WASHINGTON – Top members of the House Homeland Security Committee announced Friday they reached bipartisan agreement to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 domestic terrorism attack on the Capitol.
Lawmakers had been at loggerheads over creating a commission modeled on the one that reviewed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Republicans had sought a broader review to include racial justice protests last year, but Democrats wanted to focus on Jan. 6, when a riot temporarily halted the counting of Electoral College votes.
The committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and the top Republican, Rep. John Katko of New York, agreed on legislation to create the commission. The legislation could be voted on as soon as next week, the lawmakers said.
“There has been a growing consensus that the January 6th attack is of a complexity and national significance that we need an independent commission to investigate,” Thompson said. “Inaction – or just moving on – is simply not an option.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said it was imperative to study the circumstances of the attack that left five dead and 140 police officers injured.
“On Jan. 6, one of the darkest days in our history, our temple of democracy was attacked by insurrectionists,” Pelosi said. “The gleeful desecration of our Capitol resulted in multiple deaths, physical harm to over 140 members of law enforcement and terror and trauma among staff, support workers and members.”
Katko said the Capitol remains a target for extremists of all ideologies, including an attack with a car April 2 that killed a Capitol Police officer, so that lawmakers must prevent future attacks.
“An independent, bipartisan commission will remove politicization of the conversation and focus solely on the facts and circumstances surrounding the security breach at the Capitol as well as other instances of violence relevant to such a review,” Katko said. “This is about facts, not partisan politics.”
Part of the reason for a commission is that partisan disputes have already flared over details about what happened and the significance of the attack. Former President Donald Trump held a rally outside the White House to contest results of the 2020 election he lost before a crowd swarmed the Capitol. But some Republicans have disputed the violence of the event and whether Trump was to blame.
The acting heads of the Pentagon and Justice Department told a House hearing Wednesday that they acted appropriately, despite a four-hour delay between local police calling for reinforcements and the arrival of National Guard troops.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., likened the events of the day to what someone might see from tourists visiting on any other day.
“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall, showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures,” he said. “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said the FBI was using the attack as an excuse to investigate law-abiding Americans.
But Pelosi on Thursday called Clyde’s comments “quite appalling,” noting that a gallows was erected outside the Capitol as the crowd chanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence. She said Capitol Police must be strengthened and the commission must establish what happened.
“The denial about what happened that day, the denial for the need for more security to make sure it doesn’t happen again and the denial of reaching – finding the truth is what we have to deal with,” Pelosi said. “And we will find the truth. And we’re hoping that we can do so in the most bipartisan way possible. I think that that’s essential, but I think it’s also important to the American people to have confidence in the results of such an investigation.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was ousted from her House leadership position because of her criticism of Trump, welcomed the creation of a commission.
“I think it’s great the Speaker has announced the Jan. 6 commission and I hope we’ll be able to really have the kind of investigation we need about what happened on Jan. 6,” she said.
The full House and Senate must still consider the compromise.
If approved, the 10-member commission:
• Would study the facts and circumstances surrounding the Jan. 6 attack and what provoked it.
• Would be appointed with five members from Democrats and five from Republicans. Commissioners are expected to have expertise in law enforcement, civil rights and intelligence.
• Could issue subpoenas to secure information, with approval required by a majority of commission members or by agreement between the Democratic chairman and Republican vice chairman.
• Produce a final report by Dec. 31.
“The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the U.S. Capitol,” Thompson said.