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House Prepares Action on January 6 Bills
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House Prepares Action on January 6 Bills

Plus: Republicans urge an end to pandemic procedures.

Good morning. A group of Senate Republicans are set to meet with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo today to discuss their latest offer for a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

House to Vote on January 6 Commission

The House will vote this week on legislation to establish an independent commission that will gather facts about the January 6 attack on the Capitol and make recommendations for how to avoid similar instances of violence in the future. 

The vote comes after months of partisan gridlock over the makeup of the commission and its investigative scope. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson negotiated the details of the proposal with the top Republican on the panel, Rep. John Katko. Katko was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the riot.

“An independent, bipartisan commission will remove politicization of the conversation and focus solely on the facts and circumstances surrounding the security breach at the Capitol, as well as other instances of violence relevant to such a review,” Katko said when the deal was announced.

The deal won’t have support from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. He said Tuesday morning that he takes issue with the process by which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi developed the legislation and he wants the commission to look into largely unrelated violence around the country after the murder of George Floyd last summer.

“Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” he said.

The commission is expected to seek McCarthy’s testimony. The California Republican had a phone call with Trump during the Capitol attack, during which McCarthy urged Trump to call off his supporters. According to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican who says she spoke with McCarthy about the call, Trump responded, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

“I would suspect that Kevin will be subpoenaed,” Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, another Republican who supported Trump’s second impeachment, said on CNN Sunday. “He’ll be asked to give his rendition of what happened, as will a number of members of Congress that were there, whether they were barricading the doors inside the chamber.”

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise’s office said Monday that he won’t be pushing members to vote against the bill—but he won’t actively encourage members to support it, either. We’ll get a preview of how other top Republicans will approach the debate this morning, when the House Rules Committee meets to consider the legislation.

Democrats technically don’t need any Republican votes to pass the measure in the House, but they will need at least 10 Republicans to pass it in the Senate under the chamber’s current rules. The Dispatch caught up with eight Republican senators Monday night to ask about the bill. Most said they weren’t sure how they’ll vote when it comes to the Senate. 

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he hasn’t read it yet. “I’ll look at it and tell you,” he told reporters. 

And Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy likewise said he hasn’t been following the discussions and will have to examine the bill. “I’m going to read it and give it my serious consideration,” he said. He added that he hasn’t heard from Senate GOP leaders about it yet, but “it wouldn’t make any difference to me one way or the other.”

“Senators are like cats. They do what they want,” he quipped.

A couple Senate Republicans were more enthusiastic about the plan.

“My general feeling is that if we can have a serious examination of the events leading up to, occurring, and in the aftermath of that day, we should do it,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said. “We need to learn as much as we can: A, because it was a shameful day—something that should never happen again—and B, because I think our enemies of this country, terrorists and others, will look to learn from that day, potentially, one day take lessons learned from it to attack us here.” 

Rubio added that he’d like investigators to look into disinformation and inaccurate details of the attack that were leaked to journalists in the aftermath. Asked if he wants the probe’s scope to include race-related violence over the summer, he indicated he doesn’t see it as essential for the commission.

“That’s an important topic. I’m not sure it should be a part of that probe or something in general,” Rubio told The Dispatch. “I mean, if they want to have a commission to study violence in American politics in general, that’s fine too.”

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy offered the most definitive answer when asked about the commission, saying he’ll support it. Cassidy was one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump of inciting the insurrection. 

The legislation follows closely in the footsteps of the bill that created an investigative commission after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The commission will be made up of 10 members. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will jointly select one member to serve as chair of the commission, and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell will likewise choose a member to serve as vice chair. Each of the four congressional leaders will select two additional commission members.

Appointees must not be serving in any current government role, according to the legislation. The bill calls for members to be “prominent United States citizens” with experience in either government, law enforcement, civil rights, the armed forces, intelligence, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, technology, or law. We’ll find out who will serve on the commission relatively quickly if the legislation passes: The bill requires that all members be appointed no later than 10 days after the bill has been enacted.

The commission will be able to issue subpoenas, either by agreement between the Democratic chair and the Republican vice chair, or by a vote of a majority of the members. In either instance, if all members appointed by one party want to issue a subpoena, at least one member appointed by the other party will have to support it for it to happen. Equal representation and subpoena power was a primary demand for Republicans, who chafed at Pelosi’s initial proposal, which gave much more power to the Democratic appointees.

The legislation calls on the commission to hold public hearings and meetings when appropriate and to release public versions of its reports. It sets a December 31, 2021 due date for the commission’s final report to the president and Congress with its findings and recommendations.

