Even on a grave matter of national security, the GOP has concluded that the political price for standing with former President Donald Trump is preferable to the electoral cost of breaking with the disgraced former President.
More than four months after Trump stoked the January 6 rebellion with his lies about the 2020 election, the vast majority of GOP lawmakers demonstrated this week that they see no upside for revisiting the dangerous events that unfolded at the Capitol even if it means that Americans will never get a full explanation of how close Trump’s supporters came to overthrowing democracy — findings that could prevent a similar incident from happening again.
Only 35 House Republicans voted in favor of creating the 9/11-style bipartisan commission Wednesday even though the panel’s design was devised by a House Republican and a House Democrat and would have included 10 members chosen equally by the leaders from opposing parties — with a rule that the two sides would have to agree before issuing subpoenas.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had blamed the former President for fomenting the insurrection, made clear where his priorities lay this week when he came out against the commission, arguing it would be duplicative. The Kentucky Republican is squarely focused on retaking the Senate in 2022 and has tossed aside any interest in finding the truth of what happened on January 6 in hopes of sparing his members unwanted conversations about the insurrection as the midterms approach. It was a familiar move from the GOP leader, who voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial earlier this year despite calling him “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”
And without McConnell backing the commission, it is increasingly clear that there is little chance 10 GOP senators will join their Democratic colleagues to reach the 60 votes needed to clear the filibuster hurdle in that chamber. Many GOP senators made clear to CNN’s Manu Raju on Thursday that they will even vote to prevent debate on the bill from beginning, effectively ensuring its downfall.
Trump was already issuing threats Thursday to Republicans who voted for the bipartisan commission, stating that “there are consequences to being ineffective and weak” and adding, “The voters understand!”
“See, 35 wayward Republicans—they just can’t help themselves. We have much better policy and are much better for the country, but the Democrats stick together, the Republicans don’t,” he said in a statement.
GOP leaders have been surprisingly frank about their political aversion to the commission this week — making it clear that they are less concerned about getting to the truth of what happened than they are about getting voters focused on issues other than Trump’s role in the January 6 riot by the time the midterm elections roll around.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, openly acknowledged that Republicans are worried that the findings of the probe “could be weaponized politically and drug into next year.” Thune added that Republicans would rather try to win the midterm races by wielding their arguments on jobs, wages, the economy and strong borders — “not relitigating the election.” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is also part of the GOP leadership team, argued that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been pushing the investigation to help Democrats maintain control of Congress, adding that extending the probe into next year “would be the Democrats’ dream.”
That GOP argument rang hollow given that Democrats may now form their own committee to look into the events of January 6, producing an outcome that will inevitably be cast as more partisan than the product that a bipartisan commission would have produced.
Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, one of several Republicans who told CNN that he would vote to block debate on the bill, argued that his colleagues “want to get everything out” but “they also don’t want it to be the focus of the 2022 election.”
Even GOP senators who voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment tr
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