National Security

Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee reached an agreement Friday on legislation to establish a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol ahead of an expected vote next week.

The bill is focused squarely on the Jan. 6 riot, not other episodes of political violence as GOP leaders have demanded. It’s unclear how much support the legislation has among Republicans who have defended former President Trump’s actions surrounding the deadly rampage.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Friday said he has not signed off on the bill.

“I haven’t read through it,” McCarthy told reporters. 

The bill would include an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, offering a chance to cap a lengthy negotiation between congressional leaders.

“It is imperative that we seek the truth of what happened on January 6 with an independent, bipartisan 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

“Today a bipartisan agreement to form such a commission has been reached, with legislation to create it set to reach the Floor as soon as next week.”

The legislation calls for an investigation into the riot and “the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police… as well as the influencing factors that fomented such attack on American representative democracy.”

The commission would include 10 members with expertise in law enforcement and national security backgrounds, with each party appointing five.

It’s a key diversion from one of the earliest proposals from Pelosi, which would have created an 11-member committee with seven members appointed by Democrats compared to just four by Republicans.

It also addresses another prior sticking point by allowing subpoenas when both the chair and vice chair of the commission agree or by vote of a majority of the commission’s members.

Pelosi had previously sought to keep the commission narrowly focused on events leading up to the attack on Jan. 6, while the GOP has pushed to cover violent protests in general, echoing previous complaints about Black Lives Matter protesters.

McCarthy emphasized Friday that the commission would need a wide-ranging purview.

The GOP leader pointed to the recent death of a Capitol Police officer who died after a man, who was also killed in the attack, rammed his car into a Capitol barricade and emerged from the vehicle with a knife.

“We had an officer killed on Good Friday. If this commission is going to come forth to tell us how to protect this facility in the future you want to make sure that the scope — that you can look at all that,” McCarthy said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had also pushed back on another April proposal from Pelosi that offered an evenly split commission based on the scope of the investigation.

“The scope of it needs to deal with a little bit broader than just January the 6th. We’ve also had a number of violent disturbances around the country last year and I think we ought to look at this in a broader scope and with a totally balanced 9/11 style commission,” he told reporters at the time.

Friday’s legislation largely mirrors the commission established following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which had five Democrats and five Republicans on a panel designed “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11 attacks.”

The measure tees up an end-of-the-year deadline for the commission to submit its own report to Congress.

“There has been a growing consensus that the January 6th attack is of a complexity and national significance that what we need [is] an independent commission to investigate,” House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and ranking member John Katko (R-N.Y.) said in a joint statement.

Katko, who became the first Republican lawmaker to back impeaching Trump over the Jan. 6 riot, grew defensive on Friday when asked about his leadership on the bill and whether he had secured the support of top Republicans, calling such questions “ridiculous.” 

“He’s looking at it,” Katko said of McCarthy. “That’s all I know.”

— Scott Wong contributed.

Updated at 1:54 p.m.

Tags 9/11 Bennie Thompson Capitol breach commission Donald Trump insurrection January 6 John Katko Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi

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