The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion What the Republicans wrought in defeating a Jan. 6 commission

Legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol failed on a 54-35 vote due to a Republican filibuster.
Legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol failed on a 54-35 vote due to a Republican filibuster. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The May 29 front-page article “GOP senators block commission on Capitol riot” reported a further act in a great and frightening tragedy: the apparently permanent triumph of narrow self-interest over political principle in the Republican Party and Congress. Dangerous for many reasons, the overarching one, perhaps, being that Americans need two functioning, responsible parties for our centuries-old system of government to work.

That triumph is now visible everywhere, in the defenestration of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from party leadership, in groveling subservience to the twice-impeached former president, in the continued assaults on the certified count in the last election, in determined efforts to manipulate the census and gerrymander districts, and to restrict ballot access to those most likely to vote Republican.

We know where this leads. We can see its grim destination in 20th-century history, and we can see it today in the wretched places throughout the world — Belarus being only the most recent example of the type — wherever vicious and greedy autocrats rule by force and pretense.

As an infant I lived, barely, through a single-party horror; it frightens me as an old man to contemplate that the stout democracy that has been my shelter for the decades since is vulnerable to another.

Andrew C. A. Jampoler, Washington

When the trials for the accused insurrectionists begin and the facts of Jan. 6 come fully to light, Republicans who voted against the congressional commission to further investigate will need to defend that decision and their resistance to seeking justice and truth.

Seeking truth doesn’t cause distrust and anger; deflection and coverups do, and coverups almost always get discovered. Insurgents will not pay for senatorial stonewalling, and former president Donald Trump won’t pay for a congressional coverup; the pandering representatives will. Neither of those entities will be grateful to the obstructing members of Congress. They will just be distantly relieved to not have to answer for attempting to overturn our democracy.

Eileen McClure Nelson, Burke

Karen Tumulty’s May 29 op-ed, “The scary reason Republicans don’t want to face the truth about Jan. 6,” echoed the voices of many who have been pleading for actions on the Hill “to save democracy.” Almost unanimously, Republican politicians have failed to stand in favor of this lofty goal. Defeating the Jan. 6 commission is but the latest manifestation of what has become unmistakably clear: The Republican Party, under Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former president Donald Trump, has no interest in saving democracy. Quite the opposite: Republicans have been dedicating much of their political capital to the establishment of a dictatorship, their brand of dictatorship. Mr. McConnell and his cohorts’ efforts are no longer in support of the republic. Their objective at any price is the establishment of Trump Republican rule. Remember this, my fellow citizens, when you cast your next ballot.

Fred D. Ross, North Bethesda

Republicans may see the prevention of a nonpartisan Jan. 6 commission as a political win, but it is likely to be the opposite. The commission would have been bipartisan, so the hearings, though attention-getting, would not have been pure political theater. A requirement for agreement on witnesses and subpoenas would have limited the scope of the public testimony. And the December end of the commission would have kept the explosive revelations from the election year.

Now the Democrats could appoint a House select committee to do the same job.  That committee, though it would seek the truth, would seek political victories. We could expect frequent explosive public testimony. We also could expect that the testimony will continue well into 2022. As this is going on, the Republicans may use former president Donald Trump’s famous label for the select committee — “witch hunt” — but the testimony and evidence on display would change a lot of minds about the Republicans.

They will wish they had voted to approve the commission long before the select committee finishes its work.

David C. Roberts, Potomac

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said his focus “is on stopping this new administration.” This vision might be applauded on the banks of the River Thames, but we have had a different form of government since the late 1700s. In parliament, it is the duty of the minority party to oppose all proposed by the majority, a path Mr. McConnell has chosen for his minority party. However, on the banks of the Potomac, he can propose ideas, amendments and modifications in a good-faith attempt to solve problems. Total opposition suggests the senator’s motives are shallow political gimmicks. Or that he has no ideas. Or that the work of legislating is, alas, too onerous.

Somewhere in the Federalist Papers or other writings by the Founders, Mr. McConnell might find a reason or permission to participate in the legislative solutions to our common problems. Soon, we hope.

F.W. LillisLeesburg

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