Capitol riot commission faces GOP resistance in the Senate

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 11:49 PM ET, Thu May 20, 2021
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4:13 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Prospects bleak that 10 Republicans would buck McConnell on Jan. 6 commission vote

From CNN's Lauren Fox

After the House passed a bill to establish a commission to investigate the events surrounding Jan. 6, Senate Republicans look poised to torpedo the commission with few Republicans signaling they'd vote with Democrats to support it.

Democrats would need 10 Republican lawmakers to buck their leadership, join Democrats and spend the next several months diving further into the events that shook the Capitol four months ago.

The bottom line: In the last three days, the shift among Senate Republicans here has been rapid with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laying the groundwork to educate his members on what he views as potential shortcomings and pitfalls of another investigative body. The evolution here has been swift and to underscore that, look no further than two GOP senators from South Dakota. On Monday, Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune seemed open to a potential commission. In the days that have followed, they've made it clear they are far more likely now to vote no.

Read more here.

3:07 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Go There: CNN is on Capitol Hill, answering your questions about the Jan. 6 commission

All eyes are on the US Senate and whether 10 Republican lawmakers will buck their leadership to support a bill to establish a commission that would investigate the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 at the US Capitol.

The bill passed the House Wednesday after 35 Republicans broke with their party to vote for it.

CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean was live from Capitol Hill. Watch more:

2:14 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Senate GOP poised to filibuster commission legislation as soon as next week 

From CNN's Manu Raju 

Many Republican senators are making clear to CNN they will vote to prevent debate from even beginning on the Jan. 6 commission, increasing the chances that the Senate will block debate on the bill.

The first test vote could happen next week. If successful, it could be the first successful GOP legislative filibuster this Congress.

Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who voted to convict former President Trump, told CNN he would vote to block debate on the bill over his concerns that the probe is unneeded. 

The legislation will need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to join all 50 Democrats in the chamber in order to overcome a 60-vote filibuster and pass the bill.

As it stands now, there are not 10 GOP senators who have signed on to the measure. 

2:01 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

White House still hopeful Senate will pass legislation to form Capitol riot commission

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gestures during a press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on May 20, in Washington, DC.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gestures during a press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on May 20, in Washington, DC. Anna

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday the White House was still hopeful that the Senate would pass bipartisan legislation forming a commission to investigate the events surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, telling reporters, “the attack on the Capitol on January 6 was an unprecedented assault on our democracy demands a full and independent investigation into what happened.”

“This is not a political issue in the President's view, this is a question of how we secure our democracy and the rule of law, so it's incredibly disappointing to see how many Republicans—how many representatives have opted to turn this into a political issue, instead of doing what's right for our country and our Constitution, and they still have the opportunity to do the right thing," Psaki said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that her “overwhelming preference” is for a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, when asked by CNN if she is committed to a select committee if legislation to establish a commission fails in the Senate.

But she expressed openness to the option last month, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN “of course” when asked on Wednesday if he would pursue a select committee to investigate if the bill to create the independent commission fails in the Senate.

Psaki declined to weigh in on the possibility of a select committee Thursday, telling reporters at the White House, despite steep headwinds in the Senate, “Obviously, our hope is that the Senate Republicans do the right thing, put policy partisan politics aside and vote in a way that supports the preservation of our democracy, of our Constitution. They have the opportunity to do that. If they don't have it, we'll have a conversation about it.” 

Psaki said she would inquire following a letter from Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone regarding the ongoing trauma he and other officers experienced on Jan. 6.

1:45 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

McCarthy says he'd be willing to testify about Jan. 6 conversation with Trump

From Manu Raju and Ali Main 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks with reporters after voting on the establishment of a commission to investigate the events of January 6 on May 19, in Washington, DC.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks with reporters after voting on the establishment of a commission to investigate the events of January 6 on May 19, in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Though he continued to rail against the House-passed legislation to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said for the first time on Thursday he would be willing to testify about his conversations with former President Trump on Jan. 6 if he were compelled to do so.

"Sure, next question," he told CNN's Manu Raju when asked if he would cooperate with an investigation by an outside commission.

McCarthy said he was "not at all surprised" that 35 House Republicans voted with Democrats in favor of the bill to establish the commission, despite his own staunch opposition to it. "I thought it would probably be higher," he added.

The California Republican accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of "playing politics" with the commission and reiterated his wishes for a broader scope for a probe.

The bill, which passed in the House yesterday, now faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The legislation will need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to join all 50 Democrats in the chamber in order to overcome a 60-vote filibuster and pass the bill. Like McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he is opposed to the bill.

CNN's Annie Grayer contributed reporting to this post. 

1:10 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Trump slams 35 House Republicans who voted in favor of Jan. 6 commission

From CNN's Gabby Orr

Former President Trump is chastising the 35 House Republicans who broke party ranks on Wednesday to support the creation of an independent commission to study the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. 

