Now CNN is reporting that Senate Republicans are all but certain to filibuster the bill. And Republicans are concocting a ludicrous new set of excuses for this action.
This will generate lots of outrage. But that isn’t the right sentiment. It implies that on this matter, Republicans can be shamed into following latent principles that they might otherwise adhere to if criticism of them is pointed enough.
But their excuses are so untethered from anything remotely resembling good-faith argumentation that no such presumption is deserved. A better response is to point out that Republicans oppose the commission because it will incriminate them, and that their phony justifications are merely about obscuring this truth — and nothing more. Here’s a rundown:
The commission is too “partisan.”
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) says he’ll oppose it “until they make it bipartisan.” But the commission would be evenly divided between members appointed by Republicans and Democrats. And it cannot issue subpoenas without approval from at least one Republican and Democratic member.
Other GOP senators have argued that the Democratic-appointed chairperson will have total control over staff picks. But that, too, is mostly nonsense.
The bill creating the commission requires the chair to appoint staff “in consultation” with the Republican-appointed vice chair, and “in accordance with rules agreed upon by the commission,” which require some GOP agreement.
The commission does give the chair some control over investigative direction, since he or she can seek information from any government agency. But control over staffing will be limited by GOP input, and staff will play a big role in setting that direction.
Indeed, the claim that this reasonable structure is “partisan” really means that for Republicans, only a structure granting them absolute veto power over investigative direction will be permitted to count as “bipartisan.”
The timing is all wrong.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) claims it’s “too early” to examine the insurrection. That’s strange, since nearly five months have passed. Blunt notes that the 9/11 Commission began work 14 months later, which appears to mean this commission should wait until March 2022 to begin.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) complains the commission’s work will end up “dragging on indefinitely.” Putting aside the comedic value in one GOP senator claiming it’s too early and another insisting we can’t let this run too long, the commission must issue its report by Dec. 31, 2021. That’s seven months from now — a relatively short time span for such investigations.
The commission has been hijacked by politics.
But the report’s deadline is before the 2022 elections begin in earnest. If anything, this bends over backward to prevent politics, including the midterms, from hijacking the commission.
Still, it’s telling that Hagerty fears the “area” of the commission will hurt Republicans — that is, the subject matter will hurt them. Which leads to the next objection.
The commission should also focus on police protests.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) claims the commission’s scope should include “what happened in Portland and Seattle and Minneapolis."
What no Republican can seriously explain is why a full accounting of Jan. 6 should also look at leftist political violence (which Republicans themselves have relentlessly hyped). That’s because there isn’t any good reason for it.
Remember, Republicans spent months pretending that left-wing elements were responsible for the Jan. 6 violence, that the insurrectionists weren’t Trump supporters, and that the rioters were a false flag operation, among other things.
All this has been thoroughly discredited. Thus, any demand that a Jan. 6 commission also investigate leftist violence is really an effort to keep alive the fiction that there’s equivalent radicalization on both sides.
Republicans want to water down the commission’s focus so it isn’t primarily about what actually did cause the riot — extreme right-wing radicalization, actively fed and exploited by Republicans themselves, and by their nurturing of Donald Trump’s lies about 2020.
Other existing committees should do this.
And so, this objection is really a demand for investigations to remain narrow and to avoid a broader look at the causes of the insurrection — which, again, would implicate the role of Republicans in fomenting extreme right-wing radicalization.
What’s more, it’s strange that Republicans would pass on a chance for a commission that they would have more control over than they wield over existing congressional committees.
Indeed, if Republicans do kill the commission, Democrats can set up a select committee. As a good Just Security piece explains, while this isn’t quite as good as a commission, it would create real investigative power, with subpoena and investigative direction under control of Democrats, potentially running through 2022.
So Republicans offering all these ludicrous excuses should perhaps be careful what they wish for.