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In The Senate, Fate Of House-Passed Bill To Probe Capitol Riot, Is Unclear

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Just 35 Republicans joined House Democrats approving legislation last night to create a commission investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The GOP co-sponsor of the plan is New York Congressman John Katko. Here's what he said before the vote.

SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING

JOHN KATKO: I urge all of you in the body, all of you on both sides - not just my side or not just your side, all of us - to set aside politics just this once - just this once.

MARTIN: But top House and Senate Republican leaders came out against the plan just hours before the House vote, drawing ire from even some members of Capitol Police. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is covering this and joins us now. Good morning, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So we all remember the sounds and the images from that day, right? Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, marauded around the offices of lawmakers. There were chants of hang Mike Pence by some. And yet only 35 Republicans in the House of Representatives want to investigate this?

GRISALES: Yes, right. It marks another loyalty test to former President Trump, who put pressure on top House Republican Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to reject it. And they followed suit, saying it's duplicative of other investigations and has too narrow a scope. Soon after, a group of Capitol Police officers anonymously sent a letter to lawmakers expressing, quote, "profound disappointment" for the opposition. And it was inconceivable to see some members downplaying the events of January 6.

Katko, in particular, struck an emotional note as he again reiterated, this is not about politics and named officers, one by one, who died after the insurrection or were left with physical and mental scars. Let's take a listen.

SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING

KATKO: I want these officers and their families to know that we are doing it not for us and not for politics. We are doing it for them.

MARTIN: How did Republicans respond to that, Claudia?

GRISALES: Well, we saw these 35 that you mentioned revolt and vote for the commission. And this is sizable, especially when we compare it to the 10 House Republicans who voted with Democrats for Trump's second impeachment for his role in the attack. And perhaps Katko's remarks and others focusing on law enforcement emboldened these GOP members. Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan was especially heated in his remarks on what this means for bipartisanship. Let's take a listen.

SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING

TIM RYAN: This is a slap in the face to every rank-and-file cop in the United States. If we're going to take on China, if we're going to rebuild the country, if we're going to reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality. And you ain't one of them.

GRISALES: That said, we saw some surprise GOP members break with their party, such as Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis. He's a key critic of Democrats and the top Republican on the committee that oversees Capitol Police.

MARTIN: Wow, striking clip from Congressman Ryan there.

GRISALES: Right.

MARTIN: So let's think about the possibility that the commission actually goes forward. This would be modeled after the 9/11 panel that investigated the attacks on September 11. How would this actually work?

GRISALES: It's very similar to that panel. It establishes a 10-member commission with half picked by Democrats, the other half by Republicans. It has bipartisan subpoena power, and it would have a report due by December 31. It came together four months after the attack, with House leaders designating their top members on the Homeland Security Committee to reach a deal before they oppose the plan in recent days.

MARTIN: Does this have a chance in the Senate?

GRISALES: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he's bringing the commission to the floor regardless of this GOP opposition. But Democrats need 10 Republicans to join them there, and they don't have that right now. And that signals even more trouble for a $1.9 billion supplemental security plan the House will vote on today. A large share of that is to reimburse the National Guard and prosecute related cases today.

MARTIN: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.