Congress Sets Up Bipartisan Commission to Examine Insurrection

The group tasked with investigating the events on Jan. 6 will be made up of 10 lawmakers from both parties.

Filings in the criminal case against Capitol rioters include this photo from the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, showing one man reclining in Speaker Pelosi’s office, his feet on the desk. (Justice Department via Courthouse News)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Four months after supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, House lawmakers reached a consensus Friday on the makeup, power and investigative scope of a commission that will investigate the event.

Defining what happened on Jan. 6 has split members of the House Republican leadership. Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney was ousted on Wednesday from her role as chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, the body’s third-highest position, after refusing to back Trump’s claims of election fraud.

She was replaced this morning by New York’s Elise Stefanik, a staunch defender of Trump during his first impeachment trial whom House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pushed to the front of the line.

Differing viewpoints on the events of Jan. 6 has already stalled preliminary discussions in Homeland Security committee meetings. The bill to set up a bipartisan commission could be considered in the House as soon as next week.

Modeled after the 9/11 Commission — which formed a year and two months after terrorists attacked multiple American targets — the commission pertaining to the Capitol riots will be made up of 10 lawmakers appointed by House and Senate leadership from both parties.

A news release from the House Homeland Security Committee outlines lawmakers will be examining events prior to the insurrectionist attack, along with influencing factors that provoked it. It will issue a final report to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris by the end of 2021.

The commission will examine state, federal and local investigations pertaining to the attack, along with examining domestic terrorism related to the event. A final report also will include recommendations for corrective fortifications to protect against future domestic terrorism against democratic institutions.

The release also states the bipartisan nature of the bill’s drafting. Both Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, and John Katko, a New York Republican who serves as the committee’s ranking member, agreed to the terms of the legislation the release states.

Katko was one of just 10 lawmakers to vote in favor of impeaching Trump for the incitement of insurrection. The others were Cheney, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Anthony Gonzalez, Adam Kinzinger, Peter Meijer, Dan Newhouse Tom Rice, Fred Upton and David Valadao.

Republican division on the attack was on full display Thursday, when lawmakers refused to concede that the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol had done anything wrong.

Arizona Republican Paul Gosar described those who stormed the Capitol as “peaceful demonstrators.” Georgia Republican Andrew Clyde said to call the attack an insurrection was a “bold-faced lie.”

In a statement Friday, however, Thompson noted a growing consensus between lawmakers to investigate the attack in light of its complexity and national significance. He said there is no option to move on from the event without an investigation into its catalyst, calling the commission a way for members to take responsibility to protect the Capitol.

“After all, the Capitol is not just a historic landmark, it is where our constituents come to see their democracy in action,” Thompson pushed in a statement. “As such, we owe it to the Capitol police and all who enter our citadel of democracy to investigate the attack.”

Katko highlighted Thompson’s collaboration on drafting the legislation and expressed a strong opinion in favor of working jointly to examine the attack. He also denounced the attack as “unacceptable” and a “major breakdown in information sharing and preparedness.”

“Unfortunately, the Capitol remains a target for extremists of all ideologies, as we also witnessed during the April 2 attack that took a Capitol Police officer’s life,” Katko said in a statement. “That’s why we must do everything we can to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again.”

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