Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s concerned Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to establish a commission to investigate the U.S. Capitol attack would be overly “partisan.”
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, McConnell noted Pelosi’s proposal was criticized by the leaders of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission it was supposedly modeled after because it would feature seven members appointed by Democrats and four appointed by Republicans.
McConnell began by saying he has spoken out against the assault that took place on Jan. 6 when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an effort to block the certification of President Biden’s election victory. He went on to say he has supported prosecutions for those involved and a “thorough review of the specific institutions and security procedures within Congress that proved so insufficient.”
However, he argued Pelosi’s proposal is the wrong way to move forward.
“The speaker of the House proposes even more investigation through a new commission. She cites the precedent of the 9/11 Commission, but her draft bill fails to track with that precedent in key ways,” McConnell said. “The 9/11 Commission was intentionally built to be bipartisan. The 50-50 bipartisan split … both helped the effectiveness of the investigation itself and helped give the whole country confidence in its work and its recommendations.”
McConnell called Pelosi’s proposal “partisan by design.” Along with including a majority appointed by Democrats, he said, the speaker’s plan “would vest subpoena power in one appointee chosen by the Democrats.” McConnell’s critique went beyond the makeup of the proposed panel. He also suggested its review shouldn’t go beyond security failures that allowed rioters to breach the Capitol. Five deaths have been linked to the violence, including that of a Capitol Police officer who was attempting to keep the crowd back.
“The speaker’s proposal imagines something more than an investigation into specific security failures that occurred here at the Capitol,” McConnell said. “It sets the stage for a somewhat broader inquiry into domestic violent extremism beyond just that day.”
This distinction is notable. Some Democrats have previously raised concerns that the Trump administration downplayed the threat of far-right and white supremacist terrorism. Democratic lawmakers who have pushed for an investigation into the Capitol riot have also accused Trump of inciting the violence on Jan. 6 and raised questions about the conduct of some Republican lawmakers that took place around Black Lives Matter protests last summer and suggested a broader investigation would need to touch on that as well. Trump spoke at a rally on the National Mall just before the attack where he encouraged the crowd to march to the Capitol. A more limited inquiry would not touch on these areas. McConnell alluded to violence and rioting.
“If this new commission is to go beyond a targeted, after-action analysis of the security failures here at the Capitol complex, if Congress is going to attempt some broader analysis of toxic political violence across the country, then in that case, we cannot have artificial cherry-picking of which terrible behavior does and which terrible behavior does not deserve scrutiny,” McConnell said. “We could do something narrow that looks at the Capitol or we could potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of political violence here in our country. We cannot land at some artificial political halfway point.”
McConnell’s office did not respond to questions about whether he was suggesting any commission would need to look at prior instances of violence related to Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist demonstrations.
While Democrats on Capitol Hill have pressed for a commission to investigate the attack, President Biden has given a wide berth to the issue while focusing on unity in the post-Trump era. The White House did not respond to a request for comment about McConnell’s concerns.
McConnell’s remarks followed a report in Playbook that quoted the leaders of the 9/11 Commission criticizing Pelosi’s proposal. That report noted her proposal was only a “discussion draft.” Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comment on McConnell’s remarks.