If all goes according to plan, the Senate will vote this week on a bipartisan proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The plan passed the House last week, and Democratic leaders in the upper chamber appear eager to call the question, daring Senate Republicans to kill the bipartisan blueprint.
GOP senators will likely do exactly that. To overcome a Republican filibuster, commission proponents will need at least 10 GOP votes, and at least for now, that appears to be too high a hurdle.
But while we wait for the process to play out, a variety of Republicans are doing their best to argue that the existing plan, negotiated by officials from both parties, is undeserving of their support. Their arguments are amazingly flawed.
For example, Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), apparently unmoved by the fact that the insurrectionist rioters hunted his own brother, said the commissioners would be “hand-picked” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). That’s not true. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) argued that the commission appeared designed to “relitigate the 2020 elections,” which isn’t true, either. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the existing plan calls for a commission report to be released shortly before the 2022 midterms. That’s also not true.
But factual errors aren’t the only problem. Other GOP officials are making excuses that don’t even make sense.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) complained that the proposed bipartisan commission would have too much transparency. Several congressional Republicans have complained about the partisan makeup of prospective commission staffers, which is just as bizarre.
My personal favorite, though, came to the fore yesterday.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) … argued that “it’s too early to create a commission” because the widely lauded 9/11 Commission didn’t begin its work until late 2002. That’s true, but why couldn’t this new commission start its work earlier?
The Missouri Republican, who’s retiring next year and no longer has to say foolish things like this, actually told Fox News, “I think it’s too early to create a commission, and I believe Republicans in the Senate will decide that it’s too early to create that commission.”
On its face, this is the weirdest pushback to date. In the wake of any crime, the faster an investigation can begin, the better the outcome tends to be. More delays — or in this case, deliberate delays for the sake of delaying — means fuzzier memories and greater evidentiary challenges.
Just as importantly, note the degree to which Blunt’s criticisms contradict his party’s other concerns. Republicans have been desperately pushing to have this investigation start and end quickly, so the commission’s report would reach the public long before Election Day 2022. Indeed, as part of the bipartisan statute, the commission’s findings would have to be submitted to the president and Congress “not later than December 31, 2021.”
So why in the world is Roy Blunt accusing proponents of launching an investigation too soon? Perhaps because GOP opponents of the commission are coming up with halfhearted excuses, and they’re indifferent to whether the party’s talking points appear credible.
For her part, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) suggested yesterday that she still believes it’s possible to reach a new compromise, in which Democrats make even more concessions — on top of the concessions Dems already gave up during House negotiations — to make Senate Republicans happy.