Lawmakers argue over potential commission to study Capitol riot

▶ Watch Video: Security officials blame federal agencies for poor intelligence in lead-up to Capitol riot

Republican leaders objected to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s draft for a bipartisan 1/6 commission to study the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, taking issue with both the proposed makeup of the group, as well as the proposed focus of the commission’s investigation. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Wednesday that the commission should be equally split between members appointed by Democrats and Republicans, citing the makeup of the 9/11 commission, which studied the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and is often cited as a successful model. 

“It both helped the effectiveness of the investigation itself and helped give the whole country confidence in its work and recommendations,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “This time, Speaker Pelosi started by proposing a commission that would be partisan by design.” 

The draft proposed by Pelosi last week would allow Democrats to appoint seven commissioners and Republicans to appoint four: two each selected by Pelosi, McCarthy, McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and three to be chosen by President Biden, including the chair.  

Both McConnell and McCarthy also said Republican appointees on the panel must have a say in issuing subpoenas, instead of Pelosi’s proposal to accord that power only to the chair, who would be appointed by the president. 

California Democrat Pete Aguilar, the Democratic caucus vice chairman, defended Pelosi’s initial offer by suggesting that Mr. Biden wouldn’t necessarily appoint someone who is a Democrat.  

“The composition of commission is what’s important, keeping in mind that the 9/11 Commission had one woman and no people of color. So, let’s have a commission that looks like the country, that looks like our Congress, guide the discussion,” he said at a news conference Wednesday.  

Party leaders are also clashing over the instructions on what the commission should study. A Democratic aide confirmed reports that Pelosi’s proposal takes note of reports by the FBI and other intelligence agencies citing the role of racism and former President Trump’s false claims about the election in fomenting violent domestic extremism but would still give the commission broad latitude to investigate the attacks. 

On the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell said if the panel looks beyond Capitol security itself, then it should also be allowed to examine “the full scope of the political violence problem in this country.” 

“Rioting and political violence are abhorrent and unacceptable no matter what cause the mob is advancing. These are not forms of political speech,” he said. “We cannot have artificial cherry-picking of which terrible behavior does and does not deserve scrutiny.” 

“We could do something narrow that looks at the Capitol, or we could potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of the political violence problem in this country. We cannot land at some artificial, politicized halfway point,” McConnell added. 

McConnell’s remarks appear to be a veiled reference to the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd last summer, which many Republicans have tried to compare to the riots at the Capitol on January 6.

“Minority Leader McConnell made clear that Republicans do not want a commission and that if one is created, they aim to try to make it about antifa,” a senior House Democratic aide said. “This is yet another example of McConnell failing to actually take a firm stance against the perpetrators of the Capitol insurrection.” 

Even Republicans aren’t fully united on what the commission should study, however. At the Reagan Institute Tuesday, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney said the commission should investigate the extent to which former President Trump and others around him amplified claims of a stolen election. 

Asked whether he agreed with this idea, McCarthy, who was at a press conference with Cheney Wednesday, replied, “I wouldn’t predetermine what to do.”   

A source familiar with the negotiations over the commission told CBS News that McConnell’s office is working with McCarthy’s office on proposed edits to Pelosi’s draft framework. McCarthy told CBS News he has sent a letter to Pelosi but did not indicate whether he plans to meet with her and said “she has to respond.” 

A senior Democratic aide said there were not yet any edits that had been received from Republicans Wednesday. 

Nikole Killion contributed to this report.

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