WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Senate Republicans on Friday blocked the creation of a bipartisan panel to study the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, refusing to back down on their opposition to the independent investigation even amid emotional appeals from those who fought with and fled from the rioters that day.
The Senate vote was 54-35 — short of the 60 votes needed to consider a House-passed bill that would have formed a 10-member commission evenly split between the two parties. The vote was another sign of GOP fealty to former President Donald Trump and an overtly political effort to shift the focus off of the violent insurrection of his supporters.
Six Republicans voted with Democrats to move forward. Eleven senators missed the rare Friday vote.
“Shame on the Republican party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they’re afraid of Donald Trump,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said following the vote.
Though the Jan. 6 commission bill passed the House earlier this month with the support of almost three dozen Republicans, GOP senators said they believe the commission would eventually be used against them politically. And Trump, who still has a firm hold on the party, has called it a “Democrat trap.”
The attack was the worst on the Capitol in 200 years and interrupted the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s win over Trump. Four people died that day, and Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick collapsed and died afterward of what authorities said were natural causes. Two police officers took their own lives in the days after the riots.
The events of Jan. 6 have become an increasingly fraught topic among Republicans as some in the party have downplayed the violence and defended the rioters who supported Trump and his false insistence that the election was stolen from him.
The vote came after Sicknick’s mother, girlfriend and two police officers who fought the rioters went office to office and asked Republicans to support the commission.
While initially saying he was open to the idea of the commission, which would be modeled after an investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell turned firmly against it in recent days. He has said he believes the panel’s investigation would be partisan despite the even split among party members.
McConnell, who once said Trump was responsible for provoking the mob attack on the Capitol, said of Democrats, “They’d like to continue to litigate the former president, into the future.”
Dozens of police officers were injured as the rioters pushed past them, breaking through windows and doors and hunting for lawmakers. The protesters constructed a mock gallows in front of the Capitol and called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, who was overseeing the certification of the presidential vote. Four protesters died, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber with lawmakers still inside.
“We have a mob overtake the Capitol, and we can’t get the Republicans to join us in making historic record of that event? That is sad,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “That tells you what’s wrong with the Senate and what’s wrong with the filibuster.”
Still, six in his caucus defied him, arguing that an independent look is needed.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Thursday evening that she needs to know more about what happened that day and why.
“Truth is hard stuff, but we’ve got a responsibility to it,” she told reporters. “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.”
Of her colleagues opposing the commission, Murkowski said some are concerned that “we don’t want to rock the boat.”