The Republicans have so far shown no will or a way to oust Donald Trump from his position as the party’s de facto leader. And that means for the time being that they can no longer block for him.
Just a few weeks ago, it looked like a solid part of Republican lawmakers would be ready to support a commission to investigate the January 6th uprising in the Capitol.
Some G.O.P. Strategists and former lawmakers have stated that they see this as an opportunity to make a clean break with Trump (although, admittedly, we have heard this one before) by giving in-depth coverage of the role he and his allies played in events in the Surroundings have played the violence in the Capitol.
But just as the bill released the Democratically controlled house yesterday with the support of a small but significant minority of Republicans, the party leadership took a step into the opposition.
Suddenly, it seems unlikely to pass the Senate, where it will take 60 votes to override the filibuster threat. It’s the latest, and possibly the clearest sign that Trump is firmly in control of the party’s direction. And that old obstructive approach by Senator Mitch McConnell, which he refined into an art form during the Obama presidency, might be the surest way to keep it going.
Republican lawmakers who fled for their lives as rioters and stormed the halls of Congress, including some who argued a few weeks ago that Trump must answer for his role in provoking the attack, are now against investigation.
Just before yesterday’s House vote, McConnell, the Republican leader, spoke out against the commission, painting it as partisan maneuvers, just days after saying it was open to a launch.
“I made the decision to oppose the House Democrats’ weird and unbalanced proposal for another commission to investigate the January 6th events,” he said in the Senate, complaining that the deal reached in the House did not include an investigation left violence.
It was a far cry from the harsh words McConnell uttered in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack, but this is not the first time the minority leader stepped in at the eleventh hour to stop action in Trump’s role the provocation could potentially expose the January 6 uprising. In February, he waited until shortly before a vote on Trump’s second impeachment to declare he would be against to ensure that the former president was acquitted on Jan. 6.
In March a Monmouth University survey found that a solid majority of Americans believed that an independent commission should be set up to investigate the attacks, with only 37 percent preferring other “internal investigations” to sort things out. About half of Republicans supported a full independent investigation.
But in the weeks since then, Republican lawmakers and Conservative pundits have teamed up as Trump only got the party tighter under control before halfway through 2022. A number of other polls show that while Trump’s favoritism ratings across the country continued to decline, he retained broad Republican support.
This month House Republicans voted to remove Representative Liz Cheney from her post as conference chair for refusing to stop criticizing Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. (Yesterday she was one of 35 Republicans in the House who voted for the commission.) The party’s leadership now stands firmly behind Trump’s distortions.
Commentators on the conservative fringe played down the January 6 uprising before the blood in the Capitol ran dry, and sometimes floated conspiracy theories to justify it. More recently, top Republicans have started to rely more heavily on this narrative.
“The fact of the matter even calls it insurrection, it wasn’t,” Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, a staunch ally of Trump, told Fox News yesterday.
“By and large, the protests were peaceful, except there were a number of people, basically agitators, who whipped the crowd and broke through the Capitol.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, denounced Johnson’s comments in the Senate today. “If ever there was any justification for creating a bipartisan commission to investigate and report on the truth behind the January 6 attack, this senator’s comments provide it,” Schumer said. “Republicans in both chambers are trying to rewrite history in allegiance to, or fear of, former President Donald Trump.”
As planned, the investigation would be largely based on the 9/11 Commission, which was approved in 2002 with broad support from both parties. Its work was flatly announced upon its completion in 2004, and its leaders endorsed the idea of a similar commission of inquiry Jan. 6. This new investigation would include 10 commissioners appointed by both Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and with the power to To issue subpoenas. It would deliver results by December 31st.
Knowing that the party’s grassroots remain committed to Trump, Republicans want to portray the commission as partisans. Indeed, this could become a self-fulfilling lawsuit.
If the bipartisan commission does not pass the Senate, Democratic Committee leaders in both houses of Congress could investigate the January 6th.
And House Democrats are already threatening to take an unqualified approach through existing committees or through the creation of new elected committees. Of course, such a strategy would better fit into the Republican argument that the Democrats are conducting a partisan investigation.
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