US Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan inquiry into the January 6 Capitol insurrection Friday, using their filibuster power for the first time this year.
The result ends efforts by Democrats and moderate Republicans to account for the circumstances surrounding the deadliest event at the Capitol building in 200 years. Trump supporters, after listening to a speech from then then-president Donald Trump, stormed the building in what appeared to be an attempt to impede the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory and establish Trump as the sitting president. Five people died during the riot, including one Capitol Police officer.
Republicans used a filibuster to block the bill; the votes tallied 54-35, short of the 60 votes needed to satisfy the procedural tactic. All 35 votes against were Republican, while six Republicans joined the Democrats present in voting in favor of the bill. The Senate is currently divided evenly between the two parties.
The proposed commission was based on the 9/11 commissions into the terrorist attacks and would have had the power to force witnesses, including Trump, to testify under oath about the events that day. Proponents of the commission argued that it was the only way to truly establish a comprehensive account for a polarized nation.
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech following the vote that the “Republican minority has prevented the American people from getting the whole truth about January 6,” and that “Donald Trump’s Big Lie has now fully enveloped the Republican party,” adding that Republicans have accepted this “because they believe that anything that could upset Donald Trump would hurt them politically.” Schumer later stated that “Donald Trump is a bane to our democracy; and unless people in his own party stand up to him … it’s bad for the country.”
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against the bill, had previously stated that the mob on January 6 was incited by Trump, that “they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth–because he was angry he’d lost an election.” Recently, however, McConnell reportedly asked Republican Senators to vote against the commission as a “personal favor.”
Trump, on his website, said Republicans “should not approve the Democrat trap,” and that “Republicans must get much tougher and much smarter [sic], and stop being used by the Radical Left.”
The result underscores the grip that Trump still has over the political actions of Republican lawmakers. Observers believe that party leaders fear angering the former president or his rampant supporters, and are also concerned about reactions to any possible links between the rioters and lawmakers that may be uncovered.
Democrat lawmakers have since renewed pressure on Biden to use any power available to him to remove the filibuster. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter that “[if] we want to protect our democracy, we must [end the filibuster],” and Senator Bernie Sanders opined that the “American people want action, not never-ending ‘negotiations’ and obstructionism, and they will not come out and vote for a party that does not deliver.”