Proposal to probe US Capitol riot advances amid GOP resistance

If approved by Congress, a national commission will investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Pro-Trump protesters storm the grounds of the US Capitol, in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021.
Pro-Trump protesters storm the grounds of the US Capitol, in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 [File: Will Oliver/EPA-EFE]

Democratic leaders in the United States Congress are moving forward with a proposal to establish a national commission to investigate the January 6 US Capitol riot by political supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The US House of Representatives is scheduled to pass the bill on Thursday despite Republican opposition and the Senate will vote on it soon afterwards.

“Republicans can let their constituents know, are they on the side of truth, or do they want to cover up for the insurrectionists and for Donald Trump,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday.

More than 400 people have been charged by US prosecutors in connection with the events of January 6 when a mob overran the US Capitol building after a political rally by then President Donald Trump, who gave a fiery speech claiming the 2020 election had been stolen.

As Congress met to formally ratify Joe Biden’s election win, rioters broke through police barricades, smashed windows and doors of the Capitol and chased members of Congress into emergency shelters. One woman trying to enter the House chamber was shot by US Capitol police and a police officer who had scuffled with rioters died the next day.

The commission, sought by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would be modelled on a bipartisan commission established by Congress to investigate and report on what happened in the al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. House Republicans, who remain closely allied with Trump, have been unwilling to back the proposal.

“Our conference is willing to listen to their arguments about whether such a commission is needed,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.

Given the Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate, they will need Republican support to overcome procedural hurdles to pass the bill and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

McConnell said he would not want the commission’s activities to interfere with the criminal prosecutions now under way. And McConnell said he wants to make sure Democrats do not dominate control over staffing on the commission.

“If it’s going to go forward, it needs to be clearly balanced and not tilted one way or the other,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol.

The Democratic-backed proposal won approval in the House Rules Committee on Tuesday, setting up a planned vote in the full House on May 19, the Reuters news service reported.

A party-line vote in the committee, with Democrats in favour and Republicans against, came hours after Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican and Trump ally, announced his opposition.

“I cannot support this legislation,” McCarthy said, citing “political misdirections” and a “potentially counterproductive” result of the effort. McCarthy said the commission should also focus on “political violence” in US cities during 2020 and a 2017 shooting of Republican members of Congress.

Democrats rejected McCarthy’s claims after his opposition undercut an agreement reached between Democratic and Republican committee leaders.

Speaker Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters she was disappointed but not surprised over the “cowardice” shown by some Republicans who do not “want to find the truth”. Schumer said Republican objections from McCarthy were “bogus”.

The bill would establish a 10-member bipartisan commission to investigate the causes of the attack, security shortcomings and intelligence information. The panel would be directed to release a final report by December 31.

Some House Republicans, including Representative Adam Kinzinger, support the establishment of the commission.

“This should not be about party politics or become a partisan fight,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “It needs to be focused on truth and accountability.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies