Key vote on Capitol riot commission delayed in Senate

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

Updated 8:48 AM ET, Fri May 28, 2021
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2:41 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Senate GOP whip says there aren't 60 votes to advance Jan. 6 commission bill today

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Senate Minority Whip John Thune told CNN that Republicans have the votes to filibuster the Jan. 6 commission bill when it comes up for a procedural vote later today. He plans to vote to block the measure.

Asked if there would be 10 Republicans who might break ranks, Thune said, "I don't believe there will be in its current form — in the House-passed version."

"I think there are some issues with the commission, some flaws in the way it's designed that it's going to make it hard to get 10 Republicans to vote for it," he added.

Thune said that his office "is trying to coordinate" a meeting with the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick's mother, who is on Capitol Hill to lobby Republicans to back the commission.

Thune also said that a "deal is coming together" on the bipartisan Endless Frontier Act for a final series of votes on amendments before final passage later today. He said he didn't expect Republicans to use all their debate time that could drag out the floor debate until the weekend.

"It's still fluid. But it looks more likely, it will come together in the next hour or so."

After that, the Senate is expected to proceed to the Jan. 6 commission bill.

2:01 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

GOP senator says Sicknick family wants to understand what happened Jan. 6 "with or without a commission"

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, said his meeting with the family of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was fruitful, adding that "what they had to say was very important."

However, asked if the meeting changed his mind on whether he would support the Jan. 6 commission, Scott said that wasn't what the family wanted to talk with him about.

"Interestingly enough, the commission was a part of the topic, but what they said they wanted to me was more of understanding what happened with or without a commission," he said.

Sicknick's family has pressed for a commission to find out what happened on Jan. 6, with the fallen officer's mother telling reporters senators are "supposed to uphold the Constitution and right now I don’t think they’re doing that."

1:57 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

What the top Democratic and Republican Senate leaders are saying about the commission 

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

Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell objects to building the Jan. 6 commission, citing on Thursday the ongoing law enforcement investigations and the hundreds of arrests made, as well as activities in congressional committees.

Earlier this week, McConnell said that the bill "is a purely political exercise that adds nothing to the sum total of information."

"I do not believe the additional, extraneous 'commission' that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing," McConnell said. "Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, argued that Republicans oppose the bill not because of how the commission is structured but because of politics.

"The truth of the matter seems to be that Senate Republicans oppose the commission because they fear that it might upset Donald Trump and their party's midterm messaging," said Schumer.

Schumer called Jan. 6 "one of the lowest moments in our democracy," noting the lives lost and members of law enforcement who were injured in the violent insurrection.

"More than half of the Republican Party now believes that 2020 elections were rigged, and that Joe Biden isn’t the actual President of the United States. Republican state legislatures across the country captured by Donald Trump’s big lie are tripping over themselves to restrict access to the ballot box," he said.

He expressed the need to find the truth, restore faith in elections and "put a stop to this cancer in the Republican Party," calling a bipartisan independent commission to investigate Jan. 6 "exactly what the doctor ordered."

Senate Republicans are expected to block as soon as Thursday a bill aimed at creating the commission to investigate the pro-Trump riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, preventing a high-profile probe into the attack that led to the deaths of five people and about 140 police officers injured.

What the commission would do: 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.

1:44 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

White House pushes for Jan. 6 commission ahead of expected vote in Senate

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated on Thursday that President Joe Biden wants to see a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection passed into law ahead of the expected vote on the commission in the Senate. 

“Certainly he believes they should continue to move this forward and wants to see the commission, the bipartisan commission passed, and he wants to make sure that's law because that was a dark day in our history and he thinks we should not only take a moment to recognize that but also prevent it from happening ever in the future,” Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One. 

She continued, “Certainly he’ll continue to convey that publicly, you know, I also think he recognizes that, you know, some of the people who oppose it aren't necessarily looking for his point of view, which is very public and well known.”

A vote on a bill to establish the commission is expected to take place in the Senate on Thursday. The overwhelming majority of GOP senators are expected to filibuster the measure and, as of now, only two GOP senators – Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – have indicated they would be willing to support the current legislation. 

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she would vote for a procedural motion to begin debate on the legislation to be able to offer an amendment to make changes to the bill, according to her spokeswoman Annie Clark. 

The measure passed in the House last week, with 35 Republican members voting for the commission.

Gladys Sicknick, the mother of United States Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, is on Capitol Hill on Thursday and said she is hopeful that her meetings with Senators today will change their minds on whether to vote for the commission. 

1:01 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Mother of fallen Capitol Police officer on getting more GOP support for commission: "We just have to hope"

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

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

Gladys Sicknick, the mother of fallen US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, said that “the country” should be on the minds of senators as they cast their vote on whether to form a Jan. 6 commission, saying members are “supposed to uphold the Constitution.”

“They’re supposed to uphold the Constitution and right now I don’t think they’re doing that,” she said after meeting with Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.

But she’s still hopeful after her conversations with senators, saying “they’re very good at what they do, so, we hope. That’s all we can do. We just have to hope.”

“They sit and listen very well, but bottom line is, we don’t know” how the vote will go, she added.

Sicknick has been meeting with multiple GOP senators today in an effort to ramp up support for the Capitol riot commission 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. The vast majority of the 50 Senate Republicans are expected to oppose it; West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told CNN that the issue has become "too politicized."

CNN's Alex Rogers, Manu Raju and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post. 

