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January 6 commission vote: Unclear if 10 Republicans will buck McConnell

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 18: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), joined by Senate Assistant Minority Leader John Thune (R-SD) (L) and Senate Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), speaks following a Senate Republican Policy luncheon at the Russell Senate Office Building on May 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. McConnell spoke on Israel's military actions against the Palestinians, the January 6th Commission and rising inflation concerns. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
January 6 commission vote: Unclear if 10 Republicans will buck McConnell

January 6 commission vote: Unclear if 10 Republicans will buck McConnell

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 January 6 would mean: more talk of former President Donald 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.

Who is where?

In the last several days, CNN’s congressional team has been running our own whip count of how members are viewing the commission on the GOP side. This list isn’t comprehensive, but it gives a glimpse of where about half of the conference stands right now. Expect in upcoming hours for the “no” votes to grow.

GOP senators planning to vote no

  1. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
  2. Roy Blunt of Missouri
  3. Josh Hawley of Missouri
  4. Mike Rounds of South Dakota
  5. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin

GOP senators who may vote yes

  1. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
  2. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
  3. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania
  4. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
  5. Mitt Romney of Utah

GOP senators who’ve expressed concerns about the House bill

  1. Richard Shelby of Alabama
  2. Marco Rubio of Florida
  3. Rick Scott of Florida
  4. Chuck Grassley of Iowa
  5. John Kennedy of Louisiana
  6. Susan Collins of Maine
  7. Richard Burr of North Carolina
  8. Thom Tillis of North Carolina
  9. Rob Portman of Ohio
  10. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota
  11. James Lankford of Oklahoma
  12. John Thune of South Dakota
  13. John Cornyn of Texas
  14. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming

Who could vote yes?

A good place to start is the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump on impeachment. But even then, you are still three members short. And some of the members who voted to convict Trump have already said they have concerns about the commission.
One talking point we have heard: Is that the commission is structured in a way that gives the chairman sole power to hire staff on the commission. And, there is a bit more nuance to it than that. Some Republicans have told us that the bill is different than the bill that established the 9/11 commission. CNN has pulled the language of both bills, and both bills were structured the exact same way. Ultimately, yes, the chairman has the final say on who to hire, but those decisions are made “in consultation” with the vice chair.
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