Senate Republicans prepared to block Jan. 6 commission

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Senate Republicans are ready to filibuster a proposed independent commission to investigate the Capitol riot, as GOP opposition swelled in the final days before the vote expected later Thursday.

Several undecided Republicans came down against advancing the commission ahead of the vote, despite efforts by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to broker a compromise. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken an increasingly hard public and private line against establishing the new panel to probe the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by pro-Trump insurrectionists, dubbing the commission idea “extraneous” on Thursday.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota said in an interview that his party is not willing to provide the 10 votes needed to start debate on the bill: “At the moment, no.”

“The House-passed version won’t have 10,” Thune said.

The expected blockade will cloud the atmosphere in Washington. Republicans have not blocked any of Democrats’ bills on the Senate floor before Thursday.

And Democrats believe they have made major concessions to the GOP on the structure of the commission, with their party’s House leaders even blessing Collins’ changes designed to make the commission more bipartisan. The resulting frustration is palpable, among even the most amiable Democrats.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said he believes there will be a future Jan. 6-style attack on the Capitol and “the outcome is going to be far worse.”

“We’ve got to get to the bottom of this shit,” Tester said. “Jesus. It’s a nonpartisan investigation of what happened. And if it’s because they’re afraid of Trump then they need to get out of office. It’s bullshit. You make tough decisions in this office or you shouldn’t be here.”

Collins acknowledged that even her proposed changes might not get the bill over the finish line. They could help sway some Republicans, she said, but for those standing against a commission “in any form,” her amendment would not “change their underlying opposition.”

McConnell seemed to lock up the 41 votes against that he needed despite a last-minute pro-commission lobbying push by the mother and girlfriend of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after responding to the siege. Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia both said they will not support the commission.

“We have other committees looking at this. We’ll get our answers,” Capito said.

Even Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who voted to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection, was unsure where he would come down. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who also backed convicting Trump, has argued inside the GOP conference against the commission and said that, even with an expiration date of Dec. 31, it would drag into the midterms.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who has considered supporting Collins’ changes, said he wanted a commission to have the “legitimacy and the trust of the American people by being fair. If it’s not fair. It’s not going to be effective.”

He declined to say how he would vote. The Senate is currently considering a China competitiveness bill but is expected to vote on the commission before going on Memorial Day recess.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who supports the House-passed commission bill, said his colleagues were entitled to their opinions. “I have a different point of view than some of my colleagues, but we’re entitled to do that and I’m not frustrated by it,” he said.

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