Democrats are planning to press forward ― potentially on their own ― to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol after Senate Republicans voted Friday to block a bipartisan independent commission.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a call Tuesday with her fellow House Democrats in their first meeting since the Senate vote. The speaker said she is prepared to launch a House-led investigation despite Republican resistance and would continue to push toward finding the truth behind what happened on Jan. 6.
Pelosi proposed four options to launch an investigation after Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) asked about next steps, according to a source on the call. She said Democrats can give the Senate another chance to vote on an independent commission, create a select committee in the House, allow existing House committees to continue investigating the attack, or assign a specific committee, such as Homeland Security, to “take charge of investigation.”
The likelihood of Democrats giving the Senate another chance to vote on the commission is slim, especially after Friday’s vote fell four short of the 10 Republican senators needed to pass. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who was absent Friday, said he would have voted yes on the commission, but it would be hard to get all Democrats and three more Republican senators on board. And with the filibuster still in place, it’s more than likely that Republicans would use the blocking process again.
House Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) suggested on the call that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland could appoint a special counsel to investigate the Capitol riot. There is so far no indication that Garland would make such a move.
Pelosi ruled out the possibility of a presidential commission, telling House Democrats that a panel appointed by President Joe Biden would not have subpoena powers unless it was empowered by Congress.
Pelosi made it clear even before Senate Republicans filibustered the independent commission bill that she had planned for the potential of pushback on investigating the attack. She said on May 20 that the 9/11 commission ― which the proposed Jan. 6 commission was modeled after ― also took a long time to form and that “this is in the works, and it takes time to negotiate.”
“We are taking this one step at a time. What we have said what we want is a bipartisan commission. I don’t want to weaken that position,” the speaker said at the time. “Everyone knows what my options are ― that’s no secret, but our preference is a bipartisan commission.”
Pelosi has also hinted that if a bipartisan plan isn’t possible, then a select committee is a likely option. The move requires the support of a majority of the House and would give Democrats the power to issue subpoenas, schedule hearings and investigate the causes of the attack and former President Donald Trump’s role in the insurrection.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not say on Friday if his committee chairs should launch their own investigation, but he indicated that the House should move ahead on an investigation.
“We preferred to do it bipartisan,” Schumer said, according to CNN. “Every Democrat voted for bipartisan, but facts must come out. “
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Republicans have already moved on from the deadly insurrection, which was designed to stop the certification of the presidential Electoral College vote. He pointed to the ongoing Justice Department investigation and the rising number of arrests and prosecutions of rioters.
“Nobody is going to get away with anything who was involved in the incident at the Capitol on Jan. 6,” McConnell said. “I think we will know everything we need to know ― we were all witnesses. We were right there when it happened, and I simply think the commission is not necessary.”