Republicans block inquiry into deadly riot at Capitol

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Republicans Block Inquiry Into Deadly Riot At Capitol Republicans Block Inquiry Into Deadly Riot At Capitol
Capitol Breach Politics, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Mary Clare Jalonick and Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press

Republicans in the US Senate have blocked the creation of a bipartisan panel to study the January attack on the Capitol, rejecting the independent investigation in a show of loyalty to former president Donald Trump and an effort to shift focus away from the violent insurrection by his supporters.

The Senate vote was 54-35 — short of the 60 votes needed to take up a House-passed bill that would have formed a 10-member commission evenly split between the two parties.

It came a day after emotional appeals from police who fought with the rioters and legislators who fled Capitol chambers that day.

Six Republicans voted with Democrats to move forward, and 11 senators missed the rare Friday vote.


Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP)

The bill passed the House earlier this month with the support of almost three dozen Republicans, but party senators said they believe the commission would eventually be used against them politically, and Mr Trump, who still has a firm hold on the party, has called it a “Democrat trap”.

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The vote is emblematic of profound mistrust between the two parties since the siege, especially among Republicans, as some in the party have downplayed the violence and defended the rioters who supported Mr Trump and his false insistence that the election was stolen from him.

The attack was the worst on the Capitol in 200 years and interrupted the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s win over Mr Trump.

Four people died that day, and Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick collapsed and died afterward of what authorities said were natural causes.

Two police officers killed themselves in the days after the riots.

The vote came after Mr Sicknick’s mother, girlfriend and two police officers who fought the rioters went office to office and asked Republicans to support the commission.

After initially saying he was open to the idea of the commission, which would be modelled on an investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell turned firmly against it in recent days.


Mitch McConnell (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

He said he believes the panel’s investigation would be partisan despite the even split among party members.

Mr McConnell, who once said Trump was responsible for provoking the mob attack on the Capitol, said of Democrats: “They’d like to continue to litigate the former president, into the future.”

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Republican opposition to the bipartisan panel has revived Democratic pressure to do away with the filibuster, a time-honoured Senate tradition that requires a vote by 60 of the 100 senators to cut off debate and advance a bill.

With the Senate evenly split 50-50, Democrats needed support of 10 Republicans to move to the commission bill.

The Republicans’ political arguments over the violent siege — which is still raw for many in the Capitol, almost five months later — have frustrated not only Democrats but also those who fought the rioters.

Michael Fanone, a Metropolitan Police Department officer who responded to the attack, joined Mr Sicknick’s family on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

In between meetings with Republican senators, he said a commission was “necessary for us to heal as a nation from the trauma that we all experienced that day”.

Mr Fanone has described being dragged down the Capitol steps by rioters who shocked him with a stun gun and beat him.


Gladys Sicknick, mother of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

Sandra Garza, the partner of Mr Sicknick, said of the Republican senators: “You know they are here today and with their families and comfortable because of the actions of law enforcement that day.

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“So I don’t understand why they would resist getting to the bottom of what happened that day and fully understanding how to prevent it. Just boggles my mind.”

Video of the rioting shows two men spraying Mr Sicknick and another officer with a chemical, but the Washington medical examiner said he suffered a stroke and died from natural causes.

Ms Garza attended the meetings with Mr Sicknick’s mother, Gladys Sicknick. In a statement on Wednesday, she suggested the opponents of the commission “visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward”.

Dozens of other police officers were injured as the rioters pushed past them, breaking through windows and doors and hunting for legislators.

The protesters constructed a mock gallows in front of the Capitol and called for the hanging of vice president Mike Pence, who was overseeing the certification of the presidential vote.

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