McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design'

McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design'
© Greg Nash

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat Biden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan MORE (Ky.) on Wednesday knocked Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Virginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden's agenda  Biden struggles to rein in Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns MORE’s (D-Calif.) proposal for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, saying she is setting the panel up to be partisan.

McConnell poured cold water on key aspects of the draft bill including its design and its mandate, underscoring the challenges Democrats face in their bid to recreate a broad commission to probe last month's attack.

“The Speaker of the Houses proposes even more investigation through a new commission. She cites the precedent of the 9/11 Commission. But her draft bill fails to track with that precedent in key ways,” McConnell said during a speech from the Senate floor.

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McConnell pointed to two areas from Pelosi's initial recommendations: how commission seats are allocated and how subpoenas are issued. 

“This time, Speaker Pelosi started by proposing a commission that would be partisan by design. Seven appointments for Democrats, just four for Republicans,” McConnell said.

The GOP leader referenced remarks from Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, the top Republican and Democrat on the 9/11 Commission, which was evenly split among Republicans and Democrats. Kean and Hamilton have indicated that they think the Jan. 6 panel needs to be equally divided.

Hamilton told Politico Playbook that unequal distribution sounds "like a partisan beginning," while Keane added that "the report won't have as much confidence from the American people" if both parties don't get the same number of seats.

McConnell also took issue with how subpoenas could be issued under the draft bill because it would allow the chair — appointed by President BidenJoe BidenManchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Abrams targets Black churchgoers during campaign stops for McAuliffe in Virginia Pentagon, State Department square off on Afghanistan accountability MORE — to issue subpoenas. A Democratic aide said that under the draft bill, a majority of the commissioners or the chair could issue subpoenas.

Beyond the setup of the committee, McConnell also appeared opposed to the scope proposed by Pelosi. In a "Dear Colleague" letter, Pelosi said the commission would "investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex."

The commission, according to Pelosi's letter, would also dig into issues "relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region." 

McConnell suggested he could support a commission that looks narrowly at security at the Capitol or digs more broadly into political violence across the country, in an apparent reference to protests and riots last summer after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. Such a move would be all but guaranteed to spark fierce pushback from Democrats.

“If Congress is going to attempt some broader analysis of toxic political violence across this country … then in that case, we cannot have artificial cherry-picking of which terrible behavior does and does not deserve scrutiny," McConnell said. 

“We could do something narrow that looks at the Capitol, or we could potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of the political violence problem in this country," he added. 

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A senior House Democratic aide also accused Republicans of slow-walking the discussion draft, saying that House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySchiff: McCarthy 'will do whatever Trump tells him' if GOP wins back House House GOP campaign arm raises .8 million in third quarter McCarthy raises nearly M so far this year MORE's (Calif.) office has not formally offered changes after being given a copy of the bill a week ago.

"Today, Minority Leader McConnell made clear that Republicans do not want a commission and that if one is created, they aim to try to make it about antifa," the aide added.

McConnell's pushback on Pelosi's proposal comes as two Senate panels — the Rules and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee — are probing the Jan. 6 attack. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is also looking more broadly at domestic terrorism. 

Cristina Marcos contributed.