A crucial Senate vote on a bill to create an independent inquiry to investigate the deadly January 6 Capitol Hill riot has been delayed due to Republican objections to unrelated legislation, following an emotional and tumultuous week where the bill to create a 9/11-style commission seems on track to fail in the coming hours.
The exact vote timing is unclear — though it could come as soon as Friday afternoon — but proponents of the investigation are expected to fall short of the 10 Senate Republican votes they need to advance. The likely filibuster from GOP senators underlines Republicans’ desires to move on from the deadly insurrection at their workplace which left five people dead and more than 140 police officers injured. Their opposition also highlights the hold former President Donald Trump still holds on most of his party.
The key vote had been expected as early as Thursday, but due to the order of Senate procedure that vote had to wait until the previous legislation was cleared. Republican senators have delayed overnight passage of a massive bill designed to increase American competitiveness with China, and that means the key procedural vote on a bill to create the January 6 commission has to wait.
The Senate resumed its session shortly after 9 a.m. ET, after adjourning just before 3 a.m. ET earlier Friday.
Bill’s supporters sought to pressure GOP
Supporters of the January 6 commission — including the mother of a Capitol Police officer who died the day after the riot — pleaded with GOP senators throughout the week in order to convince at least 10 Republicans to back the plan. So far, only three — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — have indicated they plan to join Democrats and support the bill.
Murkowski, took aim at her GOP colleagues Thursday night for moving to block the measure — and was critical of the rationale by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that such a commission could prove politically problematic for the GOP ahead of the 2022 midterms.
“To be making a decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us, on January 6, I think we need to look at that critically,” Murkowski said. “Is that really what this is about is everything is just one election cycle after another? Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear?”
The mother of fallen US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick met with more than a dozen Republican senators — including Murkowski — urging them to vote to establish the commission. But even after those meetings, which two sources familiar said were cordial, most of the senators told her they wouldn’t be changing their minds.
Most GOP senators made it clear to Gladys Sicknick, her son’s girlfriend Sandra Garza, Capitol Hill Police Officer Harry Dunn and DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone that they don’t want a commission to investigate what happened that day.
Sicknick told reporters that she had hoped her meetings would sway Republicans. “Usually I’m staying in the background, and I just couldn’t stay quiet anymore,” she told reporters Thursday.
The meetings highlighted the emotional toll that the riot has taken on the Capitol Hill community. The meetings, according to a source familiar with them, were “very hard” for Sicknick, who — along with Garza — wore a necklace with some of her son’s ashes in them.
In another reminder of the riot hanging over Washington: Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who became a national hero for his actions defending the Senate during the siege of the Capitol — was seen guarding the Senate on Thursday evening as part of his assignment protecting lawmakers when the chamber is in session.
Senate in overnight over separate bill
At least eight Republicans requested time to speak on the floor overnight — for up to an hour each — to voice their objections to the legislative package aimed at China, known as “the US Innovation and Competition Act,” and those GOP senators slammed what they said is a rushed process to make last-minute changes they have yet to review.
Three senators spoke late Thursday night and early Friday morning — Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Rick Scott of Florida — before the Senate adjourned, meaning there are at least five senators who will likely speak when the Senate resumes.
According to Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who is the GOP Whip, Republicans would likely use five to six hours of their allotted time to speak on the floor. That could be followed by additional debate as well as a series of procedural votes ahead of final passage of the legislative package, pushing the vote on the 1/6 commission farther into the day Friday or possibly to the weekend. This could change or move more quickly if senators give back their allotted time or forgo some of the steps they have been asked to take, which could speed up or slow down the process depending on what they decide to do.
The bill aimed at China and US competitive would invest over $200 billion in American technology, science and research and had broad bipartisan support. Its struggles to advance highlight the difficulty Democrats will have to advance any legislation through the narrowly divided Senate, as several major issues are in negotiations among lawmakers.
What’s in the bill?
The commission would attempt to find bipartisan consensus. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate evenly split the selection of its 10 members. A subpoena can only be issued to compel witness testimony if it has the support of the majority of members, or if the commission’s chairperson, chosen by Democrats, and the vice-chairperson, chosen by Republicans, come to an agreement.
The commission is also required to submit to the President and Congress a final report by the end of 2021 and dissolve 60 days thereafter — about nine months before the 2022 elections.
The House passed the bill 252-175 last week, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats.
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.