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House launches special Jan. 6 probe, ignoring GOP opposition

As the House advances a special select committee on Jan. 6, Republicans may regret rejecting the Democrats' bipartisan offer.

In the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, it was a foregone conclusion that Congress would investigate the insurrectionist riot in their own workplace. Republican leaders were on board with a "fact-finding" probe, and many rank-and-file GOP members threw their support behind an independent investigation.

At the time, many in the party expected the GOP to gradually move beyond Trump, his attacks on democracy, and the violence he helped instigate. It quickly became apparent, however, that Republicans would instead continue to follow the former president, even after the riot.

When Democrats endorsed Republican efforts to create an independent commission to examine the Capitol assault, and agreed to GOP leaders' demands over its structure, it appeared that a bipartisan plan for a nonpartisan investigation would proceed. That process collapsed when Republicans decided they'd oppose the plan they'd helped negotiate.

Today, the House moved forward with Plan B.

The House voted Wednesday to establish a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, the only step needed to formalize the panel's creation. The House voted 220 to 190, with two Republicans joining all present Democrat in authorizing the committee.

Republican leaders specifically urged GOP members to vote against the proposal, and all but two of their members took the advice. The only two Republicans to join the Democratic majority in approving the plan were Reps. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (D-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

There's no great mystery as to why: the vast majority of Republicans obviously don't want an examination of the attack, fearing political fallout from the truth. There's no shortage of questions in need of answers, and the Trump-driven GOP would prefer to keep it that way.

Today's vote was on a resolution to create the first special select committee, and the bill does not go to the Senate for consideration. The next step is moving forward with the investigation itself.

Following up on earlier coverage, Republicans may not have fully appreciated just how good a deal Democrats put on the table. Dems would've created a panel evenly split among Democratic and Republican members, which in turn would've made it impossible to issue subpoenas the GOP didn't like. Just as importantly, Dems agreed to a strict time limit: the commission would've wrapped up its investigation by the end of 2021.

With Republicans having rejected the bipartisan approach, the select committee will go in a direction the GOP likes even less: According to the new plan, Pelosi will appoint 13 members of the new special select committee -- every member will be a sitting House lawmaker -- five of whom will be appointed after "consultation" with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

That appears to set the stage for a sizable Democratic majority on the panel -- eight members to five -- though Pelosi is reportedly considering appointing a Republican of her own to the committee, which in turn would give Dems a narrower seven-to-six advantage.

Unlike the independent commission the GOP chose to reject, the special select committee will have subpoena power, a dedicated staff, no firm deadline, and a Democratic chair chosen by Pelosi. It will be well positioned to get answers.

It's an open question as to whether House Republicans will participate in the process at all.

Watch this space.