WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Tuesday voiced opposition to legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
In a lengthy statement a day before the House is set to vote on the measure, McCarthy complained about the negotiations, argued that multiple investigations into the riot already exist and said he wants the panel to also look into other instances of violence.
The legislation is the product of a compromise announced Friday by the top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and John Katko, R-N.Y., who reached a deal on the guidelines for the panel to model it after the 9/11 Commission.
“Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” McCarthy said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that the vote will move forward.
"I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan bill to come to the floor," the California Democrat told NBC News, calling it "disappointing but not surprising that the cowardice on the part of some on the Republican side — not to want to find the truth."
During a House Rules Committee hearing in preparation for the vote Wednesday, Katko defended the proposal and emphasized why Congress needs to take action. Katko was among 10 Republicans who voted in January to impeach then-President Donald Trump over his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack.
"We can't wait to try and make this [place] safer," Katko said about the Capitol. "If we act now and we act in an expedited manner, which I think we can, it's not going to take long to figure out what the failings were at the leadership level of the Capitol Hill police and what their failings were with them not acting on actionable intelligence."
McCarthy's opposition could push other Republicans to oppose the legislation and diminish its chances of becoming law. Democrats can pass it on their own in the House, but at least 10 Republicans will be needed to defeat a filibuster in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after a closed-door conference meeting Tuesday that Republicans are “willing to listen to the arguments” for the commission, but insisted that it be evenly divided, including at the staff level, between the parties.
“We are undecided about the way forward at this point,” he told reporters.
But there is some Republican support in the Senate, where the seven Republicans who voted to convict during the February impeachment trial could be persuaded to support the commission.
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who voted against conviction during the impeachment, told NBC News Tuesday that he wants a bipartisan commission focused just on Jan. 6 — and that if other issues need to be investigated, they can decide that later.
“We clearly had an insurrection on that particular day, and I don't want it to be swept under any rug,” he said.
The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus also voted to endorse the formation of a commission.
McCarthy's political calculus is also shaped by his desire to remain on Trump's good side as he believes the former president's support is necessary for him to successfully become speaker in two years, should his party capture the House majority.
The Republican leader said that bipartisan investigations are ongoing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Architect of the Capitol’s office, which has been allocated $10 million to conduct a full review.
McCarthy has argued any commission should have a broader scope than just the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, pushing for including other instances of violence. He argued the bill “ignores the political violence that has struck American cities, a Republican Congressional baseball practice, and, most recently, the deadly attack on Capitol Police on April 2, 2021,” referring to the man who rammed his car into a Capitol security barricade and tried to attack officers with a knife.
Trump released a statement Tuesday night calling a commission "just more partisan unfairness."
Under the bill, the commission would include five members, including a chair, appointed by Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and another five, including a vice chair, appointed by McCarthy and McConnell.
Commissioners would need to have “significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity,” and current government officers or employees are prohibited from appointment, the announcement said.
The commission would also have the authority to issue subpoenas to secure information to carry out its investigation, but that will require agreement between the chair and the vice chair or a vote by a majority of commission members.