After months of wrangling, Republicans and Democrats have finally reached an agreement to create an independent bipartisan commission to study the January 6 riot. The commission would be modeled after the 9/11 commission.
Democrats gave in to some Republican demands, although the most important — studying all political violence, not just from the right, on January 6 — was not included in the final deal.
“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
In changes sought by Republicans, the proposed 10-person commission includes an even split between members chosen by Republicans and Democrats. It also ensures members of the commission can only issue subpoenas in a bipartisan manner. The commission is only able to issue subpoenas through a majority vote, or by agreement between its chair and vice chair. Democrats choose the chair.
McCarthy and other Republicans had wanted the commission to investigate left-wing violence, but its focus will be limited to the Jan. 6 attack and factors leading up to it.
The GOP leader told reporters Friday morning that he hadn’t seen details of the agreement, and therefore hasn’t formally signed off, reiterating that he doesn’t want the commission to only focus on the Jan. 6 siege.
Republicans will have their hands full keeping the focus of the hearings where it belongs: on the rioters and the police response. Democrats will not only seek to make Trump solely responsible, but they will also try to tie the entire Republican Party to the riot. That’s been their not-very-subtle goal since the idea was announced
McCarthy wanted assurances from Pelosi that the commission would broadly study the causes of political violence.
“It would have been nice to actually sit down and work with her,” McCarthy told CNN earlier this week before the deal was announced. “So you can do January 6, you could do what’s happening there, you could do whatever is causing it. Wouldn’t you want, if this is going to be used to ask for funding to make sure the Capitol is safe, why wouldn’t you look at everything? That’s all I’m saying.”
The ranking minority member of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. John Katko, wants to broaden the investigation.
Katko in a statement said that the Capitol “remains a target for extremists of all ideologies,” and he cited the April attack at the Capitol, in which the suspect rammed his vehicle into a police barricade on Constitution Avenue, striking two officers.
“An independent, bipartisan commission will remove politicization of the conversation and focus solely on the facts and circumstances surrounding the security breach at the Capitol as well as other instances of violence relevant to such a review,” Katko said.
The 9/11 commission was “bipartisan” in the sense that members took their mandate to investigate seriously. Partisans outside of the Committee tried to politicize it, but co-chairs Lee Hamilton and Tom Keane were both of a generation that really believed that bipartisanship meant something. There have been arguments about the conclusions that the commission reached, but very few serious charges of partisan bias.
America won’t be so lucky this time. Democrats will ceaselessly try to tie Trump to the insurrection and, along with him, condemn the entire Republican Party. And with the media cheerleading them on, the Democrats have the opportunity to do real damage to the GOP going forward.