Key vote on Capitol riot commission delayed in Senate

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

Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT) May 28, 2021
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2:07 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Key vote on Jan. 6 commission bill not expected until later on Friday after Republicans bog down the Senate floor

From Ryan Nobles, Ted Barrett and Manu Raju

Republican senators have delayed passage of a massive bill designed to increase American competitiveness with China, and that means a key procedural vote on a bill to create an independent panel to investigate the Jan. 6 riot on the US Capitol has been delayed until later Friday.

The timing of the commission vote is still not known because it’s unclear how far Republicans will drag out the fight over the previous bill.

At least eight Republicans have requested time to speak on the floor overnight — for up to an hour each — to voice their objections to the legislative package aimed at China, known as "the US Innovation and Competition Act," and those GOP senators slammed what they said is a rushed process to make last-minute changes they have yet to review.

As the debate carried into early Friday morning, the chamber was largely empty. Only a few GOP senators remained to listen to ongoing debate. Looking on were a small cadre of bleary-eyed staffers and floor staff.

According to Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who is the GOP Whip, Republicans would likely use five to six hours of their allotted time to speak on the floor overnight. That could be followed by additional debate as well as a series of procedural votes ahead of final passage of the legislative package, pushing the vote on the 1/6 commission farther into the day Friday or beyond.

This could change or go quicker if senators give back their allotted time or forgo some of the steps they have been asked to take, which could speed up or slow down the process depending on what they decide to do.

What could happen next: Once "the US Innovation and Competition Act" has been voted on, the chamber would then move on to the Jan. 6 commission bill.

In order for that bill to move forward at least 60 Senators will have to vote yes, which is not expected. Only three — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have expressed their support for advancing the legislation.

2:09 a.m. ET, May 28, 2021

Here's where things stand in the Senate as the chamber awaits key Jan. 6 commission vote

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

Senate Republicans are expected to block a bill creating a commission to investigate the pro-Trump riot at the US Capitol on January 6, preventing a high-profile probe into the attack that led to the deaths of five people and about 140 police officers injured.

If you are just tuning in, here's where things stand in the Senate right now:

  • The vote's timing: It is uncertain. Senators had expected to take a procedural vote on whether to advance the commission bill as soon as Thursday night before heading out on weeklong Memorial Day recess. But a stalled debate on an unrelated bill aimed at increasing US competitiveness with China pushed back the timing for the commission vote. Senators were on the floor of the Senate late Thursday night to try to solve the impasse.
  • The bill's chances: Despite the delay, the commission vote is still expected to fall short of the 60 votes it needs to advance. 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. Some Democrats are citing the resistance by Republicans as a sign for why the Senate should blow up the 60-vote threshold to pass most legislation, given the narrowly divided chamber.
  • GOP senators expected to vote for the commission: Only three GOP senators — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have expressed their support for advancing the legislation, and Democrats need 10. The vast majority of the 50 Senate Republicans are expected to oppose it; West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told CNN that the issue has become "too politicized."
  • What the commission would do: It would attempt to find bipartisan consensus. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate would evenly split the selection of its 10 members. A subpoena would only be issued to compel witness testimony if it has the support of the majority of members, or if the commission's chairperson, chosen by Democrats, and the vice-chairperson, chosen by Republicans, come to an agreement. The commission would also be 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.

Read more about the Senate vote on the commission here.

11:09 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson: "We'll be here a long time"

From CNN's Ryan Nobles and Ted Barrett

Sen. Ron Johnson speaks to reporters at the Capitol on May 27, in Washington, DC.
Sen. Ron Johnson speaks to reporters at the Capitol on May 27, in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, is headed to the Senate floor to discuss the reason that he is holding up the Endless Frontiers Act, a bipartisan legislation that would counter China's growing influence by investing over $200 billion in American technology, science and research.

The Senate is currently holding a quorum call designed to force absent senators to the floor to explain their reasons for holding up the bill. Johnson told reporters that “we'll be here a long time.”

Johnson hinted to reporters that he is interested in getting something related to border security into the China competition bill, and he said he was prepared to delay the process as long as possible to make his point. He had poster boards in his hand as he made his way to the Senate floor.

CNN reported earlier this evening, that the Jan. 6 commission vote will either be pushed into later in the night or delayed until tomorrow, but it's not known yet. Democratic leaders want the vote to happen tonight.

“We're going to try and take as much time as we possibly can so we can fully consider this bill,” Johnson said. “One of the things I'd like to talk about is a border crisis and my, my amendment was rejected. But there are plenty of other things I did not get to vote on and did not include the manager's amendment.”

Johnson made it clear that he was willing to extend this process, despite pleas from his colleagues to wrap things up.

“And by the way, we won't have anywhere near enough time to consider this, but we're going to make sure we can use whatever time we can,” Johnson said.

10:09 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Murkowski whacks Senate GOP colleagues for plans to block Jan. 6 commission bill

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks during a hearing on May 26, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks during a hearing on May 26, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of a handful of Republicans who backs the Jan. 6 commission bill, took aim at her GOP colleagues tonight for moving to block the measure — and was critical of the rationale by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that such a commission could prove politically problematic for the GOP ahead of the 2022 midterms.

"To be making a decision for the short term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us, on January 6, I think we need to look at that critically," she said.

"Is that really what this is about is everything is just one election cycle after another? Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear. .. One of those is that we have free and fair elections, and we respect the results of those elections and we allow for a peaceful transition of power. I kind of want that to endure beyond just one election," she continued.

