GOP senators block bill to create Capitol riot commission

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 6:00 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021
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2:10 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

White House says lawmakers who voted against bill failed to uphold oath to defend Constitution

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Republican senators who voted against a bill to create an independent commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot failed to uphold their oath to support and defend the Constitution.

“Members of the Senate aren’t sent to Washington to rubber stamp any party’s views. They swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution and today unfortunately they failed to do that,” Jean-Pierre said during a gaggle aboard Air Force One on Friday.

She said President Biden has been clear that the “shameful events” of Jan. 6 need to be independently and fully investigated and he remains committed to that. She added that the White House will continue to work with Congress to find a path forward to ensure that happens.

Jean-Pierre would not say if Biden is considering forming a presidential commission, but said he believes an investigation should be done in a bipartisan manner. 

The vote to form an independent commission was 54 to 35, but failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance, as only six Republicans joined Democrats in support of the bill. 

On Thursday, before the vote took place, Biden told reporters, “I can’t imagine anyone voting against establishing a commission on the greatest assault since the Civil War on the Capitol.”

 

2:00 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Go There: CNN's Jessica Dean is on Capitol Hill with the latest following the commission vote

A key procedural Senate vote to create an independent and bipartisan commission to investigate the US Capitol riot on Jan. 6. failed today.

While the vote was 54 to 35, it still fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Only six Republicans voted with Democrats.

CNN's Jessica Dean reports from Capitol Hill with the latest:

1:29 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Schumer says he reserves right to force Senate to vote on bill again "at the appropriate time"

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

Schumer talks to reporters after the Senate voted against the formation of an independent commission to investigate the attack at the U.S. Capitol on May 28.
Schumer talks to reporters after the Senate voted against the formation of an independent commission to investigate the attack at the U.S. Capitol on May 28. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized his GOP colleagues and warned he reserves "the right to force the Senate to vote on the bill again at the appropriate time" in a "Dear Colleagues" letter sent after Republicans blocked the Jan. 6 commission bill.

"Senate Republicans, at the personal request of Leader McConnell, also continue their brazen attempts to whitewash the attack of January 6th by filibustering the House-passed bipartisan January 6th Commission, even though Speaker Pelosi and I agreed to changes proposed by Senator Collins," he wrote.

Schumer outlined the work done by the Senate in this legislative session, including the bipartisan Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act and the advancement of a bipartisan bill to address competition with China.

"At the same time, we have also seen the limits of bipartisanship and the resurgence of Republican obstructionism," he wrote, noting the delayed passage of the China bill.

Schumer said next month's work period will be "extremely challenging." In June, he said the Senate will work to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, confirm President Biden's judicial nominees and potentially consider gun safety and LGBTQ equality legislation. In the final week of the month, he said the chamber will vote on S1, a sweeping election bill that has faced staunch Republican pushback.

He also said Senate Democrats will work to advance Biden's infrastructure and jobs agenda. "As the President continues to discuss infrastructure legislation with Senate Republicans, the committees will hold hearings and continue their work on the Build Back Better agenda – with or without the support of Republican Senators. We must pass comprehensive jobs and infrastructure legislation this summer," he wrote.

1:01 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Pelosi: "Republicans clearly put their election concerns above the security of the Congress and country"

From CNN's Kristin Wilson and Ryan Nobles

After Senate Republicans voted to block legislation to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a statement saying Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans' “denial of the truth of the January 6th insurrection brings shame to the Senate.”

Pelosi said in urging his members to vote against the commission, as CNN reported, McConnell asked Republicans "to be complicit in his undermining of the truth of January 6th" and "in bowing to McConnell’s personal favor request, Republican Senators surrendered to the January 6th mob assault."

"Democrats worked across the aisle, agreeing to everything that Republicans asked for. We did this in the interest of achieving a bipartisan Commission. In not taking yes for an answer, Republicans clearly put their election concerns above the security of the Congress and country," she said, adding later that Democrats will "proceed to find the truth."

2:36 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

These 9 Republicans didn't vote at all on the commission

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer and Ali Zaslav

Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in October 2020.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in October 2020. Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Nine Republican senators did not vote today on the procedural vote that would have advanced the Jan. 6 commission bill.

They are:

  1. Sen. Marsha Blackburn
  2. Sen. Roy Blunt
  3. Sen. Mike Braun
  4. Sen. Richard Burr
  5. Sen. Jim Inhofe
  6. Sen. Mike Rounds
  7. Sen. James Risch
  8. Sen. Richard Shelby
  9. Sen. Pat Toomey (who is notable because he was on the fence)

Another 35 Republicans voted no, while just six voted yes. At least 10 GOP senators needed to vote yes to advance the bill.

Toomey’s office told CNN he missed today's key procedural vote on the commission bill due to a family commitment, but said had he been in Washington, he would have voted to advance the legislation.

