GOP senators block bill to create Capitol riot commission

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

Updated 6:00 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021
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2:13 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

JUST IN: Senate Republicans block bill to create Jan. 6 commission

From CNN's Alex Rogers, Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senate Republicans just blocked a bill that would have created an independent and bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that left five people dead and about 140 officers injured. 

By a vote of 54 to 35, the Senate failed to advance the commission. At least 10 GOP senators were needed to reach the necessary 60 votes to pass the key procedural vote.

The House-passed legislation aimed to create a 10-person panel to figure out what happened, including the law enforcement's "preparedness and response" and then report recommendations in order "to prevent future acts of targeted violence and domestic terrorism."

The refusal of at least 10 Republican senators to vote for the commission underscores the deeply partisan divide that has emerged over the insurrection earlier this year and comes at a crucial time for Capitol Hill where Democrats are struggling to advance President Biden's agenda.

This is how the commission would have worked if it passed:

  • The panel would have attempted to find bipartisan consensus. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate would have evenly split the selection of its 10 members. 
  • A subpoena would have only be issued to compel witness testimony if it had the support of the majority of members, or if the commission's chairperson, chosen by Democrats, and the vice-chairperson, chosen by Republicans, came to an agreement.
  • The commission would have also required to submit to the President and Congress a final report by the end of 2021 and dissolve 60 days thereafter — about nine months before the 2022 elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has 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. Last week, the House passed the bill 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats.

12:08 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

GOP Sen. Cassidy explains why he voted to advance the Jan. 6 commission bill

From CNN's Ali Zaslav 

Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy, who voted to advance the Jan. 6 commission bill, handed reporters his statement after leaving the chamber.

“The investigations will happen with or without Republicans. To ensure the investigations are fair, impartial, and focused on facts, Republicans need to be involved,” Cassidy said in the statement.

Cassidy said the commission he voted to advance ensured GOP had equal power over the panel and set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2021 so it wouldn’t be drawn out.

He expressed concerns about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s role regarding “lack of adequate security” on Jan. 6 and said he doesn’t think a Democrat-run investigation would evaluate that concern.

Cassidy did not state his position on the bill before today's vote. Only Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine had indicated they planned to join Democrats and support the bill.

11:57 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Romney won't agree with Murkowski that McConnell's opposition to commission is just political

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Mitt Romney wouldn’t say he agrees with fellow GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski that opposing the Jan. 6 commission is a purely political move by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I’m not going to make that judgement,” he said.

However, he did say that it was “unfortunate” that the commission would likely not go forward.

“I think it’s unlikely we’ll find 10 Republican votes and I think that’s unfortunate.”

He added, “I think it would be appropriate to have further evaluation of what happened on Jan. 6, and who's responsible, and how we can prevent that from happening again." 

11:34 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Schumer will speak after the Senate vote

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Manu Raju 

The key procedural vote on the Jan. 6 riot commission is underway on the Senate floor, and it is expected to fail to reach the needed 60 votes to move on to the actual bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer explained that the deal they’ve made with Republican senators is a “good solution” because they get to vote on the commission, and it occurs “in the light of day, not at three in the morning.” Schumer also said it’s a deal that Democrats proposed.

Schumer said he will speak more on the commission after the vote as well.

11:30 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

NOW: Senate is holding procedural vote on commission to investigate Jan. 6 attack

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate is voting now on whether to advance a bill that would create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that led to the deaths of five people and about 140 police officers injured.

Senate Republicans are expected to block the bill. Only three GOP senators — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have expressed their support for advancing the legislation, and Democrats need 10.

Last week, the House passed the bill 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats.

How the commission would work: The commission would attempt to find bipartisan consensus. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate evenly split the selection of its 10 members. A subpoena can only be issued to compel witness testimony if it has the support of the majority of members, or if the commission's chairperson, chosen by Democrats, and the vice-chairperson, chosen by Republicans, come to an agreement.

The commission is also required to submit to the President and Congress a final report by the end of 2021 and dissolve 60 days thereafter — about nine months before the 2022 elections.

11:33 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Schumer says the Jan. 6 riot commission vote will happen in the next hour

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav 

Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Getty Images
Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer just announced an agreement. The vote on the Jan. 6 commission will happen within the next hour, and the vote on the Endless Frontier Act will be delayed until June 8.

He also said the bipartisan China competition legislation will be delayed until after the Memorial Day recess on Tuesday June 8. This comes after Republicans proposed to have vote today on Jan. 6 commission and delay votes on Endless Frontier Act until Tuesday June 8, as CNN reported. Sen. Rand Paul warned if Democrats didn’t accept the deal, they would drag out the process through the weekend.

11:14 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

GOP proposes voting today on Jan. 6 commission and delaying vote on Endless Frontier Act until June

From CNN's Manu Raju

As a group of GOP senators hold up votes on the floor, Republicans have proposed to have a vote today on the Jan. 6 commission and delay votes on the Endless Frontier Act until June 8. 

Sen. Rand Paul warned if Democrats don’t accept this deal, they will drag out the process through the weekend.

There needs to be unanimous consent in order to schedule these votes.

10:30 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

There's frustration on both sides over the GOP's delay tactics

From CNN's Manu Raju

Two senators — one Democrat and one Republican — say there is anger and frustration on both sides at their colleagues who are holding up votes and dragging out the Senate voting process, since the votes on both the Jan. 6 commission bill and an unrelated bill (that's currently delaying getting to the commission bill) are inevitable. 

The key vote on the commission was expected as early as Thursday, but due to the order of Senate procedure, that vote had to wait until the previous legislation was cleared. Republican senators have delayed overnight passage of a massive bill designed to increase American competitiveness with China, and that means the key procedural vote on a bill to create the Jan. 6 commission has to wait.

“Horsesh*t,” one senior GOP senator said today.

As he entered the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said when asked how long today’s session will take: “You’ll have to ask the folks who feel compelled to speak.”

Asked by CNN if he thinks votes on the China bill and Jan. 6 bill will be done today, McConnell answered, "I hope so but we will see how it goes."

10:25 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Meanwhile, at least 450 people have been charged in US Capitol insurrection

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz, Marshall Cohen and Katelyn Polantz

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

As the Senate delays a key procedural vote on a bill to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, a CNN review of court documents reveals that the Justice Department has charged at least 450 people in connection with the insurrection.

The deadly attack on the Capitol left five people dead and more than 140 police officers injured.

Yesterday, the mother of one of those who died met with more than a dozen Republican senators, urging them to vote to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Gladys Sicknick, the mother of fallen US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, told reporters that she hoped her meetings would sway Republicans.

"I hope so. I hope so. Brian had a work ethic second to none. He was just there for our country," she said. "He just was doing his job and he got caught up in it. And it's very sad."

But even after those meetings, which two sources familiar said were cordial, most of the senators told her they wouldn't be changing their minds, likely leaving the commission short of the 10 Republican votes needed to pass.