WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Thursday that House Democrats will form a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, one month after Senate Republicans blocked an effort to form an independent, bipartisan commission.
“This morning, with great solemnity and sadness, I’m announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday morning.
Senate Republicans last month blocked the creation of an independent commission, despite 35 House Republicans having already endorsed the effort. That commission would have been modeled after a similar panel formed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and charged with producing an objective account of what fueled the day’s violence.
About 10,000 people laid siege to the Capitol on Jan. 6, and nearly 800 of them broke into the Capitol building.
The events of the day resulted in five deaths, and nearly 140 officers were assaulted during the attack, as they faced rioters armed with ax handles, bats, metal batons, wooden poles, hockey sticks and other weapons, authorities said.
On Wednesday, a 49-year-old Indiana woman became the first person sentenced in the Jan. 6 riot. Anna Morgan-Lloyd pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of demonstrating inside the Capitol; she was sentenced to three years of probation and must also perform 40 hours of community service and pay $500 in restitution.
In recent weeks, a smattering of House and Senate panels have been looking into the events of Jan. 6, holding public hearings with law enforcement and military officials and, in one case, even publishing a comprehensive report examining why authorities were unable to control the pro-Trump crowd.
The select committee – which will require a majority vote in the Democratic-led House to be formed – is a signal that Pelosi wants to centralize those investigations in one body that will be equipped with subpoena power and tasked with publishing its findings.
But a select committee is all but guaranteed to be a more partisan forum than an independent commission would have been – meaning the parties may come no closer to a consensus about why Jan. 6 happened and who is to blame for it at the end of the probe than they are at the present moment.
In 2012, the then-GOP-led House established a select committee to look into the ambush that led to the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. But the investigation soon descended into a tool to lob attacks at former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for using a private email server to conduct official business – a storyline that dogged her throughout her failed 2016 presidential bid against Donald Trump.
During that campaign cycle, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., then the House’s second-highest ranking Republican, bragged that the special committee had helped hamstring Clinton’s candidacy. McCarthy is now the House minority leader, and he opposed the proposal for an independent commission on the Jan. 6 attack.
In the time since, the parties have only dug in more deeply behind partisan lines on questions regarding the president’s guilt, or even when it comes to funding improvements to Capitol security that might prevent a similar attack from happening again. A bill to direct $1.9 billion new security ventures – and paying past debts to the National Guard and others who responded to the riot – is still waiting for Senate action after barely scraping by in the House, on a 213-212 vote last month.
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