If Toomey was present at the key vote today, as well as the two Democrats who missed it, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Patty Murray, the final tally would have been 57 in favor, which still would have fallen short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. 

Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania, is retiring after his term. He was one of the seven Republicans who voted to convict former President Trump in his second impeachment trial.

1:22 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Schumer: GOP lawmakers who blocked Jan. 6 commission bill chose to defend Trump's "big lie"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republican lawmakers who voted against advancing the Jan. 6 commission bill did so "out of fear or fealty to Donald Trump."

“Out of fear or fealty to Donald Trump, the Republican minority just prevented the American people from getting the full truth about January 6th. The Republican minority just prevented the Senate from even debating the bill. No opportunity for amendments, no opportunity for debate. There was an attempt by the Republican minority to shunt this vote into the dark of night. But because of today's Senate time agreement, it was done in broad daylight. The American people will see how each Republican senator voted," Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Schumer said voting in favor of the bipartisan commission "should've been simple."

"Senate Republicans for months publicly supported the idea of a commission. But now all of a sudden, the Senate minority and the Senate minority leader waged a partisan filibuster against the bill. This vote has made it official: Donald Trump's big lie has now fully enveloped the Republican party. Trump's big lie is now the defining principle of what was once the party of Lincoln," Schumer said.

"Senate Republicans chose to defend the big lie because they believe anything that might upset Donald Trump could hurt them politically," he said.

"Shame on the Republican party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they're afraid of Donald Trump," he added.

Six Republican senators — Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy, Rob Portman, Lisa Murkowski, and Ben Sasse — voted to advance the commission bill. 

Hear more from Sen. Schumer:

12:33 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

These are the 6 GOP senators who voted to advance the Jan. 6 commission bill

From CNN's Alex Rogers 

Getty Images
Getty Images

Senate Republicans blocked a bill Friday to create a commission investigating the pro-Trump riot at the US Capitol, preventing a high-profile probe into the attack that led to the deaths of five people and injured about 140 police officers. 

The vote was 54 to 35. Six GOP senators voted in favor of advancing the bill:

  1. Sen. Mitt Romney
  2. Sen. Susan Collins
  3. Sen. Bill Cassidy
  4. Sen. Rob Portman
  5. Sen. Lisa Murkowski
  6. Sen. Ben Sasse

At least 10 Senate Republicans were needed to join all Democrats to advance the bill. Twice as many Republicans as expected voted for the commission, but not enough to save it.

The vote underscored the deeply partisan divide that has emerged over the insurrection earlier this year.

The House passed-bill would have set up a 10-person panel to figure out what happened on Jan. 6, including the law enforcement's preparedness and response, and provide recommendations in order "to prevent future acts of targeted violence and domestic terrorism."

2:13 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

JUST IN: Senate Republicans block bill to create Jan. 6 commission

From CNN's Alex Rogers, Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senate Republicans just blocked a bill that would have created an independent and bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that left five people dead and about 140 officers injured. 

By a vote of 54 to 35, the Senate failed to advance the commission. At least 10 GOP senators were needed to reach the necessary 60 votes to pass the key procedural vote.

The House-passed legislation aimed to create a 10-person panel to figure out what happened, including the law enforcement's "preparedness and response" and then report recommendations in order "to prevent future acts of targeted violence and domestic terrorism."

The refusal of at least 10 Republican senators to vote for the commission underscores the deeply partisan divide that has emerged over the insurrection earlier this year and comes at a crucial time for Capitol Hill where Democrats are struggling to advance President Biden's agenda.

This is how the commission would have worked if it passed:

  • The panel would have attempted to find bipartisan consensus. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate would have evenly split the selection of its 10 members. 
  • A subpoena would have only be issued to compel witness testimony if it had the support of the majority of members, or if the commission's chairperson, chosen by Democrats, and the vice-chairperson, chosen by Republicans, came to an agreement.
  • The commission would have also required to submit to the President and Congress a final report by the end of 2021 and dissolve 60 days thereafter — about nine months before the 2022 elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has strongly suggested that she would approve a select committee in the House to investigate what led to the Jan. 6 insurrection if a vote to form the commission fails in the Senate. Last week, the House passed the bill 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats.

12:08 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

GOP Sen. Cassidy explains why he voted to advance the Jan. 6 commission bill

From CNN's Ali Zaslav 

Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy, who voted to advance the Jan. 6 commission bill, handed reporters his statement after leaving the chamber.

“The investigations will happen with or without Republicans. To ensure the investigations are fair, impartial, and focused on facts, Republicans need to be involved,” Cassidy said in the statement.

Cassidy said the commission he voted to advance ensured GOP had equal power over the panel and set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2021 so it wouldn’t be drawn out.

He expressed concerns about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s role regarding “lack of adequate security” on Jan. 6 and said he doesn’t think a Democrat-run investigation would evaluate that concern.

Cassidy did not state his position on the bill before today's vote. Only Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine had indicated they planned to join Democrats and support the bill.