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Commission to investigate January 6 insurrection fails to pass; Senate Senator Thune votes Nay, Johnson votes Yea in House

A bipartisan effort to form an independent commission to investigate the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, failed in the Senate on Friday, May 28. 

The timing of the vote, leading into Memorial Day weekend, was devastating to family members of those killed in the attack.

“Not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day,” said Gladys Sicknick, mother of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died as a result of the attack.

“I suggest that all Congressmen and Senators who are against this Bill visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward.”

South Dakota senator John Thune voted against the bill. Thune is the number two Republican in the Senate and voted alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Senator Rounds was not present for the vote.

The final vote was 54-35, falling short of the 60 votes needed to pass. Six GOP senators joined with the Democrats to vote in favor: Cassidy of Louisiana, Collins of Maine, Murkowski of Alaska, Portman of Ohio, Romney of Utah, Sasse of Nebraska.

The measure passed in the House 252-175 with 35 Republicans joining all the Democratic representatives in support of the plan.

According to NPR, the proposed commission was modeled on the one established to investigate the 9/11 terror attacks. Ten commissioners, five from each party, would have subpoena powers. A Democratic chair and Republican vice chair would have had to approve all subpoenas and a final report would be due at the end of the year.

Former Republican governor of New Jersey and head of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, said the senators’ failure to launch a similar investigation into the January 6 insurrection is “democracy’s loss.”

Republicans accuse Democrats of making the commission “political”

Thune, McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) all accused Democratic party leadership of making the call for an independent commission “political.”

A statement from Sen. Thune’s office read, in part, “I support the ongoing criminal investigations by the Department of Justice, which have already led to hundreds of arrests. I also look forward to the conclusion of the bipartisan investigation that is currently underway in two Senate committees and reviewing their report. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi tainted this entire process by making it political from the start. I hope we can end it by simply finding the facts.”

Minority Leader McConnell said, “I’ve made the decision to oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal.” Speaking from the Senate floor on May 19, he said, “It’s not at all what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress.”

In response, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Republicans are putting party over country. Speaking from the Senate floor, Schumer said, “Both sides negotiated for months,” Schumer said. “Once again, they are caving to Donald Trump and proving that the Republican Party is still drunk off the big lie.”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained that Republicans are trying to sweep the reality of the riot under the rug. Others have accused the Republicans of severely downplaying the violence and severity of the attack. “I thought the videotape would speak for itself,” said Durbin. “That was insurrectionist mob that took human lives…and I think we should make an official, formal record of it.”

Rep. Johnson voted Yea in favor of accountability

South Dakota Representative Dusty Johnson broke party lines as one of the 35 Republicans who voted for the commission in the House on May 19. In an interview with Keloland Johnson said he felt a bipartisan commission would get to the truth and keep the process from becoming too partisan.

“Frankly, Democrats and Republicans, neither of them have all the answers. Nobody’s got a corner on the truth — I think we’d get a lot more done in this country if we had people who valued country over party,” he said.

Johnson’s comments echoed Durbin when he said, “Clearly anyone who watches the footage of January 6 understands that there were people that broke into the capitol, and that was a dark day in American history,” he said. According to Keloland, Johnson said the main thing he wants to come out of the commission is accountability.

The big lie is the false belief that President Biden did not, in fact, legitimately win the 2020 election. The lie is fueled by former President Trump and radicals within the Republican party and has become a test of allegiance to Donald Trump. The concept of the big lie is a propaganda technique coined by Adolph Hitler in 1928; to tell a lie so inconceivable and outrageous that no one could believe it’s a lie and therefore must be true.

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