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Senate to vote on January 6 commission bill despite filibuster threat

▶ Watch Video: Mother of fallen Capitol police officer pushes for riot commission

The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote late Thursday night on the House-passed bill creating a commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, despite the threat of a filibuster by Republicans.

The bill would create a 10-member commission evenly divided between members selected by Democratic and Republican leaders. Both sides would have equal subpoena power, and the commission will be tasked with issuing a report with findings about the January 6 attack by the end of the year. Much of the language in the legislation is copied from the bill creating the 9/11 commission, which passed with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the Senate in 2002.

Both parties called for a creation of a 9/11-style commission in the aftermath of the riot, when a mob of angry Trump supporters overran the Capitol as Congress was counting the electoral votes. But Republicans have backed down in recent months, arguing their party should focus instead on retaking Congress the 2022 midterm elections.

Most legislation requires 60 votes to advance in the Senate, and Democrats only have a 50-seat majority. Fewer than ten Republicans are expected to support the bill, meaning it can be filibustered.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a crucial 50th vote for Democrats on President Joe Biden’s proposals, walks with reporters as senators go to the chamber for votes ahead of the approaching Memorial Day recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 27, 2021. 

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of the few Republicans who have come out in support in the bill, told reporters Thursday evening that she was “disappointed” the legislation would not get sufficient support.

“We just can’t pretend that nothing bad happened, or that people just got too excitable. Something bad happened. And it’s important to lay that out,” Murkowski said about the attack on the Capitol, adding there is “more to be learned” about the events of January 6. “I want to know and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know, but I need to know. And and I think it’s important for the country, that there be an independent evaluation.”

This will be the first filibuster of the new Congress, a tool that is often used by the minority party to block legislation. Several Democrats have called for eliminating the filibuster, and see this bill as further evidence that bills should be permitted to advance with a simple majority. But Senator Joe Manchin, the most vocal Democratic opponent of eliminating the filibuster, said Thursday that while it was “frustrating” to see Republican opposition to the bill, he is “not willing to destroy our government.”

“You have to have faith there’s ten good people,” Manchin said about Republican support for the commission bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he wants to move past January 6, telling reporters on Tuesday that he believed Democrats “would like to continue to debate things that occurred in the past.”

“I think that this is purely political exercise that adds nothing to the subtotal of information,” McConnell said about the legislation. The bipartisan bill, which passed in the Democrat-controlled House earlier this month, was negotiated in part by the Republican ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Republicans have raised concerns about the structure and scope of the bill, and they are worried it could extend beyond its deadline and affect the 2022 midterm elections — despite the requirement in the bill for the commission to wrap up its work by the end of the year. Republican Senator Susan Collins is circulating an amendment to the bill, and is expected to vote to advance the bill so she can offer it. But even if it is altered the measure is still unlikely to garner support from a sufficient number of Republicans.

Republican Senator John Cornyn argued to reporters on Thursday that House and Senate committees were already investigating the attack, which made a commission redundant.

“I think we’re capable of getting to the bottom of it on a bipartisan way, and probably a quicker,” Cornyn said.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy said he would be willing to consider the bill if Collins’ amendment pertaining to commission staff selection is accepted. Republicans have worried the current bill would allow the Democratic commissioners to hire all staffers, and Collins’ amendment would assuage GOP concerns by ensuring Republican commissioners would have an equal hand in staff selection as well.

“If the amendment is accepted, you have one set of potential persuadables, including me. If it’s not accepted, then you have another set, a smaller set of persuadables,” Cassidy told reporters.

With the vote approaching, Republicans also came under renewed pressure from Gladys Sicknick, the mother of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the day after batting rioters at the Capitol on January 6th. 

Gladys Sicknick requested a meeting with each Republican senator on Thursday “to discuss the importance of establishing the bipartisan January 6th Commission,” according to a copy of the meeting request obtained by CBS News. She met with several senators who have expressed opposition to creating a commission as well as some supporters.

She was joined by Sandra Garza, Brian Sicknick’s girlfriend, during her meetings with certain Republican senators, as well as former GOP Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, and U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn. Fanone suffered a heart attack and a concussion during the attack on January 6, and Dunn was called slurs by several of the insurrectionists.

“Usually I’m staying in the background and I just couldn’t, I couldn’t stay quiet anymore,” Gladys Sicknick told reporters after meeting with Romney on Thursday morning.

Rebecca Kaplan and Jack Turman contributed to this report.


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