12:14 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

GOP senator on creating commission: "We owe it to the brave men and women who defended our lives that day"

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Republican Sen. Susan Collins voices her support for the creation of January 6 commission while talking to journalists with (L-R) DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, Sandra Garza, girlfriend of the late US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, and US Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn on May 27, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins voices her support for the creation of January 6 commission while talking to journalists with (L-R) DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, Sandra Garza, girlfriend of the late US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, and US Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn on May 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Susan Collins spoke with reporters following her meeting with fallen US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick's girlfriend, Sandra Garza, and USCP Officer Harry Dunn and DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone. Sicknick's mother, Gladys Sicknick, did not join them for this meeting.

Collins spoke about her stance on the commission, saying "they are the reason that I am fighting so hard for the creation of this commission, so that we can better understand the attack on our democracy, and the heroic actions that were taken that day to save our lives and the lives of everyone who worked in the camp."

The Republican senator from Maine said she thinks her amendment to fix the "flaw" in the House bill addressed the major objection to the bill, and that she has secured the agreement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her amendment.

"My hope is that we can get, with this amendment, a sufficient number of Republicans to pass the bill. We owe it to the brave men and women who defended our lives that day. And in some cases did so at the cost of their lives. And that's why I feel so strongly about that."

Collins is one of only three GOP senators who have expressed their support for advancing the legislation – Democrats need 10. Republicans are in the Senate today.

Fanone said he came to educate lawmakers about his experiences that day.

"I want to see Congress come together in a bipartisan fashion and really get to the bottom of it, January 6, I think it's necessary for us to heal from the trauma that we all experienced that day," he said. "That's why I think it's so important."

Garza said she's frustrated by Republicans who still do not want to support the commission.

"I think it's very disturbing that anyone would not want to support this," she said. "Why would they not want to get to the bottom of such horrific violence? You know they are here today and with their families and comfortable, because of the actions of law enforcement that day. So I don't understand why they why they would resist getting to the bottom of what happened that day and fully understanding how it happened. It just boggles my mind."

Garza said she wants senators "to be thinking about Brian Sicknick, Officer Liebengood, and Officer Jeffrey Smith. They sacrificed their lives that day. They really did. It doesn't matter that Brian's cause of death was natural" she said, using air quotes around the word natural.

"He still died defending them that day. And Officer Liebengood, and Officer Smith. They died as a result of the trauma that day," she said.

Garza said she's still hopeful that her conversations with senators will change minds.

11:36 a.m. ET, May 27, 2021

GOP leaders confident they will defeat Jan. 6 commission bill today

From CNN's Manu Raju

Republicans leaders believe there will be some defections in the ranks but don’t believe there will be 10 to break a filibuster blocking the Jan. 6 commission bill from advancing, according to GOP sources familiar with the matter.

They say that the case they’ve made to their members has taken hold: That the commission would be used for political gain by Democrats and would undercut their efforts to take back the majority.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has told this to colleagues at a closed-door meeting this week, and he has reiterated that message publicly, the sources said.

“I’ve made my position pretty clear,” McConnell told CNN when asked if he were lobbying his colleagues hard on this.

And in a key sign this is going down, GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito just told CNN she is a NO on the Jan. 6 commission bill. Says the issue has been “too politicized.”

11:29 a.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Only 3 GOP senators have said they'll vote to advance the Jan. 6 commission bill — Democrats need 10

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

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

The bill to establish a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack would require at least 10 Senate Republicans to vote with all 50 members of the Democratic caucus in order to pass the legislation and send it to President Biden's desk.

The overwhelming majority of GOP senators are expected to filibuster the measure, and only three GOP senators have stated they will vote to advance the legislation.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said yesterday that she would vote Thursday on a procedural motion to begin debate on the bill. She is doing so in order to be able to offer an amendment to make changes to the bill, according to her spokesperson Annie Clark.

Collins opposes how the House-passed bill structured the staff hiring process, arguing it favors Democrats, and wants to shorten the time the commission can work after it issues its report at the end of the year.

Collins joins two other GOP senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, in publicly stating they will vote to advance the legislation, meaning it is almost certain to fail when the vote happens sometime today.

The bill says the Jan. 6 panel would be made up of 10 commissioners, selected evenly between the two parties, and they would have joint subpoena power to look into the Jan. 6 attack and the "influencing factors" behind it. They would have to report their findings by the end of the year.

Sen. Joe Manchin implored GOP senators to get behind the bill, but has bluntly said he wouldn't support any effort to gut the filibuster if Republicans succeed in blocking the measure. Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat and crucial swing vote in the 50-50 Senate, has long said that he would not torpedo the Senate's rule to require 60 votes to overcome a legislative filibuster, something he believes is designed to force consensus in the polarized body.

11:16 a.m. ET, May 27, 2021

McConnell says he's made his position on Jan. 6 commission "pretty clear" to his conference

From CNN's Manu Raju and Morgan Rimmer

Senate Minority Leader McConnell told CNN’s Manu Raju Thursday morning, “I’ve made my position pretty clear,” to his conference on the Jan. 6 commission.

He would not respond when asked if he was meeting with the mother of fallen US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, Gladys Sicknick, today.

McConnell’s staff is expected to talk to Sicknick’s mother, but not the leader himself. 

Sicknick asked to meet with GOP senators ahead of an expected vote on the January 6 commission today that so far is short of the 10 Republican votes needed to pass.

More on McConnell’s position: The Senate minority leader objects to building the commission, citing ongoing law enforcement investigations and the hundreds of arrests made, as well as lower-profile activities in congressional committees.

Earlier this week, McConnell said that the bill "is a purely political exercise that adds nothing to the sum total of information."

And said today that he thinks "the basic goal of our Democratic friends is to keep re-litigating in public what happened back on January 6, rather than getting to a quick solution through arrests of those who did it, and security adjustments to make sure it never happens again."

CNN's Alex Rogers and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post.