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For weeks the media made the fate of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., The most important story in the political universe.
Now it is the fate of a commission.
On the surface, it makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t Congress set up an independent commission to investigate what happened on the dark day of January 6th? The Capitol uprising was an attack on our democracy as fundamental as September 11th. It was less voluminous, but more worrying because there were no foreign enemies involved.
And then there’s the more visceral reason: every member of Congress witnessed the attack on their workplace, many hiding to save their lives. Some openly say they were traumatized. You might think this would be an added incentive to find out how the attack took place and how to make sure it never happens again.
But none of this is up to the partisan policy, which ultimately controls everything that happens under the dome.
Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell are all against the idea, it appears to be dead.
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Whatever the merits of a commission headed by outside candidates, Republican leaders viewed it as a dagger aimed at former President Donald Trump. That linked it to the Cheney story, the larger Trump narrative that many of the mainstream media outlets bored of the Biden presidency are very concerned about staying alive. Along with the Democratic attorney general of New York turning her investigation into a criminal investigation into the Trump organization, this became Cable’s top story on Tuesday and went on a loop.
McCarthy has become the main media target. Nancy Pelosi accused the GOP leadership of the House of cowardice, and many liberal experts used this word or narrow synonyms to attack the minority leader. What happened to the man who led several investigations against Benghazi? What happened to the man who stood on the floor of the house and said Trump was responsible for the uprising? Why did he leave one of his own GOP members who negotiated the deal? Is he just protecting his friend in Mar-a-Lago?
Or – and this is always said in ominous tones – is McCarthy afraid of being summoned to speak about his conversation with Trump when the January 6 violence unfolded?
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In addition, Pelosi had agreed to McCarthy’s demands that both parties have equal powers to make appointments and to exercise subpoena powers.
But if McCarthy takes a partisan stance, so is the other side. Whatever the merits of an independent investigation that President Joe Biden also backed this week, it’s pretty clear that the ultimate target would be Trump, not to mention the Republicans who voted in favor of some of the results of the Electoral College not to be certified. And it is true that a Senate committee is already looking into the matter and the federal prosecutor has charged more than 400 people with the attack.
Since it was pro-Trump supporters who stormed the building, it’s in the Democrats’ best interests to keep talking about it until … oh, 2022 and beyond.
The arguments are telling. The original stance of McCarthy and his allies was that any commission should also deal with left-wing violence, such as the roles of Black Lives Matter and Antifa in last year’s urban riot.
Now the criminal activity that rocked places like Portland and Seattle is undoubtedly important. But what does this have to do with the Capitol Rebellion? For critics, it was a form of what-about-ism, which is why Republicans are now looking to scrap it completely.
This opposition appeared to be choreographed, even if it wasn’t. McCarthy went public on Tuesday, the day before Wednesday’s vote. He accused “the speaker’s short-sighted leeway in not examining the interrelated forms of political violence in America”.
Late on Tuesday evening, Trump released a press release calling the commission a “democratic trap” and checking McCarthy and McConnell by name:
“It’s just partisan injustice, and unless the murders, riots and incendiary bombs in Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago and New York are also investigated, this discussion should end immediately. Republicans have to get harder and smarter and stop.” to be used by the radical left. “
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But the Senate minority leader said Tuesday in a sort of rift that he was “ready to listen to arguments in favor of a commission” and that his GOP colleagues were “undecided” on the proposal. “We want to read the fine print,” he said.
It didn’t take long. Yesterday morning McConnell spoke up, complaining that “the House Democrats have treated this proposal with bad faith from the partisans from the start.” He said there was “no shortage of solid investigations” and that a commission was unnecessary. So it’s hard to imagine the Dems casting 60 Senate votes.
The January 6th attacks will cast a dark shadow over our politics for a long time to come. But the battle is being fought in other places than an independent commission.