NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

In seeking to block a commission to probe the attack on the U.S. Capitol, top Republicans in Congress remind us their work is never done

The lead­er­ship of Repub­li­cans in Con­gress, prompt­ed by Don­ald Trump, spent Wednes­day hang­ing out to dry those House Repub­li­cans who want a Sep­tem­ber 11th style com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion at the Capitol.

While House Minor­i­ty Leader Kevin McCarthy lob­bied hard and watched with fel­low cau­cus lead­ers at the back of the cham­ber, how­ev­er, thir­ty-five Repub­li­cans joined two hun­dred and sev­en­teen Democ­rats to pass leg­is­la­tion cre­at­ing a ten-mem­ber com­mis­sion. The nay votes totaled one hun­dred and sev­en­ty-five, all Repub­li­can. The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing Aye in favor of the com­mis­sion: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, Mar­i­lyn Strick­land (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er (OR); Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler and Dan New­house (WA), Cliff Bentz (OR), Mike Simp­son (ID)

Vot­ing Nay against the com­mis­sion: Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers (WA), Russ Fulcher (ID), Don Young (AK), Matt Rosendale (MT)

Mitch McConnell speaking

Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell of Ken­tucky speak­ing at the 2013 Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence (CPAC) in Nation­al Har­bor, Mary­land (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to block the bill in Con­gress’ upper chamber.

If you missed the so-so movie “Twister,” the gyra­tions of McConnell pro­vide a sub­sti­tute. This is the guy, back in the win­ter, who told the Sen­ate: “There is no ques­tion, none, that Pres­i­dent Trump is prac­ti­cal­ly and moral­ly respon­si­ble for pro­vok­ing the events of the day. A mob was assault­ing the Capi­tol in his name.”

As late as Tues­day, McConnell said he was open to vot­ing for the House bill.

On Wednes­day, how­ev­er, McConnell was describ­ing the pro­pos­al being vot­ed on across the Capi­tol as a “slant­ed and unbal­anced pro­pos­al for anoth­er com­mis­sion to study the events of Jan­u­ary 6th.“

“Anoth­er” com­mis­sion? Do we already have one?

Of course, Mitch added: “The facts have come out and will con­tin­ue to come out.” He seems to have brought rank-and-file sen­a­tors with him.

The Sen­ate will like­ly vote on the House-passed mea­sure next week.

McConnell may be right, for those who would hang col­leagues out to dry may end up get­ting drenched them­selves. If the com­mis­sion plan is blocked in the Sen­ate, House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi pre­dict­ed that a select com­mit­tee, with sub­poe­na pow­er, will be named and go to work. Delay can car­ry McConnell and McCarthy only so far. As Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer not­ed of his GOP coun­ter­parts, “They are still cav­ing to Trump and the big lie.”

The com­mis­sion plan vot­ed by the House tracks close­ly with the pan­el cre­at­ed to probe the Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Cen­ter and Pen­ta­gon, described as “the god stan­dard for com­mis­sions” by Rep. Ben­nie Thomp­son, D‑Miss., chair­man of the House Home­land Secu­ri­ty Committee.

Its ten mem­bers would be even­ly split between appointees of both par­ties. The com­mis­sion­ers would need to be out of gov­ern­ment, as were Sep­tem­ber 11th com­mis­sion­ers Slade Gor­ton of Wash­ing­ton and for­mer Deputy Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jamie Gore­lick. The pan­el would have sub­poe­na powers.

The plan, shaped by Thomp­son and John Katko, R‑New York – the chair­man and rank­ing Repub­li­can on the House Home­land Secu­ri­ty Com­mit­tee – tracks close­ly with a pro­pos­al sub­mit­ted ear­li­er this spring by thir­ty House Republicans.

The pro­pos­al was endorsed Tues­day by the bipar­ti­san House Prob­lem Solvers Cau­cus, which con­sists of bicon­cep­tu­al law­mak­ers — Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans who active­ly use both the pro­gres­sive and con­ser­v­a­tive val­ue sys­tems in dif­fer­ent areas of their polit­i­cal thinking.

The Wash­ing­ton State del­e­ga­tion split along inter­est­ing lines.

Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, Trump’s chief enabler in the state, vot­ed No. The two Repub­li­cans who vot­ed for impeach­ment in Jan­u­ary, Jamie Her­rera Beut­ler and Dan New­house, were among the thir­ty-five aye votes. All sev­en of the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic House mem­bers vot­ed to cre­ate the commission.

