Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) had stark criticism for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this week over his opposition to a proposed independent commission that would investigate the January riot at the Capitol.
McConnell has insisted that the commission is unnecessary and complained that the proposed entity would supposedly be too politicized, but Murkowski zeroed in on an underlying reason for McConnell’s opposition: political optics. McConnell was recently reported by POLITICO to have told fellow Republican Senators that an independent commission to investigate the riot could impede the GOP’s “midterm election message” (as the publication put it) by continuing to focus on Trump instead of basically anyone or anything else. The damages that Trump inflicted and the GOP’s complicity in that destruction can’t just be wished out of existence, however.
“Truth is hard stuff, but we’ve got a responsibility to it,” the Alaska Senator observed. As Murkowski also put it:
‘To be making a decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us on January 6, I think we need to look at that critically. Is that really what this is about, one election cycle after another?.. I’m disappointed that we just haven’t been able to acknowledge that an independent commission would be an opportunity for us to have an independent review of this while we do our work.’
Murkowski also observed that, because of the lack of resolute answers to questions stemming from the Capitol riot, the incident will “always be hanging out there.” An independent commission to investigate the riot could, of course, help answer some of those questions. The Justice Department has pursued hundreds of criminal cases against individual Trump supporters who were involved in the violence, but what about broader questions like what the then-president himself was doing as the chaos unfolded? On the day of the incident, Trump was slow to respond publicly and even then offered excuses for what happened. So what was taking place privately at the White House?
Unfortunately, Senate Republicans appear to have enough votes to sustain a filibuster against the bill that would create the independent commission, although the Senate hadn’t yet actually voted on the measure as of early Friday. Under filibuster rules, a full 60 votes are required in the 100-member chamber before moving to a final vote on most legislation. Including a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats only have 51 votes in the chamber. The bill to create the commission passed the House with 35 Republican supporters, but Senate Republicans have proven more hesitant to offer their backing.
UPDATE: Senate Republicans formally blocked the bill to create the investigative commission in question on Friday, launching a successful filibuster.