WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Tuesday voiced opposition to legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
In a lengthy statement a day before the House is set to vote on the measure, McCarthy complained about the negotiations, argued that multiple investigations into the riot already exist and said he wants the panel to also look into other instances of violence.
The legislation is the product of a compromise announced Friday by the top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and John Katko, R-N.Y., who reached a deal on the guidelines for the panel to model it after the 9/11 Commission.
“Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” McCarthy said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that the vote will move forward.
“I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan bill to come to the floor,” the California Democrat told NBC News, calling it “disappointing but not surprising that the cowardice on the part of some on the Republican side — not to want to find the truth.”
During a House Rules Committee hearing in preparation for the vote Wednesday, Katko defended the proposal and emphasized why Congress needs to take action. Katko was among 10 Republicans who voted in January to impeach then-President Donald Trump over his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack.
“We can’t wait to try and make this [place] safer,” Katko said about the Capitol. “If we act now and we act in an expedited manner, which I think we can, it’s not going to take long to figure out what the failings were at the leadership level of the Capitol Hill police and what their failings were with them not acting on actionable intelligence.”
McCarthy’s opposition could push other Republicans to oppose the legislation and diminish its chances of becoming law. Democrats can pass it on their own in the House, but at least 10 Republicans will be needed to defeat a filibuster in the Senate, where some GOP leaders have already sounded skeptical and left its future uncertain.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the ranking member of the Rules Committee and a close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has recently said he doesn’t believe the commission is needed.
“I think a commission likely becomes another reason not to make the decisions that in my view we should be making right now about police recruiting police training, the problems with the Capitol Police board, none of those circumstances are going to change,” Blunt said. “In the likely months it would take for a commission to come back and report.”
McCarthy’s political calculus is also shaped by his desire to remain on Donald Trump’s good side as he believes the former president’s support is necessary for him to successfully become Speaker in two years, should his party capture the House majority.
The Republican leader said that bipartisan investigations are ongoing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Architect of the Capitol’s office, which has been allocated $10 million to conduct a full review.
McCarthy has argued any commission should have a broader scope than just the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, pushing for including other instances of violence. He argued the bill “ignores the political violence that has struck American cities, a Republican Congressional baseball practice, and, most recently, the deadly attack on Capitol Police on April 2, 2021,” referring to the man who rammed his car into a Capitol security barricade and tried to attack officers with a knife.
Under the bill, the commission would include five members, including a chair, appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and another five, including a vice chair, appointed by McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Commissioners would need to have “significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity,” and current government officers or employees are prohibited from appointment, the announcement said.
The commission would also have the authority to issue subpoenas to secure information to carry out its investigation, but that will require agreement between the chair and the vice chair or a vote by a majority of commission members.
Frank Thorp V contributed.