Representative Kevin McCarthy said he would oppose the independent body, but his Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, said his conference was open to it.,


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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 an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, denouncing the proposed bipartisan 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, suggested that a House vote this week to create the panel would 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.

But in yet another sign of how the former president’s election lies continue to drive wedges through the G.O.P., the position put him at odds with his counterpart in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who said later he was open to supporting a commission depending on a review of the “fine print.”

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.

“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 can’t state this plainly enough: This is about facts,” Mr. Katko told the House Rules Committee at a hearing on the bill. “It’s not about partisan politics.”

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.

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.

Mr. McConnell said Senate Republicans would “listen to the arguments on whether such a commission is needed.” He said he had concerns that the body might interfere with ongoing prosecution of suspected Capitol rioters and that the panel was not truly bipartisan.

Mr. McCarthy’s 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.