“They just can’t help themselves,” Trump said of the GOP defectors in a statement Thursday afternoon. 

Calling Republicans who supported the legislation “weak and ineffective,” Trump charged that Democrats have a much easier time sticking together on votes than his party. 

“They don’t have the Romney’s, Little Ben Sasse’s and Cheney’s of the world,” he contended, referring to Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who supported the bill in a floor vote Wednesday afternoon and Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who have expressed potential support in the Senate. 

Trump’s statement comes just 24 hours after he urged House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, to oppose the commission, the terms of which had been negotiated on a bipartisan basis, and ensure their members followed suit. 

It is unclear just how many Senate Republicans will vote in favor of the commission once it is introduced in the upper chamber.

Supporters of the plan will need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to join all 50 Democrats in the chamber in order to overcome a 60-vote filibuster and pass the bill.

McConnell announced Wednesday that he opposes the bill, but didn't tell reporters whether he'd actively whip his fellow Republicans against it.

CNN's Annie Grayer contributed reporting to this post. 

1:16 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

McCarthy says he is opposed to select committee to investigate Jan. 6 attack

From CNN's Manu Raju, Alison Main and Morgan Rimmer

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks with reporters after voting on the establishment of a commission to investigate the events of January 6 on May 19, in Washington, DC.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks with reporters after voting on the establishment of a commission to investigate the events of January 6 on May 19, in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made clear on Thursday that he would oppose the creation of a select committee in the House to investigate the Jan. 6 attack.

Asked by CNN if he would also be willing to testify before a potential select committee, minutes after he expressed openness to testifying before an outside commission if one were established, McCarthy answered, "there is no select committee in the House."

"I don't think a select committee is the proper way to go," he said, noting the ongoing bipartisan committee investigation in the Senate.

McCarthy railed against the possibility of a "Pelosi select committee," telling reporters "the speaker should've not played politics."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that her “overwhelming preference” is for a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, when asked by CNN if she is committed to a select committee if legislation to establish a commission fails in the Senate.

But she expressed openness to the option last month, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN “of course” when asked on Wednesday if he would pursue a select committee to investigate if the bill to create the independent commission fails in the Senate.

12:38 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

Sen. Burr explains opposition to Jan. 6 commission, all but torpedoing hope of 10 GOP senators 

From CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

Sen. Richard Burr speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on May 11, in Washington, DC.
Sen. Richard Burr speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on May 11, in Washington, DC. Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Richard Burr, one of the seven GOP senators to vote for former President Trump's impeachment, explained his opposition today to the Jan. 6 commission, which tracks largely with what he told reporters yesterday.

His opposition all but torpedoes any hope of getting 10 Republican senators. 

"I don’t believe establishing a new commission is necessary or wise," Burr said in a statement. 

Some more context: The bill, which passed in the House yesterday, will need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to join all 50 Democrats in the chamber in order to overcome a 60-vote filibuster and pass the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he is opposed to the bill but wouldn't tell reporters if he'd actively whip his fellow Republicans against it.

12:39 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021

House narrowly passes $1.9 billion spending bill to increase Capitol security after Jan. 6 insurrection

From CNN's Annie Grayer, Clare Foran and Kristin Wilson

House TV
House TV

The House has narrowly passed a $1.9 billion spending bill to increase security at the US Capitol in response to the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection as progressives almost sunk the bill. 

The final vote was 213-212, with 3 voting present. Progressives almost blocked the bill in a last minute effort because they did not support the funding in the legislation that would go to the police. The three present were: Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The three no votes were: Reps. Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley. 

The bill now heads to the Senate before it can go to President Biden's desk to be signed into law.

The $1.9 billion legislation was developed in response to the findings and recommendations of a task force led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who was tasked by Pelosi to lead a review of Capitol security after the insurrection.

Here's what is in the bill:

  • The legislation would provide $250 million for Capitol grounds security, which could be used for physical infrastructure including "retractable, or "pop-in" fencing, and security sensors," according to a bill summary released by the House Appropriations Committee.
  • There would be $162.7 million to harden security safeguards for windows and doors at the Capitol as well as at House and Senate office buildings.
  • The plan would have $7.4 million set aside to increase security for lawmakers, including threat assessments, and $10.6 million would go toward security measures and the installation of camera systems in district offices for members.
  • The Capitol Police force would get $8.6 million for body cameras, $6.8 million for specialized training and $2.6 million "to procure basic riot control equipment to outfit all officers with ballistic helmets, batons, and body shields," the bill summary states.
  • The legislation would set aside $200 million "to create a dedicated Quick Reaction Force to augment the Capitol Police," according to the summary.
  • The bill summary says there would be $39.5 million "to process the hundreds of prosecutions of perpetrators of the January 6 insurrection, including $34 million for United States Attorneys; $3.8 million for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice; and $1.7 million for the National Security Division of the Department of Justice."

Read more about today's vote here.