“It is appalling that some Con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans, the for­mer Pres­i­dent and oth­ers want to deny the real­i­ties of what hap­pened on Jan­u­ary 6th,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D‑Wash. “In addi­tion, many of these same Repub­li­can lead­ers con­tin­ue to per­pet­u­ate lies about the 2020 elec­tion, deny­ing its legit­i­ma­cy and under­min­ing faith in the elec­toral process… The commission’s report will pro­vide a full under­stand­ing of the facts of Jan­u­ary 6th and the influ­ences that led to the assault so we can help ensure it nev­er hap­pens again.”

“When some­body says of some­thing, ‘It’s not pol­i­tics,’ it’s pol­i­tics,” the late Sen. Dale Bumpers of Arkansas once quipped. The House Repub­li­can lead­er­ship appar­ent­ly made two polit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions.  Back­ing cre­ation of a Sep­tem­ber 11th style com­mis­sion would anger Trump and the Repub­li­can base.

The commission’s delib­er­a­tions, while direct­ed to end this year, might spill over to 2022 and impact the midterms. The com­mis­sion might, in words of Q‑Anon fol­low­er Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene, R‑Georgia, make Repub­li­cans “look bad.”

Of course, there are larg­er issues which impact the Repub­lic, mob vio­lence and intim­i­da­tion plus a President’s attempt to forcibly over­turn his deci­sive elec­tion loss. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Peter Mei­jer, R‑Michigan, who backs cre­at­ing the com­mis­sion, said late Wednes­day: “I am strug­gling with some of the false ratio­nales and expla­na­tions.” House Major­i­ty Leader Ste­ny Hoy­er put it more blunt­ly in a House floor speech: “It is unfath­omable, with any integri­ty, they could oppose this.”

McCarthy did not speak dur­ing floor debate, but left oppo­si­tion to Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene and intel­lec­tu­al­ly chal­lenged Texas Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Louie Gohmert.

Trump weighed in on the eve of the House vote, say­ing of the pro­posed com­mis­sion: “It is just more par­ti­san unfair­ness and unless the mur­ders, riots and fire bomb­ings in Port­land, Min­neapo­lis, Seat­tle, Chica­go and New York are also going to be stud­ied, this dis­cus­sion should be end­ed immediately.”

He’s expect­ed back out on the hus­tings before long.

The Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion has already result­ed in four hun­dred and fifty arrests, with over one hun­dred more like­ly to come. New details are still com­ing out dai­ly. For instance, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Andrew Clyde, R‑Georgia, rhetor­i­cal­ly doc­tored the insur­rec­tion last week, say­ing: “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan­u­ary the sixth, you would actu­al­ly think it was a nor­mal tourist vis­it.” CNN and MSNBC were air­ing footage last night show­ing Clyde help­ing bar­ri­cade doors to the House cham­ber against ram­pag­ing “tourists.”

One more fac­tor explains why House GOP Leader McCarthy is quak­ing in his pol­ished shoes. He had a con­tentious mid-insur­rec­tion phone con­ver­sa­tion with Trump, per­haps unset­tled at chants of “Hang Pence!” from the president’s sup­port­ers. News of the con­ver­sa­tion was “out­ed” ear­li­er this year by our very own Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jamie Her­rera Beut­ler. Deposed House Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence Chair Liz Cheney said last week that McCarthy should be called to tes­ti­fy before inves­ti­ga­tors, under sub­poe­na if necessary.

Odds are that Schumer won’t get the six­ty Sen­ate votes need­ed to bring the House pro­pos­al to a vote on final pas­sage, and Speak­er Pelosi will con­se­quent­ly need to go the select com­mit­tee route. Sen­a­tor Susan Collins, R‑Maine, a vote for impeach­ment in Jan­u­ary, was back with McConnell, say­ing she could not sup­port the House­’s Jan­u­ary 6th com­mis­sion plan in its present form.

Collins is liv­ing proof of a half-cen­tu­ry-old joke once told by anti-war Sen­a­tor Eugene McCarthy of Min­neso­ta (1916–2005): “A lib­er­al Repub­li­can is some­one, if you are drown­ing fifty feet off­shore, will throw out a thir­ty-foot-long rope… and say [they] have gone more than halfway.”

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