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House votes to create select committee to investigate January 6 attack

Pelosi announces committee to probe Capitol riot
Pelosi announces select committee to investigate Capitol riot 00:25

Washington — The House on Wednesday approved a bill to create a select committee to investigate the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, after Senate Republicans blocked a measure to form an independent commission to probe the assault last month.

The measure passed by a vote of 222 to 190, with only two Republicans joining all Democrats in voting in favor. Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger had both previously voted to impeach former President Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection, and voted to create the independent commission.

The bill creates a 13-member committee made up of eight members appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and five chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Pelosi is considering naming one Republican, which would give the committee a partisan balance of seven Democrats to six Republicans.

Pelosi said during debate over the bill on Wednesday that she was "heartbroken that we don't have the bipartisan commission." 

"We will be judged by future generations as to how we value our democracy," she said.

Pelosi will essentially have veto power over McCarthy's choices, as the Republican leader will make appointments in consultation with the speaker. So if McCarthy wanted to appoint a member who had downplayed January 6, or voted to overturn the Electoral College results, the speaker could reject his choice.

In a letter to colleagues on Wednesday ahead of the vote, Pelosi said the committee must "find the truth of the January 6th Insurrection and to ensure that such an assault on our Democracy cannot happen again." She did not name any appointments to the committee or reveal who will be chair.

"Despite the support of seven Republican Senators, there is no prospect for a Commission at this time," Pelosi said. "That is why the House will be establishing a Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.  It will investigate and report upon the facts and causes of the attack.  It will report on conclusions and recommendations for preventing any future assault.  And it will find the truth."

Two police officers who responded to the attack on January 6 urged McCarthy last week to take the investigation seriously. Michael Fanone, a Metropolitan Police officer who suffered a brain injury and a mild heart attack during the riot, told reporters on Friday he asked for commitments from McCarthy that he would not put "obstructionists" and "the wrong people" on the committee. Harry Dunn, a Capitol Police officer who was assaulted and called slurs by rioters, said he had asked McCarthy for "some commitments to take the special select committee seriously."

The bill is not expected to garner much support from Republicans. House GOP leadership is recommending that conference members vote "no" on the bill, with Minority Whip Steve Scalise saying in a statement that "this select committee is likely to pursue a partisan agenda" in investigating the assault by a violent mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters.

Most House Republicans, including McCarthy, voted in May against the creation of a bipartisan, independent commission, even though the legislation to create such a panel was negotiated by Republican Congressman John Katko. The panel was modeled after the 9/11 Commission, which passed with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the Senate in 2002.

Although that bill passed in the House with 35 Republican votes, it then failed in the Senate, where it received an insufficient number of Republican votes to advance.

Some of the Republicans who did vote to create the commission, including Katko, have said that they will not support the bill to form a select committee, raising concerns about its partisan balance. An independent commission would have had an equal partisan balance, and would not have included any current elected officials as members.

Scalise told reporters on Tuesday that Pelosi "should be working with us" in naming members to a select committee. GOP Congressman Tom Cole told reporters that the select committee is "pretty fundamentally flawed."

"I think it's overtly political. It's really not necessary," Cole said.

But Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, argued Tuesday morning that Democrats had already tried to compromise with Republicans in the creation of a commission — and that those overtures had been rejected.

"They wanted subpoena power. We gave them joint subpoena power in the Commission. They wanted this to wrap up before the end of the year. Speaker Pelosi agreed that the January 6 commissioners would complete its work by the end of the year. Kevin McCarthy refused to take yes for an answer, and now he's got a select committee," Jeffries said.

The legislation setting up the select committee does not include specific timeline for it to release its findings. Pelosi said last week that "the timetable will be as long as it takes."

Five people died during the attack on January 6, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who collapsed hours after engaging with rioters. A medical examiner later determined he died of natural causes. Two Capitol Police officers also died by suicide after the attack. More than 150 officers were injured in the assault, according to sources on Capitol Hill and the Capitol Police union and testimony from Metropolitan Police Chief Chief Robert Contee.

Several House Republicans have sought to downplay the attack, with some floating baseless conspiracy theories that the FBI was involved, and defending the rioters charged with breaking into the Capitol. Republican Congressman Andrew Clyde came under fire for comparing the attack to a "normal tourist visit."

Fanone and Dunn attended the vote on the select committee on Wednesday, along with Gladys Sicknick, Brian Sicknick's mother, and his partner, Sandra Garza. Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges was also in attendance.

Fanone told reporters after the vote on Wednesday that the "elephant in the room" needs to be confronted, which is "the fact that this was a politically motivated event, it was inspired by the leader of the Republican Party at the time, President Trump."

"I think it's clear, you've got one party that is more concerned with its political future than it is with getting to the root causes in January 6 insurrection," Fanone said.

Fanone said last week that he had asked McCarthy to denounce the comments by Clyde and the 21 House Republicans who voted against giving police officers a congressional medal of honor for defending the Capitol. But he said he did not believe McCarthy denounced the members of his conference sufficiently.

"I asked him specifically for a commitment to denounce that publicly. And he said that he would address it at a personal level with some of those members. But again, I think that ... as the leader of the House Republican Party, it's important to hear those denouncements publicly," Fanone said.

Nikole Killion and Aaron Navarro contributed to this report.

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