House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Launches Select Committee To Probe Jan. 6 Insurrection

Jun 24, 2021
Originally published on June 24, 2021 7:01 pm

Nearly a month after Senate Republicans blocked a move to vote on an outside commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she'll move forward with plans to launch a select committee to take over the probe.

Pelosi shared the news in a press conference on Thursday at which she blasted Republicans for preventing a bipartisan commission from moving forward.

"This morning, with great solemnity and sadness, I am announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection," Pelosi said. "Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation's history ... it is imperative that we establish the truth of that day and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen and that we root out the causes of it all."

Last month, the Senate fell a few votes short to move forward on a floor debate to take up bipartisan legislation to establish an independent commission to investigate the insurrection. It marked Senate Republicans' first filibuster since President Biden took office.

That final May 28 vote was 54 to 35, with six Republicans voting with Democrats. Another, Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, said he would have voted yes but was out of town. But the effort needed 60 votes to begin debate on the plan.

The legislation was modeled after the commission established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, with a panel of commissioners divvied up evenly between the parties and bipartisan subpoena power.

Pelosi had signaled that if the Senate could not get the commission approved, she could move ahead with a select committee. Earlier in May, the House approved the plan by a vote of 252 to 175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in that case.

The legislation followed a bipartisan deal reached by the top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and John Katko, R-N.Y.

Former President Donald Trump has been a key critic in the efforts, calling on Republicans to reject the commission plan before top leaders and a majority of the party in both chambers followed through by voting against it.

The select committee will join several probes already underway, from law enforcement investigations being led by the FBI to multiple congressional committee investigations to those led by inspector generals for several agencies, including the Capitol Police watchdog.

It will also face challenges seen by other previous select committees, such one formed by Republicans to look into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. It marks a much more partisan route, and it's unclear what role Republicans will play, but it's likely they will look to be spoilers for the panel.

The speaker did not name the chair of the panel or the Democratic lawmakers she plans to tape for the select committee. Asked about Republican participation in the panel, Pelosi said about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, "I hope that Kevin will appoint responsible people to the committee."

: 6/23/21

A previous version of this story incorrectly said the House approved the Jan. 6 commission bill by a vote of 252 to 127. It was actually 252 to 175.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will launch a select committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The move comes nearly one month after Senate Republicans blocked a debate on a proposal to create a bipartisan 9/11-style commission.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY PELOSI: It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen and that we root out the causes of it all.

CORNISH: But key Republicans have already expressed opposition to this idea, and it's unclear how long the investigation will take. To tell us more, we're joined by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. And Claudia, tell us more about how this select committee would work.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Speaker Pelosi said this was a difficult decision and announcing it came with great, quote, "solemnity and sadness." But she also said she had no choice. She had already warned she might take this step, creating a select House committee, if the Senate could not pass a bill creating an outside commission. And she said this will largely be modeled on a Senate select committee that was created after the 9/11 attacks. And Pelosi said this new committee will take whatever time it takes to investigate this fully and issue recommendations. But she stopped short of detailing who will lead it and who will be on it for Democrats, and the same goes for Republicans.

CORNISH: How solid is the kind of Republican opposition to this?

GRISALES: It's pretty solid when we look at the large majorities in both chambers. This is a much more partisan route than a bipartisan commission. So Republican leaders have already slammed it, and we expect many more of their members to follow suit. For example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said this would be, quote, "political." And he says he still wants the scope to include the racial justice protests last year. It will not. So he remains opposed. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: Just like in 9/11, they didn't study just what happened on 9/11; they studied what built up to it. So why wouldn't we study what built up in the summer? Why wouldn't we analyze and get to the bottom of why the National Guard were not here?

GRISALES: But we should note that that's not all Republicans. For example, we know that in the House, 35 GOP members joined Democrats to move forward with a bipartisan commission, so they could extend their support here to this select committee as well. One of those, Wyoming's Liz Cheney, told reporters earlier this week that this is a necessary next step since the commission failed and Congress needs an investigation. And she hopes that this select committee will emulate that bipartisan commission plan as much as possible.

CORNISH: So what could this committee do that other investigations haven't been able to accomplish?

GRISALES: So, as Cheney also said, this is the closest we'll get to a commission for now. So they will have subpoena power, but also it's not clear who will be on it and how Republicans who are opposed to the plan could try to play spoilers here. As an example, you could look at the role Democrats played with the select committee created by Republicans after the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Now, Pelosi said she hopes that McCarthy will appoint, quote, "responsible people" to the committee, but that's hard to envision how they'll fit that mold she's asking for considering how opposed he and others remain. But one thing to keep in mind is the work of this committee and the release of this panel's report could come just before the midterm election. So it's easy to see how this could become a political football.

CORNISH: That's NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.