"What are you afraid of? The truth?" Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked Republicans in a speech on Friday

By Sean Neumann
May 28, 2021 03:57 PM
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pro Trump protesters breach Capitol building
Rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a bipartisan investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol, drawing fierce criticism from Democrats.

"What are you afraid of? The truth?" Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked Republicans in a speech on the floor Friday.

"Are you afraid Donald Trump's big lie will be dispelled?" he asked.

Schumer, 70, said the investigation would have been run by a "down-the-middle commission."

The commission, which had already passed the House of Representatives, failed to win the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster. It drew only 54 votes, including six Republicans, against 35 "nos" — all from other Republicans.

Three senators not present reportedly also would have voted yes, leaving the measure three lawmakers shy. Eleven total senators missed the vote, some citing scheduling issues ahead of the holiday weekend.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, echoing the criticism of others in his party, had said in his own speech on Thursday that he didn't believe the commission report "would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing." 

McConnell also accused Democratic lawmakers of pushing the investigation as a way to politically smear the GOP, though Democrats said they took pains to make the proposed commission compromise with Republican requests.

capitol coup
Riots at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6
| Credit: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Congressional Democrats, who hold narrow majorities in the House and Senate, have said for months they wanted to launch an independent, 9/11-style investigation into what happened on Jan. 6.

They said it could provide intelligence for how the country can prevent another domestic attack.

The Capitol insurrection, in which five people died, saw an infuriated crowd forcibly break into the complex after Trump, 74, urged his supporters to march on where Congress had assembled to certify the November election results.

Days later, Trump was impeached for an unprecedented second time for "inciting" the riot. The former president was acquitted by the Senate, though seven Republicans voted to convict.

Despite the vote Friday, Schumer vowed that "the events of Jan. 6 will be investigated," signaling there may be another effort to launch a probe in the future.

"The investigations will happen with or without Republicans," Sen. Bill Cassidy, one of the six Republicans who voted in favor of the commission, said in a statement. "To ensure the investigations are fair, impartial, and focused on the facts, Republicans need to be involved."

However, most Republicans — with the strong encouragement of Trump, who has called it a "Democratic trap" — voted against the commission, which they said was partisan.

Capitol building coup
Rioters breach U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6
| Credit: Win McNamee/Getty

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, said Friday's vote was "the coward's way out" of facing what transpired.

Gladys Sicknick, whose police officer son Brian Sicknick died after the rioting, told Politico this week that the Republican effort to block the investigation was "a slap in the face."

"I suggest that all Congressmen and Senators who are against this Bill visit my son's grave in Arlington National Cemetery," she said. "And, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward."