The 6 January panel was modelled on the 9/11 Commission that investigated the circumstances surrounding the 11 September 2001 terror attacks. It was expected that the new commission would be comprised of five Democratic and five Republican members, who would have subpoena powers.
Last week the House of Representatives passed the 6 January panel bill 252-175 with 35 Republicans teaming up with all Democrats to endorse the plan. However, ahead of the Senate vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that the 6 January commission would duplicate law enforcement and congressional efforts underway to investigate the roots of the 6 January DC incident.
"After careful consideration, I've made the decision to oppose the House Democrats slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January 6th," McConnell told American senators on 20 May. "As everybody surely knows, I repeatedly made my views about the events of January 6th very clear. I spoke clearly and left no doubt about my conclusions."
McConnell is known as an outspoken critic of the Capitol riots, who also lashed out at then President Donald Trump following the incident.
"The effort by the Republicans in the Senate to block the legislation that would create a commission allegedly to investigate the events of January 6 reveals the truth of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's observation that this is a 'purely political' issue," says Professor Stephen B. Presser of the Northwestern University School of Law.
It was clear from the very beginning that the Democratic initiative to set a 1/6 Commission, enthusiastically advocated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was nothing but a tool "to embarrass supporters of Donald Trump, and to tar them as disloyal insurrectionists," the academic said.
More than 20,000 Americans exercised 1st Amendment rights to march peacefully Jan. 6. USCP says 800 entered the Capitol illegally. I condemned the violence. @SenSchumer won’t admit it, but that’s not an armed insurrection and it was, by-and-large, peaceful. https://t.co/fTNdPMM081— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) May 20, 2021
In addition to that, Democrats are largely silent about the fact that the protests were prompted by grievances regarding election irregularities, which have been the subject of probes and audits in a number of states since November 2020.
"The 'commission' could properly be viewed as an effort to distract from the election chicanery," Presser suggests. "There is no way the 'commission' could be impartial, as the premises on which it is undertaken are flawed."
In addition to that, the GOP apparently felt that the commission would hurt Republican chances of capturing House and Senate majorities in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, according to Dr. Harvey Schantz, professor of political science at State University of New York at Plattsburgh.
"Republicans are concerned that a commission report would prime voters to consider the 6 January rioting when casting ballots, whereas the Republicans would rather voters be most concerned about the Biden Administration’s excessive spending and lack of security on the southern border," he says.
BREAKING— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) May 28, 2021
Nancy’s January 6th Star-Chamber “Commission” is dead.
She needs 60 Senate votes and got only 54.
But 6, SIX, “Republicans” voted with the Democrats.
We have work to do. #MAGAPhase2
The six Republicans who supported the measure on 28 May were Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
"The [yesterday's] vote on the 6 January commission was foreshadowed by the 13 February 2021 Senate vote on convicting President Donald Trump on incitement to riot," Schantz points out. "In that vote seven Republicans voted to convict Trump and five of the seven voted for the commission. Portman was the only Republican senator who voted for the commission who had not voted to remove Trump."
The political scientist remarks that Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who had voted to remove Trump, did not vote on the commission.
While the majority of Republican congressmen demonstrated unity in opposing the 1/6 panel, there is still a small faction of GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate that are not satisfied with the party leadership of Trump, according to the academic.
The return of President Trump is the largest threat to Democrats. He has been out of office for 5 months and they are still busy trying to separate his base from him.— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) May 29, 2021
"The difficult task of the Republican Party is to meld and grow these two factions into a winning party coalition in time for 2022 and 2024," Schantz suggests.
Earlier this month over 150 Republicans, including some former officials, have threatened to form a third party unless the GOP distances itself from the Donald Trump legacy. At the same time, however, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stated that without Trump, the GOP "are going to wind up getting erased". In addition to that, on 12 May, Rep. Liz Cheney was ousted from the House Republican leadership over harsh criticism towards Donald Trump as well as voting to impeach the former president.