WASHINGTON – Top House Republicans urged colleagues on Tuesday to oppose bipartisan legislation creating an independent commission to investigate the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill, positioning their conference against a full account of the deadly riot by a pro-Trump mob.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, California Republican and minority leader, announced his opposition in a lengthy statement Tuesday morning, and his leadership team followed up later to recommend that lawmakers vote “no” on Wednesday. Taken together, the actions suggested that the House vote would be a predominantly partisan affair, once again underscoring Republicans’ reluctance to tackle former President Donald J. Trump’s election lies and their determination to deflect attention. of the assault on the Capitol.
Mr McCarthy had been pushing for any outside investigation to include a look at what he called “political violence” on the left, including by anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter, rather than focusing narrowly on Mr. Trump and his supporters. who perpetrated the riot.
“Given the poor political guidance that has marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the short-sighted reach of the speaker who does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation, ”McCarthy said in a statement.
His opposition has raised questions about the fate of the committee in the Senate, where Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to agree to support his formation. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said he and other Republican senators were undecided and “would listen to arguments on the need for such a commission.”
Republican House leaders initially suggested allowing lawmakers to vote as they saw fit. But they abruptly turned the tide on Tuesday, releasing a “leadership recommendation” calling for a “no” vote in an apparent attempt to reduce the number of members passing the bill.
Mr. Trump himself made a statement Tuesday evening calling the commission a “Democratic trap.” He urged Republicans to “get much tougher” and oppose it unless it is expanded to look at “murders, riots and firebombing” in Democrat-run cities.
“Hopefully Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening!” he said.
In dismissing the commission, Mr McCarthy essentially threw one of his senior deputies, Rep. John Katko from New York, under the bus to protect Mr Trump and the party from further scrutiny. Mr Katko had negotiated the composition and scope of the commission with his Democratic counterpart on the Homeland Security Committee and enthusiastically endorsed it on Friday.
It was all the more striking to come just days after Mr McCarthy maneuvered the ouster from the management of his No.3, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, for refusing to drop criticism of Mr. Trump and Republicans who encouraged his election lies. Ms Cheney said the commission should be narrow in scope and that Mr McCarthy should testify about a phone call with Mr Trump during the riot.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California immediately called the Republican opposition “cowardice” and published a letter Mr. McCarthy sent her in February showing Democrats incorporated her top three demands for an inspired commission of the one who had studied. the terrorist attacks of September 11.
In it, Mr McCarthy said he wanted to make sure any committee had an equal ratio of Republican and Democrat nominees, shared subpoena power between nominees from both sides, and didn’t included no “predetermined findings or other conclusions” in its organizational documents.
Democrats eventually agreed to all three, but in his statement Tuesday, Mr McCarthy said Ms Pelosi had “refused to negotiate in good faith.”
“I guess Trump doesn’t want that to happen,” said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and majority leader. “Enough said.
Mr. Katko predicted that a “healthy” number of Republicans would still vote for it.
“I can’t say it clearly enough: these are facts,” Katko told the House Rules Committee during a hearing on the bill. “This is not about partisan politics.”
But by encouraging Republicans to vote no, Mr McCarthy has positioned the commission as yet another test of loyalty to Mr Trump, highlighting a rift within the party between a small minority who are ready to question him and the large one. majority which is not.
New York Democrat and majority leader Senator Chuck Schumer has vowed to lobby the issue with Senate Republicans by quickly raising the legislation for a vote in this chamber.
“Republicans can let their constituents know: are they on the side of the truth?” Mr. Schumer said. “Or do they want to cover the insurgents and Donald Trump?”
Mr McCarthy’s biggest complaint was the panel’s narrow focus on the riot itself – led by right-wing activists inspired by Mr Trump – when he said he should look more broadly at political violence in left, including a shootout by a left. -a clean-up activist who targeted Congressional Republicans during a baseball practice four years ago.
Some Republicans have gone much further in recent weeks, trying to whitewash the January 6 violence that left five people dead, injured 140 police officers and put the lives of lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence at risk.
In an address to the House on Tuesday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, said a commission was needed to study “all the riots that occurred in the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd” , not the attack on the Capitol. . She also accused the Ministry of Justice of mistreating those indicted in connection with the attack.
“Although this is a catch and release for national terrorists, antifa, BLM, the people who violated the Capitol on January 6 are being abused,” she said.
Catie edmondson contribution to reports.