- Democrats quickly began pounding on and fundraising off GOP senators who blocked the commission.
- They say the vote gives them an argument to use against Republicans in the midterm elections.
- Republicans say they were wary of allowing a “partisan commission” to move forward.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Democrats hoping to hold their House and Senate majorities have an unspoken message to Republicans who voted to block the creation of a January 6 commission: Thank you.
Party leaders almost immediately began fundraising and pounding on Republicans who opposed a procedural Senate vote Friday on legislation to create the commission to investigate the pro-Trump insurrection at the US Capitol.
Democrats say it gives them an argument to use in the midterm elections when a sitting president’s party historically loses congressional seats. It also further solidifies voters’ impression of Republicans as the party of scandal-plagued, twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, they say.
“I do expect to see ads,” said Josh Schwerin, a Democratic strategist who previously worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The images from the insurrection are incredibly powerful, and burned into the minds of Americans. And that’s not going away anytime soon.”
By blocking a thorough investigation of the deadly January 6 attack on Congress, Republicans are also giving voters lots to ponder over the holiday weekend, Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat of Georgia who is up for reelection in 2022, told reporters at the Capitol.
“All of us will go back to our home districts, and we will celebrate great patriots who paid the ultimate price to defend our democracy on bloody battlefields. And we have politicians who are not even willing to stand up on the Senate floor for what’s obviously right,” Warnock said.
An hour after the vote, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who chairs the Democratic Caucus, pushed out a fundraising email, saying Republicans are “afraid of stating on the record whether they stand for the truth or stand with violent insurrectionists.”
Rep. Josh Harder, a California Democrat, also sent a solicitation.
“Every single Republican Senator who just voted against the January 6th commission was in Washington when a violent mob of insurrectionists stormed our nation’s Capitol,” his campaign committee wrote. “Please chip in $25 to help keep leaders like Josh in office.”
Campaign staff tasked with defending the 14 Democratic senators up for re-election in the midterms wasted no time hanging the failed vote around the necks of Trump’s loyal cheerleaders.
“By voting against a bipartisan, impartial examination of the deadly insurrection on January 6th, Sens. Johnson, Rubio, and Senate Republicans sent a clear message to voters: they aren’t strong enough to stand up to Trump and do what’s right for our country, and their only goal in the Senate is looking out for their own self-serving political interests,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Jazmin Vargas told Insider.
GOP accuses Democrats of ‘political exercise’
Republicans say it would have been worse for them politically if they allowed the commission to move forward.
Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, said he doesn’t believe voting against the commission will hurt GOP candidates.
“I think what would hurt us is a very partisan commission that would have just continued to drag this thing out,” he said. “That’s what the Democrats want to do, I mean it’s pretty obvious … I don’t see what other value this commission would add.”
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the legislation was a “purely political exercise” by Democrats.
“They would to continue to litigate the former president into the future,” said McConnell, who voted to block the bill. “We think the American people going forward, and in the fall of ’22, ought to focus on what this administration is doing to the country and what the clear choice is that we have made to oppose most of these initiatives.”
Five people died in the attack on the US Capitol, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. About 500 people have been arrested and charged with crimes, according to an Insider rolling tally.
The proposed 10-member, bipartisan commission passed the House earlier this month by a vote of 252-175, with 35 Republicans voting in favor. The group would have had subpoena power and would have produced a report on the causes of the attack and how to prevent another one in the future.
President Joe Biden on Thursday said, “I can’t imagine anyone voting against establishing a commission on the greatest assault since the Civil War on the Capitol.”
The legislation needed 60 votes to advance in the Senate. It failed Friday with a 54-35 vote.
Republicans who voted in favor of advancing the bill were: Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Nine of the 11 senators who did not vote were Republicans, including Sen. Roy Blunt, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and Senate Rules Committee.
Speaking at Biden’s inauguration on the Capitol’s steps, Blunt declared that “the assault on our Capitol at this very place two weeks ago reminds us that a government designed to balance and check itself is both fragile — and resilient.”
Asked if she was disappointed by the vote, Collins said “yes,” according to a congressional press pool report.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer scolded the other party on the Senate floor following the procedural showdown. “This vote has made it official: Donald Trump’s Big Lie has now fully enveloped the Republican Party.”
Republicans need a big tent to compete in the midterms, said Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson.
“But they seem to be doubling down on a pointy hood. They’re choosing to double down on the most extreme elements that have taken control of their party instead of building a coalition to compete with independent voters and in the suburbs,” said Ferguson, a former deputy executive director at the DCCC.
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told Insider the vote “likely expedites filibuster reform, which means Democrats will have even more popular accomplishments that tangibly impact people’s lives by the 2022 election.”
Democratic pollster Nick Gourevitch told Insider that Republican lawmakers are on the “wrong side of public opinion.”
“Americans overwhelmingly support a commission and are opposed to what happened,” he said.
Republicans not being united on supporting a January 6 commission can help Democrats in the upcoming midterm election because it’s “creating division within the (Republican) party which is going to lead to primary fights,” he said.
“If to be a Republican, you have to be for what happened on January 6 then that means that only extreme Republicans are going to be at the ballot box, which makes them less electable,” Gourevitch said. “This pushes the Republican Party towards an extremism that I think is not appealing to the middle of the electorate.”