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Proposal for 9/11-style commission to probe Capitol attack mired in partisanship

Republicans object to the makeup of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proposed commission, while Democrats say they are open to changes.
Image: Trump Supporters Hold \"Stop The Steal\" Rally In DC Amid Ratification Of Presidential Election
Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol after a rally with President Donald Trump on Jan. 6.Samuel Corum / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proposal to assemble a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is quickly becoming mired in partisan fighting, jeopardizing its formation before it has even gotten off the ground.

Republican leaders object to the makeup and the scope of Pelosi's proposed commission, which would comprise seven Democrats and four Republicans, with only the Democratic members having subpoena power.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the proposal by Pelosi, D-Calif., was "politically driven," adding that "it seems she is actually setting up a system to fail." And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said it was "partisan by design."

Republican leaders say they would support an investigation modeled after the 9/11 Commission, which was formed to investigate the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was equally divided between Republican and Democratic appointees — co-chaired by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, a Republican, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind. — with both parties having subpoena power.

Democrats insisted that Pelosi's proposal was only a starting point.

"The speaker has been very clear this was initial outreach. This was an opening discussion about the commission style," said Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., vice chair of the Democratic caucus. And a senior House Democratic aide said that Republicans have been asked for "edits" to the proposal but that they haven't responded.

On Thursday, Pelosi responded to McConnell’s criticism, telling reporters that his position was “stunning” and a was much different tone than what he had suggested privately.

She said that the make-up of the board “can be negotiated” but said they must agree on the scope.

“If you don't have your purpose as to what the purpose of this is, then the rest of it is not the important part of the conversation,” Pelosi said, adding McConnell had taken “a page out of the book" from Sen Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., who has falsely suggested it wasn’t Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol.

But Democrats aren't relenting on the makeup of the commission, saying proposed presidential selections wouldn't have to be partisan.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that the president wouldn't appoint someone with a different voter registration than our party," Aguilar said. Under Pelosi's proposal, President Joe Biden would appoint three people, while each of the four congressional leaders would appoint two.

It's unclear how the process will advance. Legislation to set up the commission was expected to be introduced last week, but it was delayed because of Republican objections. Pelosi could decide to go forward and pass it with Democratic votes, but she told reporters last week that she would like bipartisan support.

The partisan divide was on display Wednesday when Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chair of the Democratic Conference, alleged that McCarthy "doesn't always operate in good faith" and accused him of trying to stop the process by "complaining when we just have an initial framework that has been presented."

"He set a bad tone on Jan. 3rd by delivering an egregious speech on the floor of the House and then, of course, continues to provide aid and comfort to the insurrectionists, including by voting for those objections," Jeffries told reporters.

Pelosi has also said she wants the commission to look not just at security but at all components of the riot, including "the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response."

McConnell is among Republicans who have objected to that scope, saying on the Senate floor that the appointed commissioners, not Congress, should dictate the parameters of an investigation.

He suggested that if the commission looks at violent extremism, it should consider extremism from the left. "We could do something here that looks at the Capitol, or we could potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of political violence here in our country," he said.