The House passed legislation Wednesday creating an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol — despite growing criticism from Republicans.
GOP leaders in the House and Senate, siding with former President Donald Trump, oppose the study, while Utah’s four House members were split.
Reps. John Curtis and Blake Moore voted with 33 other House Republicans to form such a panel. Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens voted against doing so.
Now the bill moves to the Senate, where Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, argues an independent investigation would benefit the nation — as long as it is truly bipartisan.
“The attack on the Capitol,” he said, “deserves to be evaluated to define lessons learned that can help us prevent something of this nature in the future.”
Romney doesn’t think the investigation should focus on Trump’s role in inciting the violence. The House impeached Trump for his involvement. The Senate failed to convict, though Romney voted to do so.
“I don’t think, by the way, that going back to President Trump’s role would be productive,” Romney told The Salt Lake Tribune. “But to look at law enforcement and the intelligence community and what errors were made would be valuable.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, another Republican backer of the commission, told CNN that Trump is “obviously a very key individual” in any study of this attack.
Jan. 6 was the day the Senate counted the Electoral College votes from each state, which showed that Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential race. Trump and his allies rallied supporters and urged them to go to the Capitol. Thousands did. A mob rushed past police and broke into the historic building. Five people died; many were injured. The Justice Department has launched an expansive investigation to arrest key participants, which has included at least four people from Utah.
Congressional Democrats have called for a 9/11-type commission to investigate what happened. The House voted 252 to 175 on Wednesday to form such a commission.
On Jan. 6, after the mob was ejected from the Capitol, congressional Republicans objected to the electoral votes counted in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Their efforts failed and the presidential results were certified.
Utah’s House delegation split that day as well.
Stewart and Owens were among the 138 House Republicans who objected to the counting of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes — despite no evidence of fraud. Curtis and Moore did not object.
On Wednesday, Curtis said, “Since the horrible attack on our Capitol, I have supported a bipartisan investigation into what led to the event, why our security wasn’t stronger, and why responses were delayed — and I remain hopeful that this commission can bring forth the facts and information to help our country heal and finally move forward.”
He added that he understands why most House Republicans opposed the bill, fearing the investigation could turn partisan, because under the measure Democrats would hire the staff, even though the commission members would be split evenly between the parties.
Moore said he was “comfortable,” with the legislation as is, though is open to seeing if there are any tweaks in the Senate.
Stewart argued that Democratic motivations “are not pure — they are political.”
Owens did not respond to requests for comment.
Other House Republican have argued the commission should examine not only at what happened at the Capitol but also at political violence more broadly, including riots last summer in reaction to the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Romney dismissed that idea, telling reporters at the Capitol, “Those things are of a different nature. This was an attack on the constitutional transfer of power in a peaceful manner and an attack on the symbol of democracy around the world. If they want to look at other things, why perhaps they can do that in another way.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced his opposition to the commission Wednesday, which will make it harder for Democrats to get the 10 Republican votes they need to get it past procedural roadblocks.
Even if it is looking like the bill would fail, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed to bring it to a vote.
Romney said he would support a commission as long as its members are split evenly. Echoing the concern of some House Republicans, he also argued the staffers should be hired on an equal basis as well.
“If it looks like one party is trying to control the narrative,” he said, “why that would not be likely to receive bipartisan support.”