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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (L) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) leave the White House after meeting with President Joe Biden on May 12, 2021. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images) 

McConnell, McCarthy Ripped for Opposing January 6 Inquiry Commission

"The American people deserve answers about how this happened, why it happened, and what we will do to ensure our democracy is never threatened in this way again."

Brett Wilkins

Democracy defenders on Wednesday slammed decisions by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to oppose legislation that would form a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly January 6 attack on the United States Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. 

"Shame on the Republicans for choosing the Big Lie over the truth... The American people will see for themselves whether our Republican friends stand on the side of truth or on the side of Donald Trump's Big Lie."
—Sen. Chuck Schumer

"After careful consideration, I've made the decision to oppose the House Democrats' slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January 6," McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor.

The Senate minority leader's decision—first reported by Politico—follows a Tuesday announcement by McCarthy (R-Calif.) that he also opposes an inquiry into the Capitol attack. House lawmakers are scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill authorizing the commission of inquiry.

McConnell's opposition means it will be even harder for supporters of the measure to garner the 10 GOP votes needed for Senate passage. Some Republican senators including Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana have signaled their support for the bill. 

Last week, House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.)—one of only 10 GOP lawmakers who voted on January 13 to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6 attack—reached an agreement "to introduce legislation to form a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the January 6 domestic terrorism attack on the United States Capitol and recommend changes to further protect the Capitol." 

Democratic lawmakers ripped McConnell and other Republicans for rejecting the commission bill.

"Shame on the Republicans for choosing the Big Lie over the truth—not all Republicans, but the majority who seem to be doing it," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday during a floor speech, referring to the fallacy that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. "The American people will see for themselves whether our Republican friends stand on the side of truth or on the side of Donald Trump's Big Lie."

Schumer linked opposition to the January 6 commission with GOP voter suppression efforts and dark money groups boasting about making it harder for Americans to vote. 

"Last week,  a spokesperson for Heritage Action—the lobbying arm of a far-right think tank—told a group of Republican donors that Heritage Action was drafting new voter restrictions and literally handing them over to state legislatures in order to give the laws 'that grassroots feel,'" he said.

"She went on to crow about how 'quickly and quietly' her organization managed to get new limits on voting passed in Iowa," Schumer continued. "She told the donors that she looked at her team of right-wing lobbyists and said, 'It can't be that easy.' That's how the far right is talking about making it harder for Americans to vote. Behind closed doors, with well-heeled donors, they are laughing about how easy it is to limit American voting rights." 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday that "Republican leadership seems to be doing everything they can to protect [former] President Trump's Big Lie." 

"They would rather hide from the truth than face the reality of what happened on January 6 and who is responsible," the Senate Democratic whip said. 

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted Wednesday that "there is no current commission to investigate the insurrection, so the January 6 commission would not be 'another commission.'"

"As a House impeachment manager, I know there are still multiple unknown facts," he added. "What are [McCarthy and] Sen. McConnell hiding from the American public?"

While McConnell accused Democrats of negotiating the commission bill in "bad faith," some observers noted that it was he who stonewalled Trump's impeachment trial until after President Joe Biden's inauguration—then voted twice that the trial was unconstitutional because Trump was no longer in office. 

Pro-democracy groups and individuals also condemned McConnell's decision, while some called for the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene if GOP leaders successfully derail the commission effort. 

"The domestic terrorist attack on our Capitol on January 6 was planned and executed with encouragement from the highest levels of our government," said Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way. "The American people deserve answers about how this happened, why it happened, and what we will do to ensure our democracy is never threatened in this way again."

"Every member of Congress needs to treat the events of January 6 as a warning sign of what's to come, and a bipartisan Commission is the first step toward accountability," Jealous added. "The House and Senate must pass this legislation. And then, congressional leaders, including Senate Minority Leader McConnell and House Minority Leader McCarthy, have the responsibility to appoint commissioners who will be relentless and clear-eyed in their pursuit of the facts and the truth."

The single article of impeachment passed on January 13 against Trump—the first president ever to be impeached twice—said he "repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by state or federal officials."

Minutes after Trump's inflammatory speech urging supporters to march on the Capitol and "fight like hell" at the January 6 Washington, D.C. "Stop the Steal" rally, a mob stormed the Capitol complex, delaying the certification of then President-elect Biden's Electoral College victory for hours as lawmakers and congressional staff hid and fled for their lives.

Five people—including one U.S. Capitol Police officer—were killed and over 100 others were wounded. 

Over 150 Republican lawmakers were in the process of contesting the legitimate election results at the time of the attack. Some observers asserted that the reason McConnell and other Republicans so staunchly reject an inquiry into the events of January 6 is rooted in their complicity in them. 

Writing about McCarthy's opposition to the commission for Vanity Fair on Wednesday, Eric Lutz asserted that the minority leader "was complicit in the lies that fueled the deadly riot and in the white-washing that followed, and any probe into the events of that day is certain to shine an unflattering spotlight on him and his GOP colleagues." 

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