House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday the creation of a select committee to examine the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. She told House colleagues of her intention to do so earlier on Thursday morning.
“It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day, and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen and that we root out the causes of it all. The select committee will investigate and report on the facts and the causes of the attack and it will make report recommendations for the prevention of any future attack,” Pelosi said during her weekly press conference. She said that the investigation would take “two paths”: looking at the “root causes” of the attack, and the failures in security of the Capitol.
Pelosi waited to make a determination for several weeks because she would have preferred that the Senate take another vote on a bipartisan bill to create an independent 9/11-style commission. Senate Republicans blocked the bill in May, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not called another vote on the measure.
“I asked, leading up to today: Is there a chance for it to pass? We gave it so much time. Not soon, not likely, maybe someday. In the meantime, I’m hopeful that that could still happen at some point,” Pelosi said.
Unlike an independent commission that would not have comprised elected officials, Democrats will control the select committee. There will still be Republican members on the committee, but Democrats will have the majority and therefore, they will also have subpoena power. Select committees are created by a resolution to conduct investigations or consider measures, usually on a specific topic.
Five people died during the attack on January 6, including a Capitol police officer whose death was later ruled to be from natural causes. The partner and mother of that officer, Brian Sicknick, has advocated for creating an independent commission. Over 100 Capitol and Metropolitan police officers were injured, and two Capitol Police officers died by suicide after the attack.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday that more than 480 defendants have been arrested in connection with the attack. In court, the government has also indicated that prosecutors expect to charge up to 550 people.
It’s unclear whether any Republicans will support the creation of a select committee because they may argue that Democrats would use the committee as a purely political exercise. Previous select committees, like the 2012 select committee on Benghazi led by Republicans, have devolved into partisanship.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy argued to reporters earlier this week that Senate committees were already conducting bipartisan investigations and said whatever decision Pelosi made about a select committee would be “political.”
Pelosi acknowledged “it would have been preferable to have an outside commission,” but said “I have no intention of walking away from our responsibility.”
“I hope that Kevin will appoint responsible people to the committee,” she said.
Pelosi did not say who would lead the committee, nor did she lay out a specific timeline for it to release its findings, saying “the timetable will be as long as it takes.” The bipartisan commission would have been required to submit its findings by the end of the year.
The bipartisan bill to create an independent commission passed in the House with dozens of Republican votes, but failed in the Senate. The vote to advance the bill failed by 54 to 35, well short of the 60 votes needed. Republican Senators Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, and Ben Sasse supported advancing the bill. All but Portman voted to convict former President Trump on the impeachment charge of incitement of insurrection in February.