US lawmakers reach agreement on probe for Jan 6 insurrection

Homeland Security Committee agrees to terms of powerful investigative body likely to face challenges from Republicans.

Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi speaks next to an image from the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, displayed during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on May 12, 2021 [Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Reuters]

Top Democratic and Republican members of the House Homeland Security Committee have reached an agreement on a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol after the measure stalled amid partisan differences.

Democratic chairman Bennie Thompson and ranking Republican member Representative John Katko said they would introduce legislation for consideration before the House as soon as next week to set up the investigative panel modelled after the one used to probe the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The House impeached Trump one week after the insurrection for telling his supporters – most of whom belonged to far-right movements – to “fight like hell” in a speech just before the attack, in which five died.

The Senate acquitted him in February.

Katko, of New York, was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement it “is imperative that we seek the truth of what happened on January 6 with an independent, bipartisan 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly press conference in the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, US [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

Like the 9/11 Commission, the new investigative body will be granted the authority to issue subpoenas to secure information to carry out its probe, but it requires the agreement of both the chairman and vice chairman of the commission, or through a majority vote.

A spending bill will also be put forward to pay for security improvements to the Capitol. Lawmakers are considering how to toughen security after hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters pushed past police on January 6, broke in through windows and doors and sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives. The commission bill also needs Senate approval.

Terms of the agreement

For months, Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been at odds over the scope and makeup of the commission with GOP leaders  – including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell – saying the investigation should focus not just on the January 6 insurrection, but also on violence after the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Under the terms of the agreement, the commission would have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, five from each party. It would issue a final report by December 31, along with recommendations to prevent future attacks.

It is unclear how many Republicans will vote for the commission. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said after the announcement that he had not read the details yet and did not signal whether he would support it.

Both the House and the Senate would have to approve the bill, which would then go to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

The insurrection is an increasingly fraught subject in the House GOP conference. While almost every Republican member condemned the violent mob that day, and many criticised Trump for his role in egging them on, a growing number of them have downplayed the attack as time has gone on.

At a hearing investigating the siege this week, several members denied that there was an insurrection at all.

Source: News Agencies