News Update

GOP senator on commission: 'If it's not dead, it's been slow-walked and is short of breath'

After the House passed a bill to establish a commission to investigate the events surrounding Jan. 6, Senate Republicans look poised to torpedo the commission with few Republicans signaling they’d vote with Democrats to support it.

Democrats would need at least 10 Republican lawmakers to buck their leadership, join Democrats and spend the next several months diving further into the events that shook the Capitol four months ago.

The bottom line: In the last three days, the shift among Senate Republicans here has been rapid with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laying the groundwork to educate his members on what he views as potential shortcomings and pitfalls of another investigative body. The evolution here has been swift and to underscore that, look no further than two GOP senators from South Dakota. On Monday, Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune seemed open to a potential commission. In the days that have followed, they’ve made it clear they are far more likely now to vote no.

The timeline: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved Wednesday night to bring up the House’s passed commission bill to the Senate floor as soon as next week. There’s a reason they are moving quickly. The momentum, aides believe, is there to keep the pressure on. That’s hardly a guarantee it will pass, but keeping the pressure on and options open is important for Democrats right now.

Behind the scenes: McConnell has been working his members in the classic way: not telling them what to do, but instead laying out what a commission would actually mean for them day to day. A key point McConnell and Republicans like Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri have been making to rank and file is that there are already bodies doing expansive investigative work. You have the Department of Justice, oversight hearings in the House, a bipartisan, multi-committee effort coming from Senate Rules and Homeland that will produce a report in a matter of weeks and no shortage of hearings over the last several months.

A commission, McConnell has argued, would be duplicative. And for a lot of members, that has been convincing. Blunt has also been telling members that if the goal of a commission is to understand security failures and better equip the Capitol, waiting another seven months to get those answers isn’t useful.

Republicans are also keenly aware of what another seven months of investigation into Jan. 6 would mean: more talk of former President Trump, more talk of the big lie, more questions each and every day about a dark day that was the culmination of months of falsehoods and fanning of the flames by many members in the GOP. If the goal is to take back the House and Senate in 2022, that’s not helpful.

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