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Opinion The GOP’s opposition to the Jan. 6 commission is a gift to Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) at a news conference in Washington on May 25. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

It is a useful political adage: Never interfere when your opponent is in the process of destroying himself. One hopes, for the sake of the republic, that Democratic Senate leadership understands this in the context of the Jan. 6 commission.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a promising signal on Wednesday:

That vote, he vowed, will take place before the Memorial Day recess, which means Thursday.

Schumer did not say whether he would try to compel Republicans to hold the Senate floor — in other words, to speak for days about their objections to a commission that would investigate an act of domestic terrorism designed to overthrow an election. But the smart strategy is to let them talk and talk and talk.

Democrats can talk as well. They can point out that the self-described “Blue Lives Matter” crowd is so fearful of the man in Mar-a-Lago that they now hide from the mother of a slain police officer. CNN reports on a statement it obtained from Gladys Sicknick, who wrote, “My son, Capitol Police Officer, Brian D. Sicknick, died on January 7, 2021. He died because of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol Building on January 6.” She added: “Not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day.” She would just like the chance to talk to the senators opposing an inquiry into her son’s death.

Sandra Garza, partner of the late Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick lobbied Republican senators on May 27 to support an independent Jan. 6 commission. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Should Republicans decline, Schumer should hold a news conference and let her talk and talk. Republicans can then explain why they take marching orders from the former president who triggered the insurrection that killed Sicknick.

Apparently, only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has figured out that filibustering a bill to investigate domestic terrorism might not reflect well on some Republican members. Put differently, the vote to protect the disgraced former president (about whom a New York state grand jury is hearing evidence regarding potential financial crimes at his company) will be Exhibit A for why Republicans can never be allowed to obtain a majority. They are, quite simply, incapable of standing up to an unhinged authoritarian who wanted to seize power illegally. In Romney’s mild language: “I think the perception is on the part of the public that the January 6 Commission just trying to get to the truth of what happened, and that Republicans would be seen as not wanting to let the truth come out. I don’t believe that’s what’s the motivation, but I think that’s the perception.”

Really then, what could the motivation possibly be? If the evidence would show they all acted in defense of the Constitution — diligently safeguarding the election and refusing to encourage or excuse a mob — one would expect they would fall all over themselves to get the truth out. It would be good policy and good politics.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) declares she really, really wants a commission. Her proposed amendment to the bill that would open the possibility for Republicans and Democrats on the commission selecting separate staffs is poorly conceived, but let her put the amendment on the floor. Let Collins, Romney and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) try to find seven more votes for cloture. And let them keep at it for a day or more, eating into the holiday weekend.

It’s time to give Republicans the chance to demonstrate just who they are and what they believe. Schumer should make the most of it.

Read more:

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Christine Emba: Why conservatives really fear critical race theory

Greg Sargent: Susan Collins’s latest move on the Jan. 6 commission builds the case for filibuster reform

Dana Milbank: McConnell focuses ‘100 percent’ on blocking Biden — and zero percent on America

Karen Tumulty: Kevin McCarthy, meet Dr. Frankenstein