You can read the full text of the bill to establish the commission here

The House will also vote this week on nearly $2 billion in additional security funding for the Capitol complex and other post-January 6 needs. 

The measure includes more than $500 million for the National Guard and $350 million to construct retractable fencing and security screening sites at the Capitol. It also incorporates $200 million to stand up a quick reaction force within the D.C. National Guard to help the U.S. Capitol Police in emergencies—a priority lawmakers have embraced after hearing about bureaucratic delays in obtaining National Guard assistance that day.

The bill will direct funding for mental health assistance for the Capitol Police force, which has grappled with trauma and low morale in the months after the attack. Capitol Police officers will also be required to wear body cameras for the first time, beginning at the end of September. 

“The January 6 insurrection caused tragic loss of life and many injuries, while leaving behind widespread physical damage to the Capitol Complex and emotional trauma for Members, Congressional employees, and the Capitol Police,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro said last week. “This emergency supplemental appropriation addresses the direct costs of the insurrection and strengthens Capitol security for the future.”

Republicans Urge Return to In-Person Work

House Republican leaders are urging Democrats to ease the chamber’s coronavirus pandemic precautions in light of the CDC’s latest guidance for vaccinated people.

“It is time we follow the science, lead by example, and fully return to work to serve the American people,” a group of Republicans wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning. 

Led by Rep. Bruce Westerman, the letter notes that most members of Congress are fully vaccinated and the shots have been available to members for months.

The House has adopted a proxy voting system for most of the public health crisis, allowing members to cast votes without being there in person. Lawmakers have also extended voting times to prevent having a crowded chamber, and congressional hearings have been conducted either fully virtually or in a hybrid setting. These procedures have led to delays on the House floor compared with votes prior to the pandemic, and some committees have been beset with technical problems in their attempts to hold hearings.

“Ineffective remote procedures have hindered Congressional operations for too long and should not continue for the duration of the 117th Congress,” the members wrote, calling for an end to proxy voting and remote committee work.

“While we appreciate that the COVID-19 crisis yielded unprecedented circumstances, there is simply no scientific or public health need to continue entertaining these restrictive practices,” the Republicans said. “We have accomplished an incredible milestone in defeating the virus, now we must serve as a model for our nation to restore, rebuild, renew, and resume America.”

The letter was signed by House GOP leaders and top Republicans on various committees, according to a draft shared with The Dispatch.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pushed back on calls to end the pandemic practices. Last week, she rejected the idea of ending a mask mandate for the House floor, saying there are Republicans who have not been vaccinated yet. On Monday night, Pelosi approved an extension of the proxy voting procedures through July 3. 

There aren’t any firm numbers for how many House Republicans have received a vaccine. CNN surveyed every congressional office and found that just over 72 percent of the House has been vaccinated. At least 44.8 percent of House Republicans said they were vaccinated. Several said they aren’t getting the vaccine or that they did not want to share whether they did. More than a hundred House Republicans did not respond to CNN’s repeated requests for information. (Congressional Democrats, for their part, have a 100 percent vaccination rate.)

On the Floor

The Senate will consider the Endless Frontier Act, a bill to invest heavily in American research and development, this week. The House is expected to vote on legislation cracking down on hate toward Asian-Americans, including the Senate-passed COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. House members are also set to vote on a bill creating an independent commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol and a bill to direct additional money to Capitol security. You can view all of the bills scheduled for consideration in the House this week here.

Key Hearings

  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing today at 10 a.m. on the future of the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship following the forthcoming coalition withdrawal from the country. Zalmay Khalilzad, the State Department’s special representative on Afghanistan reconciliation, will testify. Information and livestream here.

  • The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing today at 10 a.m. on funding options for infrastructure investments. Republicans and Democrats have been at odds over how to pay for a potential infrastructure bill. This hearing could focus on potential compromises. Information and livestream here.

  • A House Judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. about the centennial of the Tulsa-Greenwood race massacre. Information and livestream here.

  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday at 2 p.m. to discuss the space agency’s fiscal year 2022 budget request. Information and livestream here.

  • Experts will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. about supply chains and the pandemic response. Information and livestream here.

  • The House Administration Committee will hold a hearing on improving accountability for the Capitol Police Board and reforming the Capitol Police force on Wednesday afternoon. Information and livestream here.

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee will examine the transition of U.S. and coalition forces out of Afghanistan in a hearing Thursday morning. Information and livestream here.

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.