Pelosi abandons idea of having Biden establish a January 6 commission

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

As it became increasingly obvious that the votes didn’t exist in the Senate for the formation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, some Democrats began urging President Joe Biden to whip out his pen and his phone and just create such a commission on his own. While the idea had already gained the endorsement of some of the further left agitators, the White House hadn’t committed to the plan. As of last night, the idea seems to have dropped off of the agenda because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would be taking a pass on the plan. There are still some options remaining, but none appear to be anywhere near as grandiose as what was originally being envisioned. (Associated Press)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ruling out a presidential commission to study the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, telling House Democrats that having President Joe Biden appoint a panel is unworkable even after the Senate blocked an independent probe last week.

Pelosi on Tuesday laid out possible next steps after last week’s Senate vote, in which Senate Republicans blocked legislation to create an independent, bipartisan panel to investigate the siege by former President Donald Trump’s supporters. She proposed four options for an investigation of the attack, according to a person on the private Democratic caucus call who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations…

Pelosi’s comments come as members of both parties have pushed for a deep dive into the insurrection, which was designed to interrupt the presidential electoral count and was the worst attack on Congress in two centuries. Four rioters died in the attack, including a woman who was shot by police as she tried to break into the House chamber while lawmakers were still inside.

This was a smart move by both Pelosi and Biden. They clearly realized that if Joe Biden appointed a commission via executive decree, it would have two glaring flaws. The first is that the resultant commission would appear completely partisan in nature, rather than one that grew organically out of the Congress with the participation of both parties. That certainly wouldn’t stop most of the mainstream media from breathlessly reporting whatever was published, but it also wouldn’t carry the same political punch.

The bigger problem with a presidential commission is the fact that Congress would need to approve funding and subpoena authority for the effort. If they couldn’t get the Senate to approve the creation of such a commission themselves, they clearly weren’t going to find 60 votes to pay for Biden’s. And without subpoena authority, any reluctant parties could simply refuse to participate, turning the entire thing into a dog and pony show.

So what options does the Speaker have left? Her preferred choice is to “give the Senate another chance” to get behind the idea. (Good luck with that.) Assuming that doesn’t happen, she’s left with leaving the investigation inside of the House. If she appoints a new temporary committee specific to the task it will end up appearing as much of a partisan affair as if Joe Biden had done it. The final and probably best option is to just let the committees that are already investigating the incident with the participation of both parties get on with their work. The House Homeland Security Committee has been collecting information and delving into the attack ever since the streets were cleared on January 6th and they seem well equipped to the task. There will be a report when they finish and it will have the imprimatur of being signed off on by both Republican and Democratic participants.

So why wasn’t that taken as the best option from the beginning of this debate? I’m sure you can guess. It would lack the gauzy spectacle of a media circus where CNN and MSNBC could cover every speech and the testimony of every witness, reminding everyone of how terrible the Bad Orange Man was as we navigate our way toward the midterms. Letting some House committee conduct an internal investigation behind closed doors doesn’t deliver nearly enough political juice.