Senate Republicans were poised on Thursday to kill an attempt by Democrats to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the 6 January attack on the Capitol in which a pro-Trump mob ransacked the building in an attempt to disrupt the formalization of Joe Biden’s winning of the presidency.
The bill was intended to set up a 9/11-style commission that would examine its causes and impact and exactly who was involved.
Donald Trump is still powerful in the Republican party and has reacted angrily to the idea of such a commission. Observers believe that many top Republicans are fearful of antagonizing Trump and his loyal followers and also worried about what such a commission might uncover, including potential links between Republican lawmakers and some of those who invaded the building.
The Thursday vote would mark the first successful use of a filibuster in the Biden presidency to halt Senate legislative action, and is likely to boost pressure on the president to get rid of the Senate tradition that requires a vote by 60 of the 100 senators to cut off debate and advance a bill.
With the Senate evenly split 50-50, Democrats needed the support of 10 Republicans to move to the commission bill, sparking fresh debate over whether the time has come to change the rules and lower the threshold to 51 votes to take up legislation.
The House had already approved the measure with 35 Republican votes. Democrats have warned that if Republicans are willing to use the filibuster to stop an arguably popular measure, it shows the limits of trying to broker compromises, particularly on bills related to election reforms or other aspects of the Democrats’ agenda.
“There is no excuse for any Republican to vote against this commission,” said Senator Joe Manchin before the vote though the centrist Democrat still made it clear that he would not support efforts to do away with the filibuster. “I’m not ready to destroy our government,” Manchin said.
Before the vote, Gladys Sicknick, the mother of the late Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick, along with Sicknick’s girlfriend Sandra Garza and two officers who fought the protesters that day, met with several Republican senators to try to persuade them to act.
Sicknick was among many officers protecting the building, some seen in videos in hand-to-hand combat with the mob. He collapsed immediately after engaging with the rioters and died the next day.
In a statement Wednesday, Gladys Sicknick was more blunt: “I suggest that all congressmen and senators who are against this bill visit my son’s grave in Arlington national cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward.”
Republican opposition to the commission, however, was carefully marshaled by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has declared the bill a “purely political exercise”, since Senate committees are already looking into security shortfalls during the Capitol attack.
McConnell, who once said Trump was responsible for “provoking” the attack on the Capitol, now says of Democrats: “They’d like to continue to litigate the former president, into the future.”