Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bid to create a broad bipartisan review of the Jan. 6 insurrection is in peril after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the proposal on Wednesday as “partisan by design.”
McConnell rejected a draft version of Pelosi’s proposed commission that would give Democrats a 7-4 majority on the panel, and he said any large-scale review of the insurrection must also include an analysis of broader political violence — a nod to GOP complaints about a wave of riots across the country last summer that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Expanding the commission’s mandate that way would likely spark significant Democratic resistance.
“If Congress is going to attempt some broader analysis of toxic political violence across this country,” the Kentucky Republican said, “then in that case, we cannot have artificial cherry-picking of which terrible behavior does and does not deserve scrutiny.”
McConnell indicated that he would be open to a commission narrowly focused on security on the Hill.
“We could do something narrow that looks at the Capitol, or we could potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of the political violence problem in this country,” McConnell added. “We cannot land at some artificial, politicized halfway point.”
McConnell’s comments underscore the steep challenge Democrats face if they hope — as Pelosi suggests — to recreate the spirit of the 9/11 Commission, a bipartisan review of the 2001 terrorist attacks that’s considered a model for intensive after-action reviews of nationally significant moments. Lawmakers have proposed similar “9/11 commissions” for the onset of Covid in America.
McConnell’s remarks come as two Senate committees are pressing on with a joint bipartisan investigation into the security failures that allowed a pro-Trump mob to breach the Capitol while lawmakers were certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
The Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees will hold a hearing next week with officials from the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI — three entities that came under heavy criticism during the panels’ first hearing on Tuesday.
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee told senators that the Pentagon slow-walked their urgent pleas for assistance from the National Guard. They also indicated they were not informed about intelligence reports suggesting that extremist groups were gearing up for violence.
The next hearing, scheduled for next Wednesday, will feature testimony from Robert Salesses, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security; Jill Sanborn, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division; and Melissa Smislova, who leads the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
In addition, senators are expected to be briefed on Capitol security measures later Wednesday by the acting Capitol Police chief and the acting Senate sergeant-at-arms.