Breaking: GOP filibusters January 6 commission, with six Republicans voting yes

AP Photo/John Minchillo

So obviously is this a case of the caucus putting the party’s interests over the country’s that a member of the caucus felt obliged to acknowledge it. Lisa Murkowski went on quite a tear before reporters last night:

“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 Jan. 6, I think we need to look at that critically. Is that really what this is about, one election cycle after another?” Murkowski said.

She added: “Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear. And one of those is that we have free and fair elections… I kind of want that to endure beyond just one election cycle.”…

“I need to know. I think it’s important for the country that there be an independent evaluation…. If you want to make this an independent commission, then, Leader, this is your opportunity. Pick the right people,” Murkowski said.

I don’t know what’s left to be said about today’s vote that hasn’t been said already. Republicans have calculated that a commission is a bad idea because it would be legitimate. It would be equally divided between Democratic and Republican appointees drawn from outside elected office and so it would enjoy a degree of bipartisan/nonpartisan authority that a House select committee appointed by Pelosi wouldn’t. Its subpoenas couldn’t be laughed off as part of some left-wing smear campaign. It might make some people who behaved badly on January 6, or who have information on those who did, uncomfortable.

The GOP’s calculus is that, because all of those people are likely to be Republicans, it’s better that the public doesn’t know the truth. Or, that if the truth does come out, that it comes out through a partisan vessel like a House committee which the GOP can deride as biased and crooked.

Party over country. Nothing more complicated than that.

You’ll notice that a few senators are missing from that roll. That’s because today is the last day before the Senate enters a recess of a few weeks for summer. With a filibuster seemingly assured, some of them evidently skipped town early.

Most Republicans who voted yes are familiar from the impeachment trial in February: Romney, Collins, Murkowski, Sasse, and Cassidy all voted to convict Trump. Rob Portman didn’t, but he’s retiring and thus felt no pressure to vote no today. As for the other two GOPers who voted to convict, Richard Burr and Pat Toomey, Burr said a few days ago that he preferred to let standing congressional committees investigate the insurrection rather than deputize a new commission to do it. Toomey? Well … he got out of Dodge:

He’s retiring too. He knew that the bill was going down so he started his vacation a day sooner.

There was a bit of drama before it all went down:

It’s unclear what happened, but maybe Collins was annoyed because Schumer reneged on a promise involving her proposed procedural changes on the bill. I don’t know why he did that, if so; it would have been good PR for Democrats to be able to say that they went the extra mile to make the bill more appealing to Republicans like Collins only to see it filibustered anyway.

Bill Cassidy made an interesting point in defense of his yes vote afterward. If you let a House committee run this investigation instead of a bipartisan commission then you’re all but guaranteeing that any Democratic malfeasance on January 6, like not taking proper security precautions, won’t be seriously scrutinized:

That logic wasn’t enough to get 10 Republican votes. When the smoke cleared, Joe Manchin was left looking forlorn, having spent the past four months assuring progressives that Senate Republicans could and would compromise on major issues, particularly nonpartisan ones like how an attack on the Capitol came together:

It’s Manchin’s own fault for refusing to recognize who he was dealing with here. Tim Miller knows. He wrote this yesterday, with the filibuster looming:

Mitch McConnell himself said Donald Trump was “morally and practically responsible” for trauma that Sicknick and others suffered at the Capitol. Now he wants to protect the perpetrator of that crime for accountability—for a second time.

And after that McConnell wants to put this perpetrator back in charge of the government in 2024.

When a person shows you exactly what they think, you should believe them.

Mitch McConnell has had four months to think about Donald Trump’s deadly coup attempt. He decided that he liked it. And now he’s doing everything in his power to give Trump a chance at an encore.

Every act taken by the institutional GOP to punish critics of Trump’s post-election behavior, like ousting Liz Cheney from leadership, or to protect Trump and his acolytes, like today’s vote, is a signal to the next Republican presidential nominee that they’ll abet another attempt to overturn the election in 2024. Maybe that nominee will be Trump, maybe it’ll be someone else. Either way, the upshot of today’s filibuster is that the party will do what it can to shield insurrectionists from consequences.

Here’s Schumer after the vote, correctly noting that today’s vote means Republicans wouldn’t support even opening debate on the bill. I think Jonathan Chait has it right: “When Republicans originally supported a 1/6 panel, they thought they’d be moving past Trump. When they realized they wouldn’t, they lost their will to investigate him.” In the first flush after the riot at the Capitol, various Republicans like Nikki Haley criticized Trump harshly in the belief that some meaningful segment of the base would turn on him because of it. As they gradually realized that wouldn’t happen, they began pulling back — to the point where Haley was last seen proclaiming that she wouldn’t oppose Trump in a primary if he chose to run again in 2024. McConnell has calculated that a divided party can’t win, so he’ll reluctantly accustom himself to a party utterly dominated by Trump and insurrectionists that maybe can win instead.