U.S. House backs select committee to probe Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol

By: - June 30, 2021 5:19 pm

Trump supporters forced their way into the U.S. Senate Chamber on Jan 6, 2021. Lawmakers in session ran for their lives. Five people died as a result of the insurrection. Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Wednesday to establish a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection, in which a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.

In a 222-190 vote that was almost entirely party-line, just two Republicans joined Democrats in passing the resolution, which calls for a probe into “one of the darkest days of our democracy.” The two were Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Nineteen Republicans did not vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a written statement slammed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, for voting against the select committee and for urging his members to do the same.

“Minority Leader McCarthy dodged, disrespected, and denied Officer Michael Fanone most of the reasonable asks the hero officer made of him,” she said.

Fanone was one of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police officers who responded to the attack on the Capitol. In a meeting with the minority leader, Fanone asked McCarthy to take the select committee seriously, according to The Associated Press.

“Opposing the creation of the select committee breaks the promise [McCarthy] made to Jan. 6 heroes and their families,” Pelosi said.

Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Credit: Official photo

McCarthy told Roll Call that he had no regrets in opposing the panel and added that the FBI should be the agency investigating the attack.

“Nancy Pelosi has spent all the time and all these months playing politics with this, and now we’re finding [the] select committee will be more politics of what she wants to do,” he told Roll Call.

Senate Democrats tried last month to advance to a vote on a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the insurrection, but Senate Republicans blocked the measure on a 54-35 vote, six short of the required 60-vote threshold.

The FBI and Justice Department have already brought more than 500 charges against individuals involved in the violent attack that left five dead and dozens of law enforcement officials injured.

The panel voted on by the House Wednesday will be modeled after the commission established following the 9/11 attacks and will be made up of 13 members, eight selected by Pelosi and five by McCarthy. The committee will hold subpoena power.

Pelosi has not yet tapped a lawmaker to chair the panel.

During the vote, Fanone and MPD Officer Daniel Hodges watched from the speaker’s box, along with the family of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died of injuries sustained during the attack. Sicknick’s mother, Gladys Sicknick, and his partner, Sandra Garza, also attended the vote.

During debate of the resolution on the House floor, Republicans argued against the committee because other committees were already doing their own investigations and the select panel would be redundant.

Republicans also argued that it was “purely for political purposes,” as Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) put it.

“The resolution itself is full of charged language that implies an outcome,” Fischbach said. “Democrats are injecting partisanship into the equation, hoping to stretch out an investigation long enough to distract from their abject failure to govern.”

Democrats argued that a commission is necessary to understanding the cause of the attack on the Capitol and to pass reforms to ensure that it never happens again.

“To be clear, this was a domestic terrorist attack on everyone who works in this Capitol complex,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) said.

“We need a select committee to understand what happened on Jan. 6, where many of our lives were at risk. We need to know the facts and circumstances, we need to know the truth so that it never happens again,” she said.

The insurrection was spurred by a mob of pro-Trump supporters who attempted to stop Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election after former President Donald Trump held a rally blocks from the Capitol. Trump in remarks to the crowd promoted the falsehood that the election was stolen from him.

House Republicans in May stripped Cheney of her leadership position after she continued to push back against Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud. At the time, Cheney gave a scathing speech on the House floor, warning her GOP colleagues to not ignore the rule of law.

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” she said. “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday that the panel needs to investigate “the very essence of what Jan. 6 was about.”

“The president recruited people to come to Washington, incited them in a fiery speech, and then deployed them to the Capitol,” he said. “Heaven forbid that we would look at him being the cause of that event.”

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat representing the Orlando area. Credit: Wikipedia

Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat who was chief of police for the city of Orlando and is a candidate for U.S. Senate, said Congress not only owed it to the American people to investigate the insurrection, but also to the officers who protected them during the attack.

“I care and so do my brothers and sisters in blue,” she said. “We will not forget, and we will not let you forget.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said he did not support the resolution because one of his amendments was rejected. He wanted the commission to look into a June 14, 2017, incident in which several Republicans were shot during a practice for a congressional baseball game. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was severely injured.

“This has been created as a partisan issue,” Wenstrup said. “And if you’re not partisan then you include all the things that threaten us, that threaten this body, that threaten this building, and that threaten the people that work in it.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) who managed debate on the Democratic side, told Wenstrup that Republicans controlled the House in 2017 and could have initiated a commission into that shooting. He added that the resolution was based on language written by Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan manner.

McGovern, who presided over the House while the mob was attacking, said that he was disappointed that McCarthy did not speak on the House floor to justify himself and his vote against the commission.

“I was hoping that maybe the minority leader would come to the floor and explain to us why he objected to the bipartisan commission and why he objects to the select committee and why he objects to getting to the truth,” he said. “There is no rational explanation for putting up roadblocks to get to the truth, unless you’re trying to keep it hidden, and I’m reminded of that old line, ‘If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.’”

As debate on the resolution wrapped up, Pelosi extended condolences to Sicknick’s mother and partner and reiterated the need for the bipartisan commission.

“The sheer scale of the violence that day was shocking,” she said. “We have a duty to the Constitution and to the American people to find the truth of Jan. 6 and to ensure that such an assault on our democracy can never happen again.”

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance.