Senators struggle to save Jan. 6 commission

Senators are struggling to salvage a bill that would create a commission to probe the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Moderates in both caucuses are trying to find a path forward, with Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSchumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate Collins says negotiators are 'just about finished' with infrastructure bill MORE (R-Maine) drafting potential changes to the bill and Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Manchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget MORE (W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget Ocasio-Cortez: 'More than enough' votes to prevent infrastructure from passing without reconciliation bill MORE (Ariz.) pleading with Republicans to work with them to find a deal.

But those efforts are producing little movement among GOP senators, underscoring the uphill and unlikely climb supporters of a commission face to getting the 10 Republican votes they would need to advance the bill in the Senate.

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“I don't think I'll support the commission. Let the Congress and the Senate issue their reports. This thing’s just got politics written all over it, unfortunately. So, we'll see what happens,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Trump takes two punches from GOP The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (R-S.C.). 

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands GOP senator credits Sinema for infrastructure deal MORE (R-N.C.) added that he was similarly unmoved by the changes being shopped around by Collins, saying that he thought the commission sounded like a “political exercise.”

“I still feel pretty confident that even the timeline... it's unrealistic,” Tillis said.

Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsEight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Schumer sets up key vote on bipartisan deal MORE (R-S.D.), who was initially open to a commission, said the proposed changes weren’t enough to get his support, echoing Tillis's concerns about the timeline.

The bill includes an end-of-year cutoff date, though Republicans don't believe it can be met. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE (R-Texas) noted that a joint investigation by the Senate Rules Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was already underway and could wrap up faster. Senators say they expect the joint report to be released early next month. 

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“I don't think we need to outsource it to a commission, particularly when it's already being used as a political football by Speaker Pelosi,” Cornyn said.

Collins declined to describe her floated amendments on Tuesday except to say that they dealt with GOP concerns that Republican-appointed members of the commission would also have a hand in staffing. Republicans have raised concerns that the legislation as drafted would allow Democrats to hire all the staff even though the panel's membership would be evenly divided.

The rejection of the bill, even if it's changed to address GOP concerns, is the latest blow for an idea that once garnered broad support in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where a mob of former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE's supporters breached the building in an attempt to block Congress from certifying President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE's electoral win.

The bill passed the House last week with 35 GOP votes. But it’s essentially unraveled in the Senate, with most of the GOP caucus following the lead of Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Manchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Ky.), who came out against it last week.

Manchin and Sinema, the two most moderate members of the Senate Democratic caucus who are also the biggest Democratic opponents of nixing the filibuster, released a joint statement on Tuesday making it clear that they were open to changes from Republicans to the House-passed bill.

"A bipartisan commission to investigate the events of that day has passed the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote and is a critical step to ensuring our nation never has to endure an attack at the hands of our countrymen again. We implore our Senate Republican colleagues to work with us to find a path forward on a commission to examine the events of January 6th," they said.

The Associated Press, citing sources, reported that Manchin and Collins were also trading potential language for changes. A spokesperson for Manchin didn't respond to questions about the talks. 

But Democrats don't appear to have a clear path to the votes needed to defeat a filibuster.

McConnell lambasted the bill on Tuesday, arguing it would be used against Republicans heading into 2022.

"I think, at the heart of this recommendation by the Democrats is that they would like to continue to debate things that occurred in the past. They'd like to continue to litigate the former president into the future. We think the American people, going forward and in the fall of '22, ought to focus on what this administration is doing to the country and what the clear choices that we have made to oppose most of these initiatives," he told reporters.

"So I think this is a purely political exercise that adds nothing to the sum total of information," he added.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Senators say they have deal on 'major issues' in infrastructure talks MORE (R-S.D.), his No. 2, warned that the bill was unlikely to pass in its current form and stopped short of predicting that the changes being worked on by Collins would be enough to break off 10 GOP votes.

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"He's articulating a view that I think is shared by a big number of our members ... based on at least the current version of the bill," Thune said, while noting that some GOP senators were "withholding judgement" until they see potential changes.

He added that the proposed Collins changes were "moving in the right direction" but that it was "hard to say" if that got the bill 10 GOP votes.

So far, Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (Utah) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (Alaska) are the only two GOP senators who have said they will vote for the bill. Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidySenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Optimism grows that infrastructure deal will get to Biden's desk Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-La.) has signaled he's interested and Collins has suggested she could support a commission if changes are incorporated into the legislation. But that still leaves Democrats several votes short.

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE (D-N.Y.) has said that he'll bring up the legislation "very soon." That could be as soon as this week, though Schumer hasn't yet teed up the bill as the chamber continues to debate legislation aimed at combating China's competitiveness. 

Schumer hasn't specifically signed onto any amendments, but said Democrats were willing to look at potential changes.

"But it can't just undo the commission," Schumer added. "One of the proposals I heard, have a separate Republican staff. You can't have a commission with two warring staff. I've never ... seen that happen."