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9/11 commissioners slam GOP for rejecting Jan. 6 commission

Commissioners who helped investigate the 9/11 attack slammed Republicans on Wednesday for their failure to support a similar independent commission to evaluate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

House Republicans appear poised to reject a proposal for a bipartisan commission investigating Jan. 6 after both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyHouse Democrats' campaign arm raises almost million in May Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Environmental groups urge congressional leaders to leave climate provisions in infrastructure package MORE (R-Calif.) and Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Chinese telecom equipment MORE (R-La.) advised against it ahead of Wednesday's vote.

The top GOP lawmakers have argued such a commission should expand in scope to investigate not only protests over the summer but the shooting at a Republican baseball practice nearly four years ago.

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But Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman who served on the 9/11 commission, said the GOP is diminishing the events of a day that left five people dead and lawmakers and staff scrambling for safety.

“Jan. 6 was a highly unique event. It is different than almost any other time in our nation's history. We have to go back to the British invasion — a powerful army from overseas at war with America — the last time the Capitol was breached and attacked,” Roemer said on a call with reporters.

“This all took place during a constitutional process where we count the votes cast by the people in a fair and free election to transfer power from one president to the next, one government to the next," he said. "That is an extraordinarily different situation than what some people are talking about in terms of protests in cities. This is a violent, domestic assault on our nation's Capitol, with the vice president of the United States, the Speaker, legislators, Capitol Police being threatened with their lives and violence taking place.” 

The legislation, brokered by the top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, would create a commission of 10 members with expertise in law enforcement and national security backgrounds, with each party appointing five. The commission’s members would be limited to people who are not currently serving in government roles and would be expected to issue a final report by year’s end.

Republican hesitance on creating the commission also earned a strong rebuke from former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), who had lobbied for the 9/11 commission while in Congress.

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“I don't see that they intersect,” he said of summer protests in cities like Portland.

“I think that what happened on January the sixth started with the narrative that there was a fraudulent election,” he said. “We better stop that so that when we do this again in four years there's no way, no matter how the count goes, that this happens again, on either side. That's the point of this commission.”

He also called Republicans' objections to what started as a bipartisan bill extremely misplaced. 

“I think more than anything it’s a defense mechanism. Because they want to make sure that it doesn't become embroiled in the 2022 cycle,” he said.

“This is where you have to put your country first ... The motives, obviously, are political,” he added.

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Wamp said some GOP members are being shortsighted about a commission that could aid Republicans in clearing the air around their actions on Jan. 6.

“So leaders, please back off. Don't whip against this. Let the members vote their conscience. They know what's right, they will do the right thing,” Wamp said.

Roemer said the battle over the Jan. 6 commission was repeating history.

“Republicans did not want to initially support the creation of the 9/11 commission. We needed to persuade, cajole, convince Republicans,” he said, crediting the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West Five takeaways from the Biden-Putin summit MORE (R-Ariz.) with getting the legislation through the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Democrats scramble to unify before election bill brawl MORE (R-Ky.) also significantly dampened prospects for the bill Tuesday morning, announcing he would not support the legislation.