A Senate debate on an unrelated bill took far more time than expected yesterday, delaying the fight over a Jan. 6 commission. But behind the scenes, that apparently gave the Republican leadership more time to twist arms and make partisan appeals. CNN reported:
In the last 24 hours, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has ramped up the pressure on his GOP Senate colleagues to oppose a bill creating a January 6 commission, according to two Republicans familiar with his effort. One of those Republicans told CNN that McConnell has even made the unusual move of asking wavering senators to support filibustering the bill as "a personal favor" to him.
The unnamed GOP senator added, "No one can understand why Mitch is going to this extreme of asking for a 'personal favor' to kill the commission."
I can appreciate the incredulity, but it's really not that complicated: McConnell believes an honest analysis of the insurrectionist attack might hurt Republican chances in the 2022 elections, and so the party must take steps to prevent an independent examination.
The intensity of the arm-twisting nevertheless reflects a rather dramatic challenge: McConnell knows many Republicans endorsed a bipartisan commission; he knows Democrats already gave the GOP the concessions it sought; and he knows voting to approve the commission is the right and popular thing to do. But the Senate minority leader is pleading with his members to do the wrong thing anyway for purely political reasons.
Yesterday, McConnell's lobbying effort faced a rival of sorts. NBC News reported:
The mother of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, met with Republican senators on Thursday to urge them to support a commission to investigate the attack. Gladys Sicknick, Sandra Garza, who was Sicknick's longtime partner, and two police officers who faced the riot that day, traveled between Republican Senate offices to deliver their pleas ahead of a possible vote on the legislation on Thursday afternoon.
According to the latest tally I saw, 15 of the Senate's 50 GOP members agreed to hear Gladys Sicknick's appeal, while a handful of other Republican senators invited her to speak with their aides. The rest declined the grieving mother's request for a meeting, suggesting her efforts to overcome McConnell's lobbying were unlikely to prevail.
As things stand, to advance the bipartisan proposal, which has already cleared the House, proponents will need 10 Senate Republicans to ignore McConnell's personal appeals and Donald Trump's demands, but they only have three: Utah's Mitt Romney, Maine's Susan Collins, and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. GOP leaders have expressed confidence that the search for seven more GOP votes will end in failure.
Reflecting on the prevailing political dynamic, Murkowski told Politico, "Is that really what this is about, that everything is just one election cycle after another?"
I suspect the Alaskan's question was rhetorical, but for Mitch McConnell, the answer is obviously yes.
A procedural vote on the commission may happen later today. Watch this space.