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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5:15 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Democrats push for House select committee after Senate Republicans derail bipartisan probe

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav

House Democrats are actively considering mounting a probe of their own into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, signaling they don't plan to let the issue go away in the aftermath of Senate Republicans derailing the creation of an outside commission to probe the deadly insurrection.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made clear repeatedly that moving to create a select committee has always remained a fallback option — something that would require support of a majority of the Democratic-led House to create. And a number of Democrats said on Friday that they believe Pelosi will indeed create the new committee — and that the caucus would strongly support such an effort.

"That's her next move," one senior House Democrat said Friday.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat who served as an impeachment manager in Trump's second trial, said the Senate should pass a bill creating an outside commission.

"However, in the event that it fails, the Congress should create a select committee to fully investigate the causes and consequences of the insurrection on Jan. 6," Castro told CNN.

If the House creates such a panel, it would give Democrats the power to issue subpoenas and schedule hearings and to drive an investigation into the causes of the attack and former President Trump's role behind it. And it would prompt a backlash from Republicans who are already trying to paint such an effort as a partisan endeavor, despite their own role in scuttling a bipartisan outside panel comprised of 10 commissioners, equally divided between the two parties.

"I don't think a select committee is the proper way to go," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNN last week, calling it a "Pelosi select committee."

Pelosi's office would not discuss her plans, but she has repeatedly made clear that her preference would be to create a bipartisan outside commission and that a select committee remained a clear option on the table. Doing so might create a turf war with existing House committee chairs, but Democratic lawmakers on Friday downplayed that likelihood given the desire among their caucus to mount a sprawling investigation into what happened.

In a statement on Friday after Republicans successfully filibustered the bill to create the commission, Pelosi signaled the job wasn't done.

“Honoring our responsibility to the Congress in which we serve and the Country which we love, Democrats will proceed to find the truth," Pelosi said in a Friday statement.

Republicans on Friday said they recognized this was a likely next step. To Senate Republicans who opposed the commission, they said that if Pelosi takes that step, it would be easier to contend such a probe would be geared at helping Democrats in the 2022 midterms.

Yet other Republicans said they were perplexed that their colleagues wouldn't endorse a bipartisan commission, arguing their party is ceding control to Democrats who are almost certain to mount a headline-generating probe into everything that happened on Jan. 6.

"Without this commission, there will still be an investigation," said Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican who voted with five other Senate Republicans to bring the measure forward for debate. "But it will be a House-select committee set up by Speaker Pelosi — the nature of which will be dictated by Democrats and would stretch on for years."

In the Senate, two separate committees — the Senate Rules Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — are both conducting probes about the lack of security preparedness on Jan. 6 and will issue a report on the week of June 7. But those investigations are narrowly focused on the response effort that day, rather than the causes behind the insurrection.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would not say if he believes his committee chairmen should mount their own investigation into the Jan. 6 attack.

But he made clear he thinks the House should move ahead.

“We preferred to do it bipartisan,” Schumer said. “Every Democrat voted for bipartisan, but facts must come out,” he said when asked whether the findings from a Democrat-led committee would be credible.

5:02 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Sicknick's mother and girlfriend say they were disappointed by GOP senators in CNN exclusive interview

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Gladys Sicknick
Gladys Sicknick CNN

The mother of fallen US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick says she was disappointed that Senate Republicans blocked a bill Friday to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection after what she described as “tense” meetings with many GOP senators on Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Friday, Gladys Sicknick and her son's girlfriend Sandra Garza said they were clinging to hope that they could change the minds of senators opposed to the independent commission, but were still not surprised at the ultimate outcome. 

“They went through their motions, but you can tell that underneath they were being nice to us,” Sicknick said of her meetings Thursday.

“I think you know it’s all talk and no action. Clearly, they’re not backing the blue,” Garza said of the Republicans who opposed the commission. “It’s just unbelievable to me that they could do nothing about this.”

Sicknick, Garza, Capitol Hill Police Officer Harry Dunn and DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone met with more than a dozen Republican senators Thursday ahead of the Senate’s vote Friday on creating a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. They had requested meetings with all 50 GOP senators on Friday.

Sickinck said that the senators were nice to them, but that the meetings were also tense because they knew that many of the senators weren’t sincere – and were not going to budge in their opposition to forming the commission 

“They were very charming, they knew what they were doing, they knew how to talk to us, but we kind of held back,” Sicknick said. “It was just, it was tense, and we made believe everything was fine and we were very nice to them, for the most part.” 

Six Republicans voted in favor of the 54 to 35 test vote on Friday, leaving it short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. 

Sicknick said she was hopeful that some of the senators who voted for the legislation, including Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, were swayed in part by their meetings.

“Maybe we changed their minds. That would be great,” Sicknick said.

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."