House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to appoint a select committee to investigate the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission to probe the insurrection, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Pelosi announced Tuesday evening to the House’s Steering and Policy Committee that she will create a select committee, the sources said. She told Democrats the January 6 inquiry will be a “pursuit of truth” investigation, according to one source who heard her remarks.
One of the sources said Pelosi indicated she believes a regular standing committee of several dozen members just would not work, and notes the House has already given the Senate several weeks to get a bill on an independent commission passed and that has not happened.
Pelosi later denied that she had made a decision. “No, I did not make that announcement. Somebody put out a false report,” she told reporters.
After CNN and numerous news outlets reported on her decision, her spokesman, Drew Hammill, later tweeted, “Clarification on tonight’s meeting of the Steering and Policy Committee. Speaker Pelosi told Members she plans to announce WHETHER she will create a select committee THIS WEEK. Her preference continues to be a bipartisan commission which Senate Republicans are blocking.”
However, CNN stands by its reporting and the sources who confirmed her initial remarks.
The decision to appoint a select committee to investigate the attack means that House Democrats will channel their various efforts examining the events surrounding January 6 into one place. It was one of several options Pelosi had been considering after Senate Republicans filibustered legislation creating an independent commission that had passed in the House.
The commission is likely to fuel the political brawl that’s played out in the House the aftermath of January 6, in which Democrats have charged that Republicans are trying to whitewash the insurrection carried out by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Republicans, meanwhile, have accused Democrats of trying to use the commission and their committee investigations for political gain.
Trump’s role in the lead-up to the January 6 attack is sure to be a focus of the select panel, and the committee could look into actions of some House members, too.
For several months after January 6, Pelosi pushed for an independent panel modeled after the 9/11 Commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the attack on the Capitol, in which rioters breached the building and forced lawmakers to evacuate in the midst of certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.
The leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee, Democratic Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and ranking Republican John Katko of New York, struck a deal last month to create an independent panel. But GOP leaders balked. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky came out against the agreement, arguing that there were already sufficient investigations – between congressional committees and the Justice Department – and that the commission would be slanted toward Democrats. The 2022 midterm elections also loomed over the politics surrounding a commission.
The House passed the bill to create a commission 252-175 last month, with 35 Republicans backing it. But Senate Republicans blocked the legislation with a filibuster by 54-35, short of the 60 votes necessary for it to proceed to debate.
The commission legislation would have given both the Democratic and Republican sides the power to sign off on subpoenas, and that’s unlikely to be the case with a select committee run by Democrats.
Multiple House committees are already investigating the January 6 attack, including the Homeland Security and House Administration panels. House Democrats likely will need to sort out how to wrap those probes into the select committee – and Pelosi will have to decide who should lead the new panel.
Republicans will have to decide who will take the top GOP slot on the select committee, where they will play a role in hearings and other steps the committee takes. McCarthy could appoint Katko, a moderate, or he may opt for someone like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a firebrand and staunch Trump supporter.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Tuesday.