From The Center
This view is from an author rated as Center.
When an armed mob invades the U.S. Capitol and threatens the lives of their elected representatives, it seems reasonable to investigate the causes for the insurrection to keep it from happening again. But for congressional Republicans who understand that such a January 6 commission would likely focus on the actions of the former president of their own party, and who recognize that the commission’s findings could greatly damage their prospects in next year’s critical midterm elections, avoiding the creation of such an oversight body became a matter of political survival.
The GOP appears to have succeeded. When they successfully filibustered the bill that would have created a bipartisan commission to look into the Capitol insurrection, it appeared that the opportunity to understand the reasons for the violence had been lost. But it now appears that two politicians— Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senator Susan Collins — are not quite ready to give up. Their chances for success will tell us a great deal about whether the breach that divides both Congress and the nation it was elected to represent can still be healed.
In the days before the Senate vote, Collins led the effort to forge a compromise that would allow the Commission to move forward. Republicans had objected to the fact that Democrats would hire the Commission’s staff and that the inquiry could continue into the election year. Collins convinced Senate Democrats to divide staff decisions equally between the two parties and to conclude the commission’s work before the end of this calendar year. As a result, she was able to get several other Republicans to join her in supporting the creation of the commission, but came up just a few votes short.
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But then Pelosi spoke up, raising the idea of another vote in the House as a way of increasing pressure on Republican Senators. When Collins achieved her compromises on the original legislation, she became enraged at Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for presenting the bill in a way that she felt undermined the potential for greater GOP support. Pelosi may be willing to give her another chance to pick up those last few votes.
There are other options available as well. While a bipartisan commission created by Congress and modeled on a similar construct that looked into the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 would be the ideal alternative, Pelosi has also raised the prospect of appointing a select congressional committee along the lines of how Republicans investigated the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. The downside is that the committee’s work would be viewed through a partisan lens, but Pelosi might decide that the value of the information that could be made public with a more thorough inquiry would outweigh that disadvantage.
There are several other standing committees in both the House and the Senate that are already looking into the events of January 6. But none are specifically examining the role that Trump himself played. In particular, the Senate Rules and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committees will be releasing their findings within the next several days. Look for Pelosi to use these reports as the jumping-off point for her next move.
Leading Republicans know that damning information regarding Trump’s actions that day could create an immense obstacle for their party’s candidates next November. But the question for them to consider is whether they would rather have some say in the content and timing of a January 6 report, or allow the Democrats to leverage both for their maximum political benefit. Most of the GOP is still under Trump’s thumb, but Pelosi may gamble that at least three more Senators will be willing to flout the former president’s wishes in order to get to the bottom of what really happened on one of the most tragic days in American history.
Dan Schnur is a Professor at the University of California – Berkeley, Pepperdine University, and the University of Southern California, where he teaches courses in politics, communications and leadership. Dan is a No Party Preference voter, but previously worked on four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns, serving as the national Director of Communications for the 2000 presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain and the chief media spokesman for California Governor Pete Wilson. He has a Center bias.
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This piece was reviewed and edited by AllSides Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias).