House passes bill to create Jan. 6 Capitol riot commission

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 3:27 p.m. ET, May 20, 2021
23 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
4:30 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

McCarthy says he has "no concern" about being subpoenaed in a Jan. 6 commission

From CNN's Annie Grayer

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a news conference on May 14, in Washington, DC.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a news conference on May 14, in Washington, DC. Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked today if he is worried about being subpoenaed if a Jan. 6 commission was created. Here's what he told reporters:

“I have no concern about that, but that’s somebody playing politics with it, not wanting to get to the core of what happened.”
3:50 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Pelosi strongly signals Democrats will go it alone if Senate commission vote fails: "We will find the truth"

From CNN's Manu Raju, Morgan Rimmer and Annie Grayer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, center, flanked by Rep. Benny Thompson, left, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, right, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 19.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, center, flanked by Rep. Benny Thompson, left, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, right, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 19. Susan Walsh/AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi strongly suggested that she would approve a select committee in the House to investigate what led to the Jan. 6 insurrection, if a vote to form the commission fails in the Senate.

“I certainly could call for hearings in the House with a majority of the members being Democrats, with full subpoena power, with the agenda being determined by the Democrats, but that’s not the path we have chosen to go," Pelosi said.

When asked if she was ready to take this other path, she insisted, “I don’t want to,” before adding that, “we will find the truth.”  

“It’s not a question of doing this – something in addition to this,” meaning the Commission. “It’s a question of, if they don’t want to do this, we will.”

Asked if Republicans were afraid of the commission, due to the possibility that it could subpoena House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy or former President Trump.

“It sounds like they are afraid of the truth and that’s most unfortunate,” she said, “but hopefully they’ll get used to the idea that the American people want us to find the truth, and that is what we intend to do."

Some more background: The legislation to create the commission is expected to pass through the Democratically controlled House today, but the margins are an important indicator because just how many House Republicans are willing to buck their party leadership may offer an early signal for how many GOP senators could back the bill.

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. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, like McCarthy, said he is opposed to the commission.

2:39 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

House majority leader says he would pursue select committee if Jan. 6 commission bill fails in Senate

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Rep. Steny Hoyer speaks during a news conference near the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge on May 19 in Washington, DC.
Rep. Steny Hoyer speaks during a news conference near the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge on May 19 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN “of course” when asked if he would pursue a select committee to investigate what happened on Jan. 6 if the bill to create an independent commission fails in the Senate.

The House is slated to vote on the bill today, but it could face an uphill battle in the Senate as it needs at least 10 Republicans in the chamber to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a 60-vote filibuster and pass the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, like House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, said he is opposed to the commission.

“We are going to pursue this one way or the other,” Hoyer said. “Any attempt to obfuscate, to hide and dissemble will not succeed.”

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was less forceful in what the path forward would look like if the commission bill fails telling CNN, “I don’t like to go too far. I don’t want to anticipate failure.”

Clyburn did not rule out the prospect however telling CNN, “well, we are prepared to sit down and consider what we ought to do because something has to be done.”

1:50 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

What Pelosi said about the possibility of a House select committee on Jan. 6 if the commission vote fails

From CNN's Manu Raju

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on April 29 in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on April 29 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

If Senate Republicans ultimately block a bipartisan bill to create an independent commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack, Democrats in the House could establish a select committee to investigate the insurrection.

A select committee of this nature only requires a majority vote of the House to create. 

Select committees typically are made up of members of Congress and the majority party would drive the investigation. It would almost certainly have subpoena power as well.

The outside commission is different because it would be comprised of people outside of Congress, with both parties making joint decisions on subpoenas. And there would be 10 commissioners equally divided between the two parties.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled an openness to a select committee in the past if the commission bill were to stall.

“It’s always an option," she told USA Today in April of a possible select committee. "It’s not my preference in any way. My preference would be to have a commission.”

1:33 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

GOP Sen. Susan Collins says she wants changes to Jan. 6 commission bill

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Sen. Susan Collins speaks during a hearing on May 11 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Susan Collins speaks during a hearing on May 11 in Washington, DC. Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Wednesday changes would have to be made to the House Jan. 6 Commission bill before she could support it. She also would want the commission's work completed this year and not drag into an election year.

"I support having a 9/11 style commission. There are changes that are needed in the House version. For example, it's my understanding that the House bill would have the chairman choose all of the staff members and that's not right, and that's not the way the 9/11 commission worked. I also think it's important that this be independent and nonpartisan, and that means that we should make sure that the work is done this year and does not go over into the election year. There's plenty of time to complete the work. But if those changes are made, and some others, I will support the commission. I think it would it would be valuable in terms of establishing exactly what happened, and for lessons learned," she said. 

Collins blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for creating this impasse because she did not consult in advance with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"If I had been the Speaker, I would have reached out to him and talked to him about how it should have been drafted. I would have reached out to Kevin McCarthy . She did neither. So I think the fact that we're in this situation now is do to the lack of outreach. Nevertheless, I still think properly drafted commission is a good idea," Collins said. 

1:07 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Key things to know about the Jan. 6 commission the House is slated to vote on today  

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer

Erin Scott/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Erin Scott/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee struck a deal last week to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan, 6 attack on the Capitol, breaking a months-long logjam between House leaders about how to structure the independent panel.

House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and the panel's ranking Republican, Rep. John Katko of New York, announced on Friday they had reached an agreement for the panel that would be modeled after the 9/11 Commission.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers on Friday that the House would vote on the legislation creating the commission this week, as well as a $2 billion supplemental funding bill to bolster security at the Capitol. The House vote is expected to happen today.

Here's what we know about the commission:

  • The commission proposed by Thompson and Katko would include a 10-member panel.
  • Half of the commission would be appointed by Democratic congressional leaders, including the chair, and half by Republicans, including the vice chair.
  • The panel will have the power to issue subpoenas if they are signed off by both the chair and vice chair, according to a summary released by the committee.
  • The commission would be tasked with issuing a final report by the end of this year, making it a quick timeline for the panel to put out a final product.

The deal represented a significant bipartisan breakthrough on a proposal that had been stalled for months since Pelosi first proposed a commission to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol in the days after the deadly attack.

The legislation to create the commission is expected to pass through the Democratically controlled House today, but the margins are an important indicator because just how many House Republicans are willing to buck their party leadership may offer an early signal for how many GOP senators could back the bill.

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. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, like House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, said he is opposed to the commission.

The Justice Department has charged more than 400 people in the Capitol riot so far.

Read more about the commission here.

12:55 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Republican senator says he doesn't think Jan. 6 commission is bipartisan enough

From CNN's Lauren Fox 

Sen. Mike Rounds speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 25 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Mike Rounds speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 25 in Washington, DC. Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Mike Rounds, a Republican who signaled he was open to the commission yesterday, is now saying he doesn’t think it is actually bipartisan enough and it would take too long to hire staff.

Rounds said he was briefed with about a dozen other members by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a coffee meeting this morning. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was also there. 

12:42 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

Democratic senator: "The truth has to prevail" or Trump loyalists will try to "rewrite history"

From CNN's Ali Zaslav 

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin speaks on the Senate floor on May 19.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin speaks on the Senate floor on May 19. Senate TV

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin gave an emotional speech on the Senate floor describing how critical it is that Congress create a bipartisan independent commission to study the Capitol attack so it never happens again, saying if not, many will continue to set out to “rewrite history” and “blame other forces for being at work that day.”

The House is set to vote today on a bill to create the commission, and the commission would need 60 votes in the Senate to pass. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition could kill the bill in the higher chamber.

Durbin explained on Wednesday how at first, he questioned whether a Jan. 6 commission was necessary as lawmakers and the entire country witnessed the attack on the Capitol and there is “ample historic evidence of what happened,” including tons of video footage.

“But then last week, there was a vivid reminder that despite reality and despite the evidence, there are people who want to rewrite history,” he said, pointing to GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde’s remarks including that Jan. 6 was like a “normal tourist visit,” and GOP Rep. Paul Gosar defending Capitol rioters as “peaceful patriots.” 

Durbin aggressively pushed back on the lawmakers' comments and added that “more than 440 of Congressman Clyde’s orderly tourists” have been charged by the government with participating in this violent attack on the US Capitol.

The Illinois Democrat said that Trump “loyalists are turning on the facts and the videotapes and the reality of Jan. 6. This has to come to an end. The truth has to prevail. And this commission, which I understand Sen. McConnell has now said he opposes is absolutely necessary. A bipartisan commission to establish once and for all what did occur as if we have to. But we do. Otherwise, Congressman Clyde, Congressman Gosar and others will set out to rewrite history and blame other forces for being at work that day.”

12:13 p.m. ET, May 19, 2021

GOP fears Jan. 6 probe could undercut 2022 midterm message

From CNN's Manu Raju, with Morgan Rimmer

Senior Republicans are making clear they have little interest in moving forward with a sweeping Jan. 6 investigation in part because a detailed probe could become politically damaging and amount to a distraction for their party just as control of Congress is at stake in next year's midterm elections.

Publicly and privately, Republicans are making that case, with Senate GOP Whip John Thune noting that there's concern among some Republicans that the findings of the probe "could be weaponized politically and drug into next year."

"I want our midterm message to be on the kinds of that the American people are dealing with: That's jobs and wages and the economy and national security, safe streets and strong borders – not relitigating the 2020 elections," Thune told CNN. "A lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward. Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections I think is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us the Democrats' very radical left-wing agenda."

Thune's comments came moments after Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell announced his opposition on the floor, contending it would duplicate ongoing probes and contending the deal — which was reached between a House Republican and House Democrat — is designed to find a conclusion that would be in "Democrats' hands."

Some context: The commission would be structured so 10 members chosen equally between the leaders on both sides. It could report by year's end on what happened on Jan. 6, as well as the "influencing factors" behind it. 

Though it's clear that such an investigation would also look at then-President Donald Trump's role in promoting the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally, his lies that the election was stolen and his efforts to subvert the will of voters.

Moreover, it could put an uncomfortable focus on some conservative GOP senators and House members who sought to overturn the election results in Congress, while keeping the issue front-and-center as the investigation plays out over the next year.