Murkowski also spoke about her conversation with the mother of fallen US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, and was asked about worries Republicans might have about enduring Trump's wrath if they back the commission. She said some of her colleagues "don't want to rock the boat."

Some more background: Last week, the House passed the bill 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have publicly urged Senate Republican senators to also back the bill.

But only three GOP senators — Murkowski, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — have so far expressed their support for advancing the legislation, and Democrats need 10. The vast majority of the 50 Senate Republicans are expected to oppose it.

CNN's Alex Rogers and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post. 

9:06 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Thune says holdup over commission vote timing due to senator's demand for last-minute change to other bill

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

Senator John Thune speaks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheons on Capitol Hill on May 25, in Washington, DC.
Senator John Thune speaks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheons on Capitol Hill on May 25, in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

As Senate leaders are trying to finalize last-minute changes to the China competition bill, they've run into a snag: A Republican senator has demanded provisions be included in the package and is holding up final votes because of it.

That's according to Senate Minority Whip John Thune, who called the problem "pretty unsolvable" and says "there's no real path forward." 

"It's a big mess right now," Thune said, without identifying the offending senator.

Without agreement for a vote on the amendment, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would have to take time-consuming steps to overcome the objection — a process that could push back final passage of the bill, the Endless Frontier Act, into the weekend.

So what does this mean for vote timing on Jan. 6 bill? Either it will be pushed into later in the night or delayed until tomorrow, but it's not known yet. Democratic leaders want the vote to happen tonight.

Thune predicted that senators will be called to the floor to try to resolve the hangup soon.

8:15 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Senator says Democrats are committed to having Jan. 6 vote: "We're going to finish it today"

From CNN's Manu Raju

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said there's no talk about delaying the key procedural vote on the Jan. 6 commission until tomorrow.

He added that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is committed to holding votes on all remaining business tonight.

"We're going to finish it today," Durbin said Schumer told him.

He had no update on timing, but said there would probably be roughly six votes to cast tonight, including the Jan. 6 test vote.

Asked about the late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick's mother visiting Republicans and those same Republicans voting no, Durbin said, "I think members of the Senate ought to be embarrassed. The men and women who are risking their lives for us every single day are asking us to get to the bottom of who was responsible for Jan. 6. That is not too much to ask."

6:40 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Timing of the Jan. 6 commission vote is still influx

From the CNN Hill Team

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senators are still trying to hash out a final amendment to the Endless Frontier Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at bolstering US competitiveness with China. Once all 100 senators sign off on that final amendment, a process that has taken hours, then they have to agree on final votes on that legislation, including final passage.

Once they announce an agreement on the final amendment, there could be several votes before the Jan. 6 commission procedural vote. And each vote takes 20 to 30 minutes.

It's also possible it could go quicker if senators reach an agreement to speed things up.

Bottom line: We don't know when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will come to the floor to announce a time agreement or when the Jan. 6 commission procedural vote will be. But it could be late.

6:29 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Meetings with GOP senators were "very hard" for Sicknick's mother, source says

From CNN's Jamie Gangel

Gladys Sicknick, the mother of late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, and DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone arrive for a meeting with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) to urge for a January 6 commission on May 27.
Gladys Sicknick, the mother of late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, and DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone arrive for a meeting with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) to urge for a January 6 commission on May 27. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Today's meetings between GOP senators and Gladys Sicknick, the mother of late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, were "very hard" for her, according to a source familiar with the meetings.

The meetings were all cordial, the source tells CNN, specifically the meetings with Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski were "very helpful because they knew someone is fighting for them."

Ultimately, the senators made it clear to Sicknick, her son's girlfriend Sandra Garza, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn and DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone that they don't want a Jan. 6 commission.

The source said it's very hard for Sicknick to understand why the senators aren't voting for the Jan. 6 commission, and at one point she said, "how can they not be doing the right thing?" saying that her son and all the officers deserve this and it is the right thing to do.

The group did not get any promises, but several senators said they shared Sicknick's mission, according to a source. 

Sicknick repeated to the Republican senators what she said to reporters earlier on Thursday, that she normally stays in the background, but that she thought a commission would happen and it's like a slap in the face not to have one.

Ultimately, Sicknick and Garza are still mourning the loss of a son and partner. Both women have necklaces with some of his ashes in them, and both were wearing those necklaces at the meetings today, the source said.

4:51 p.m. ET, May 27, 2021

Bipartisan group of former DHS secretaries tells Senate to "put politics aside" and support Jan. 6 commission

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

A bipartisan group of former Department of Homeland Security secretaries is calling on the Senate “to put politics aside” and create a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, according to a joint statement provided first to CNN.

The statement, released by former DHS secretaries Michael Chertoff, Tom Ridge, Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, went on to say that “we must understand how the violent insurrection at the Capitol came together to ensure the peaceful transfer of power in our country is never so threatened again.” 

The former secretaries’ statement comes as Republicans have sought to block a bill that would create a Jan. 6 commission, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking Republican senators to oppose the bill as a “personal favor” to him, CNN reported Thursday.  

The 10-member, bipartisan commission proposed by House lawmakers earlier this month would be modeled after the panel that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Those attacks spurred the creation of DHS in an effort to better coordinate federal, state, and local entities against domestic and foreign threats to the US. Ridge, the first-ever DHS secretary, was among those called to testify before the 9/11 commission.