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Senate Republicans Have Blocked Jan. 6 Commission

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Progress on an independent commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol stalled today after Senate Republicans blocked a plan to move forward on legislation. Here's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after the failed vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they're afraid of Donald Trump.

CHANG: To tell us more, we're joined now by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hi. OK, so we should say that six Senate Republicans did break with their party to vote with Democrats today to move forward on this commission. Who were they?

GRISALES: They are familiar names because several also voted for Trump's conviction in the Senate impeachment trial for his role in the attack. That's Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio. And one more Republican, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, said he would have been a yes today, but he was away on a family matter. That said, Democrats needed 10 Republicans to vote with them, so they fell short. Also, they join the GOP members in the House who voted to move this forward. There were 35 House Republicans who voted yes on this as well.

CHANG: OK. Well, meanwhile, why did the vast majority of Republicans oppose this?

GRISALES: Former President Trump was against this, and most Republicans are still reluctant to break with him. And over time, their public objections to the commission shifted. Most recently, they said they wanted more control over staffing of the commission, despite it being modeled after the panel that investigated the 9/11 attacks. But there's a political calculation here, too. Some said the commission could be used as a weapon during the midterm elections. And we should note, today also marks the GOP's first filibuster since Democrats took control of the upper chamber. That is blocking a vote to even proceed onto this legislation.

CHANG: OK. So what does today's failure to proceed - what does it mean for the overall investigation?

GRISALES: Supporters say this is a setback. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, and those who voted no did a personal favor for Trump, and they put their election concerns above the security of Congress and the country. She also pointed to Gladys Sicknick. This is the mother of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the attack. She joined others on Capitol Hill yesterday to directly lobby Republicans to vote yes. That all said, there are still many ongoing investigations from the hundreds of criminal cases that are being prosecuted to multiple congressional probes. And this is part of what Republican opponents point to. They say that's plenty. That said, Pelosi has said - or signaled that she could form a select committee to try and replicate these commission's efforts.

CHANG: That is NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELKHORN'S "TO SEE DARKNESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.