit and rail. 

Confederate statues 

The House will vote on legislation to remove statues of people who served the Confederacy or otherwise worked to uphold slavery that are currently displayed in the Capitol.

Among the provisions in the bill is language that would replace a bust of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the 1857 Dred Scott ruling that Black people did not have the rights of citizens and couldn’t sue in federal courts, with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.

In addition to statues of figures related to the Confederacy, the bill would also require the removal of the statues of Charles Brantley, a former North Carolina governor who espoused white supremacy; John Caldwell Calhoun, who defended slavery; and James Paul Clarke, a former governor and senator that Arkansas has already announced it will replace. 

Iraq War

The House is set to vote to repeal the 1991 Iraq War authorization, giving a big boost to a years-long effort to roll back the authorization for the use of military force. 

The House’s vote comes as efforts to rein in the executive branch’s war authority are ramping up in a shift from Congress’s increasingly hands-off approach. The chamber already voted earlier this month to repeal the 2002 Iraq War authorization. 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to advance legislation from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) that would repeal both the 2002 and 1991 Iraq War-related authorizations. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced earlier this month that he supports repealing the authorization and is committed to bringing it up for a vote on the Senate floor this year. 

“The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade and authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021. … It no longer serves a vital purpose in our fight against violent extremists,” Schumer said from the Senate floor

“I strongly and fully support repealing the 2002 authorization for the use of military force in Iraq,” he said. “It is my intention as majority leader to bring this matter to a floor vote this year.”

Tags 2002 Iraq War authorization AUMF authorization for the use of military force Bennie Thompson Bernie Sanders bipartisan infrastructure deal Charles Schumer Confederate statues Donald Trump Infrastructure Iraq War Jan. 6 commission Jan. 6 Insurrection Jan. 6 investigation January 6 attack January 6 Capitol attack January 6 select committee Jerry Moran Joe Biden John Katko Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Pat Toomey Reconciliation Rob Portman Tim Kaine Todd Young United States Capitol attack

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