Representative Kevin McCarthy had been pushing for any outside investigation to look at violence by anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter, rather than focus narrowly on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.,
McCarthy opposes Jan. 6 commission because it would not study ‘political violence’ by the left.
Protestors at the Capitol as they breached the doors on Jan. 6.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times
May 18, 2021, 10:10 a.m. ET
Representative Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, said on Tuesday that he would oppose bipartisan legislation to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, denouncing the proposed inquiry into the deadliest attack on Congress in centuries because it would not examine unrelated “political violence” associated with the left.
The announcement by Mr. McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, suggested that a House vote this week to create the panel will most likely be a partisan affair, with much of the G.O.P. opposing the effort to scrutinize the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. It is the latest reflection of party leaders’ reluctance to grapple with the legacy of the former president’s election lies.
Mr. McCarthy had been pushing for any outside investigation to look at violence by anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter, rather than focus narrowly on the actions of former President Donald J. Trump, whose false claims of election fraud drove the riot. Some Republican moderates had already begun signaling they would support the bill.
“Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” Mr. McCarthy said in a statement.
In rejecting the commission, Mr. McCarthy essentially threw one of his key deputies, Representative John Katko of New York, under the bus in favor of shielding Mr. Trump and the party from further scrutiny. Mr. Katko had negotiated the makeup and scope of the commission with his Democratic counterpart on the Homeland Security Committee and enthusiastically endorsed it last Friday.
It was all the more striking coming just days after Mr. McCarthy had maneuvered the ouster from leadership of his No. 3, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, because she refused to drop criticisms of Mr. Trump and Republicans who abetted his election falsehoods. Ms. Cheney has said the commission should have a narrow scope, and that Mr. McCarthy should testify about a phone call with Mr. Trump during the riot.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, immediately slammed Republican opposition as “cowardice.”
Mr. Katko was more conciliatory. He defended his work as “a solid, fair agreement” but said the opposition was “not something I take personally.” He predicted a “healthy” number of Republicans would still vote for it.
“I feel a deep obligation to get the answers U.S. Capitol Police and Americans deserve and ensure an attack on the heart of our democracy never happens again,” Mr. Katko said.
Republican leaders do not plan to formally whip their members against the creation of the commission, or a related $2 billion package to harden the Capitol’s defenses and repay debts incurred around the violence. That would free rank-and-file members who want to support the proposed 10-person panel, modeled after the commission that studied the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to vote yes.
House Democrats have the votes to pass the measure with or without Republicans. They got a boost from the White House, as well, which formally endorsed the bipartisan bill on Tuesday.
But Mr. McCarthy’s opposition raised questions about the breadth of Republican support. In the Senate, Democrats need 10 Republicans to join them to create it.
His biggest complaint about the commission appeared to be the idea of a panel focused exclusively on the right-wing violence inspired by Mr. Trump, rather than a broader look at what he called “interrelated political violence,.”
“The renewed focus by Democrats to now stand up an additional commission ignores the political violence that has struck American cities, a Republican congressional baseball practice, and, most recently, the deadly attack on Capitol Police on April 2, 2021,” he said Tuesday.