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What we learned from the GOP votes against a Jan. 6 commission

At face value, voting against the creation of an independent Jan. 6 commission seems ridiculous. An overwhelming majority of Republicans did it anyway.


At face value, voting against the creation of an independent Jan. 6 commission seems ridiculous. An insurrectionist mob launched a deadly attack against the seat of the United States government, with the intention of disrupting our elections process. There was a bipartisan bill to form a bipartisan panel to get answers about what happened and why, and to help prevent future violence.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), a Navy veteran and former prosecutor, appeared on MSNBC yesterday and said, "This is an independent, bipartisan commission to get the bottom of the events leading up to Jan. 6th and what happened that day and how we can make our democracy stronger and heal the nation. Why would anyone be against that?"

Around the same time, reporter Jake Sherman, an MSNBC contributor, noted that many senior GOP leaders understood that pushing their members to oppose such a proposal could prove "damaging" to vulnerable Republican incumbents. "It's a tough vote to explain away," Sherman explained, "especially when so many Republicans are on record supporting something identical."

But GOP leaders pushed anyway. The proposal passed in the Democratic-led chamber, but what should've been an overwhelming vote turned into a narrow one.

The House on Wednesday voted 252-175 to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the bill faces a different landscape in the Senate, where it needs at least 10 Republicans and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes it. Republican opposition coalesced against the bipartisan legislation hours before the House vote, which passed largely along party lines.

According to the final roll call, House Democrats were unanimous in their support for creating the independent commission, and they were joined by 35 House Republicans.

Whether that should be a seen as a lot or a little is a matter of perspective. The arithmetic, however, is unambiguous: 83% of GOP members in the chamber rejected the bipartisan measure, which had been negotiated by Republicans after Democrats agreed to GOP demands.

In the process, the House Republican minority offered the public several important reminders:

1. Republicans are determined to sweep the truth under the rug. For all intents and purposes, most GOP lawmakers are effectively engaged in a clumsy cover-up, eager to keep the details of the Capitol attack hidden.

2. Republicans' support for law enforcement comes with caveats. In general, the GOP is seen as a reliable ally of police officers, but that's clearly not the case when it comes to the Jan. 6 attack. Indeed, an anonymous group of Capitol Police officers sent a highly unusual letter to lawmakers yesterday, expressing "profound disappointment" in Republican leaders over their opposition to the creation of an independent commission.

3. GOP lawmakers continue to follow the orders of a failed former president. Donald Trump demanded an "immediate" end to the discussion about a Jan. 6 commission, which would almost certainly further expose his role in inciting a deadly riot.

4. Kevin McCarthy shouldn't expect a Profile in Courage Award anytime soon. Not only did the hapless House minority leader throw his own allies under the bus, he declined yesterday to come to the floor and defend his position.

5. Negotiating with GOP leaders appears pointless. We're talking about congressional Republican leaders who won't take yes for an answer. Common sense suggests the smart move for Democrats would be to stop trying to govern with those who aren't interested in negotiating in good faith.

E.J. Dionne added in his new column, "Any illusions about bipartisanship ought to have been shattered by McCarthy and McConnell's rejection of the Jan. 6 commission deal." Here's hoping the White House noticed.