House approves select panel to probe Jan. 6 attack
The House voted Wednesday to create a select committee dedicated to investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, in what will likely become a partisan fight over establishing the facts of the violent attack on the Capitol.
Lawmakers voted largely along party lines, 222-190, with only two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), joining all Democrats to back the new committee.
House Democrats decided to move forward with the select committee after legislation to establish an independent bipartisan commission was blocked by Senate Republicans last month. Just 35 House Republicans and seven GOP senators supported a commission, while the rest of the party argued it was unnecessary as they continue to latch themselves to former President Trump.
The partisan fight over investigating Jan. 6 unfolded on Wednesday as multiple police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 from the mob of Trump’s supporters looked on in the House gallery.
They included Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, two Metropolitan Police Department officers who were brutally attacked by the rioters, and Harry Dunn, a Capitol Police officer who has been pressing lawmakers to investigate Jan. 6.
Fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s partner, Sandra, and his mother, Gladys, were also among the guests invited by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“We have a duty to the Constitution and to the American people to find the truth of Jan. 6, and to ensure that such an assault on our democracy can never happen again,” Pelosi said.
The commission proposal would have given Republicans an equal number of members, co-equal subpoena power and a deadline for an investigative report by year’s end.
Instead, the select committee will be composed of eight members selected by Pelosi and five chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
And the panel’s investigation could easily spill into next year while both parties are gearing up for the midterm elections, an outcome that Republicans wanted to avoid with the commission proposal.
Yet Republicans justified voting against the select committee because they believed it would be overly partisan and called for including other instances of political violence in its scope, such as the 2017 shooting at GOP lawmakers’ baseball practice.
“This has been created as a partisan issue at a time when it should not be partisan. And if you’re not partisan, then you include all the things that threaten us, that threaten this body, that threaten this building, and that threaten the people that work in it. Let’s be serious. If you’re serious, be inclusive, be complete and do the right thing,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (Ohio), one of only a handful of Republicans who participated in House floor debate.
None of the top House GOP leaders spoke during the debate on Wednesday.
The select committee will be tasked with investigating and reporting upon “the facts, circumstances and causes” relating to Jan. 6, including law enforcement agencies’ preparation and the “influencing factors that fomented” the attack to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.
Pelosi has indicated she may appoint a Republican to the panel, which would lend it bipartisan credence while highlighting the divisions among Republicans over their own role promoting Trump’s false claims of election fraud leading up to the attack.
Cheney and Kinzinger, who have been openly critical of their party’s continued embrace of Trump, haven’t ruled out the possibility of serving on the panel if they were asked by Pelosi.
Kinzinger said before voting for the bill that he would have preferred the independent commission but that a select committee was better than nothing.
“It’s not my favorite option. But the point is, we can’t keep pretending like Jan. 6 didn’t happen. We need full accounting for it,” Kinzinger told a Fox affiliate ahead of the vote.
Cheney noted “it is right to be wary of an overtly partisan inquiry,” but that the select committee is “our only remaining option.”
Cheney, who was booted from her third-ranking leadership post in May, further took a shot at GOP leaders for declining to push back against Trump.
“Since January 6th, the courage of my party’s leaders has faded. But the threat to our Republic has not. On an almost daily basis, Donald Trump repeats the same statements that provoked violence before,” Cheney said in a statement.
But other members of the group of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the mob to stop Congress from ratifying President Biden’s election victory declined to back the select panel, arguing it would be overly partisan. That included Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), who crafted the independent commission bill. He said he didn’t think the select committee would be productive.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who also voted to impeach Trump, had ruffled the impeachment proceedings when she went public with details of a phone call between McCarthy during the attack, revealing that Trump had sided with the rioters over the lawmakers under threat in the Capitol. More specifics of that call are one issue Democrats are hoping to uncover with the select committee.
Yet Herrera Beutler this week also suggested Pelosi and Democrats might be concealing details about their own role on Jan. 6, joining other Republicans in suggesting the Speaker failed to do her part in protecting the Capitol that day.
“Both sides have things that need to be looked at and revealed,” she said. “And the credibility of it is just going to be shot.”
It’s not yet clear who McCarthy might tap to serve on the panel that is sure to draw Trump’s ire. McCarthy has so far declined to commit publicly whether he’d avoid appointing any of the Republicans who have recently downplayed the severity of the Jan. 6 attack, such as Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), who suggested one image of the rioters looked like a “normal tourist visit.”
Katko, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, indicated he wasn’t interested in serving on the select panel.
But some of the conservative firebrands who are among Trump’s biggest defenders in Congress have expressed enthusiasm for serving on the committee, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.).
Both Gaetz and Greene were among the 21 Republicans who voted against legislation earlier this month to award Congressional Gold Medals to the police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“That would be great,” Greene, who was kicked off House committees earlier this year for her past embrace of conspiracy theories, told CNN when asked about her interest in serving.
Mike Lillis contributed.