McCarthy rejects proposed commission to investigate Jan. 6 Capitol assault
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday broke his silence on the Jan. 6 bipartisan commission proposal brokered by one of his top aides, saying in a new statement that a new commission would “duplicate” efforts of federal law enforcement and “potentially counterproductive”. “
While the proposed panel would give both sides equal representation among commission appointees and require bipartisan agreement for subpoenas, McCarthy said he wants the effort to expressly include a review of “political violence in American cities last summer amid racial justice protests.
But Rep. John Katko, RN.Y., said the panel could decide to investigate or review such episodes if the appointees agree to do so, even if it’s not explicitly stated in the legislation.
Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deputized for House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., to finalize negotiations on the commission with Katko, the member prominent in the GOP.
Katko said in a statement on Tuesday that the bill was a “dramatic improvement” over previous legislation.
“I am confident, President [Rep. Bennie] Thompson and I have negotiated a strong and fair deal that is a dramatic improvement over previous proposals that sought to politicize a Capitol security review,” the statement read. “I acknowledge that there are differing views on this issue, which is part and parcel of the legislative process and not something that I take personally. However, as Republican head of the Homeland Security Committee, I feel a deep obligation to get the answers that the United States Capitol police and Americans deserve and to ensure that an attack on the heart of our democracy will never happen again.”
During a House Rules Committee hearing on Tuesday, Thompson said he and Katko weren’t trying to play gotcha with the commission and that they “entertained Republican leadership” by making changes to the draft. law.
“We have the numbers to pass it without a single Republican – that doesn’t get us where we need to be. And so the effort of minority leaders to, I think, sabotage the whole effort is dishonest because than those of us who negotiate in good faith,” Thompson said.
McCarthy’s statement comes after Rep. Liz Cheney suggested in an interview with ABC News that he would testify before any commission regarding his conversations with Trump on Jan. 6 and attempts by several conservatives to whitewash the events of that day.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that his conference was not yet ready to sign legislation creating a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot. His conference, he said, is pushing for a “pause” of legislation to fund both a commission and Capitol security improvements in the wake of failings laid bare by those riots.
“I think I’m safe in qualifying our conference as being willing to listen to arguments about the need for such a commission,” McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters after a closed-door luncheon where the topic was discussed. been debated among the Conference GOPs.
“I’m not saying we’ve decided it shouldn’t go forward. But if it’s going to go forward, it needs to be clearly balanced and not tilted one way or the other, so we have an objective assessment. So I think you can safely report that we’re undecided as to which way to go at this point. We want to read the fine print. And if the Majority Leader puts it on the floor, we’ll react in consequence,” McConnell said.
One point of contention, which is not surprising given the lack of trust between McConnell and Pelosi, is whether there really is an even split between Republicans and Democrats on the 10-member commission. McConnell suggested on Tuesday that may not be the case.
“Even though the commission appears to be balanced, my staff tells me that in fact the chair, who will be determined by Pelosi and [Senate Democratic Leader Chuck] Schumer controls all the power of the staff.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., top Republican on the Rules Committee, who led a joint investigation into the attacks alongside members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he opposed the creation of the committee at the GOP meeting on Tuesday.
“You have to demonstrate that you need a commission, because there will be a price and not just the price of paying the commission, but the price of waiting for the commission to report before doing the things that we know that we need to do,” Blunt said.
McConnell wondered not only if a newly created commission would hamper ongoing bipartisan work in the Senate, but also whether another panel could hamper the DOJ’s extensive criminal investigation.
“One thing I think we need to bear in mind is that there have already been hundreds of arrests. The Attorney General is prosecuting many more. There is a serious criminal investigation underway. right now. Question – the Jan. 6 commission in any way interfere with the criminal investigation?” McConnell asked, rhetorically.
Separately, Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who voted to impeach President Donald Trump, suggested in a CNN interview on Tuesday that she would support the creation of a commission on Jan. 6 and called Trump a “witness key” – although she said she would first like to study the legislation and better understand the dynamics of the commission.
The House GOP leadership announced Tuesday that it will now oppose the committee’s bill.
“I’m concerned about the current situation,” GOP whip Steve Scalise said, adding that he would vote against the measure. “There are a lot of members in our conference who want to see a much broader investigation.”
The bill is due in the House on Wednesday and may still pass without a GOP vote, although ABC expects a handful of Republicans to support it. But McCarthy’s opposition could give cover to more Republicans in the House and Senate to oppose the proposal and try to paint it as partisan.
“Given the political mistakes that have marred this process, given the now redundant and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the short-sighted reach of the President who does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I can’t support this legislation,” McCarthy said. in a report.
ABC News’ Luke Barr and Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.