What Are Our Options?

At some point today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will call a vote to end debate on the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6. It will — barring some massive change — fail, doomed by the unwillingness of 10 (or more) Senate Republicans to vote for it.  Mitch McConnell has given Republicans their marching orders:  vote against it, or else.  Mitch and every other Republican are clearly eager to make the events of January 6th disappear.  I believe that if they could, they would remove January 6th from the calendar altogether.

The primary reason Republicans are so damned determined to erase January 6th from our memories is the 2022 mid-term election.  If, when the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, Margie Greene and others come up for re-election, January 6th is still clearly in our minds, and if by then some of this crew have been shown to have played a role in the events of the day, their chances for returning to Congress in 2023 are slim-to-none.  Which is as it should be, but … Republicans don’t play by the rulebook, they play for power and are perfectly willing to break every rule in the book, even as it hurts the very people they claim to represent.

So, the idea of a commission to investigate is going to be dead on arrival by the close of today.  What next?  We simply cannot let it drop, cannot ever forget this any more than we can forget 9/11, for it was a threat to our country, our lives.  Washington Post journalist Greg Sargent recently interviewed political scientist Norman Ornstein about the options open to us.  I found it a thoughtful and thought-provoking dialog …

Republicans are likely to kill the Jan. 6 commission. But we have other options.

Opinion by

Greg Sargent


May 19, 2021 at 4:56 p.m. EDT

Now that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has come out against the commission to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection, it’s looking increasingly like Republicans will kill it. This is especially likely given that Donald Trump has commanded them to end this entire discussion “immediately.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is set to hold a vote Wednesday on the bipartisan deal reached in the lower chamber to create a commission. That compromise was very fair and made concessions to both Republicans and Democrats.

But with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed as well, it’s unlikely to get the stampede of support from House Republicans that might forestall a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

Now what?

Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein is well positioned to explain this moment and where we go from here. That’s because he was an early and very prescient observer of the GOP’s radicalization against democracy who also happens to be an expert on congressional procedure.

I spoke to Ornstein about what happens now. An edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.

Greg Sargent: What are the chances that 10 Republican senators vote for this commission?

Norman Ornstein: Once McConnell flatly opposed any commission, it created an uphill battle for getting 10 Republicans. If you got 50 Republicans in the House, then maybe it could happen. But it’s not likely.

Sargent: Let’s walk through the alternatives. One would be that Nancy Pelosi could set up a select committee tomorrow if she wanted to, right?

Ornstein: Pelosi could craft a plan for a special committee. We’ve had them many times in the House. You’d undoubtedly have the votes to do it.

Sargent: What would a select committee look like and what might be the problems with it?

Ornstein: Most select committees have an even number of members from both parties, because the whole idea is to take them away from being partisan. But there’s nothing that mandates that a select committee have equal Democrats and Republicans.

You could set it up with a slender majority of Democrats or with a larger majority. But the big challenge is the political one. You’d have to let the Speaker and the Minority Leader, or their representatives, choose the members.

Kevin McCarthy is going to do whatever he can, first, to block a committee, and second, to stack it with members designed to turn it into a farce.

Sargent: How can we have a bipartisan select committee investigate an attack that Trump incited against democracy, when one party was heavily complicit in inspiring that attack, doesn’t want to admit its own culpability for that, and is in the process of abandoning democracy?

Ornstein: It’s why I do not believe a select committee can possibly work. Republicans don’t want information to emerge about what happened on Jan. 6. They don’t want to focus on the role of the president — or their own party members.

Sargent: Could you theoretically construct a select committee to give the chair unilateral control over subpoenas?

Ornstein: Yes, you could give the chair unilateral subpoena power. But remember, congressional subpoena power is theoretically extraordinarily powerful. Practically it can be subverted fairly easily. We’ve seen instance after instance of people defying subpoenas, taking it to court, and stretching it out for years.

Sargent: A select committee would have to consist of current members, correct?

Ornstein: Yes.

Sargent: So what is our alternative?

Ornstein: There are two. One I would not like is to have the president create a group by executive order, a commission.

Sargent: You’re talking about something like the Kerner Commission created by LBJ to investigate the causes of urban rioting?

Ornstein: Yes. You could do a Kerner-type commission. And the president could pick some remarkably distinguished Republicans and Democrats to do that kind of inquiry.

For things like the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy, there was national consensus that this was a hugely significant thing that we need to get to the bottom of.

We don’t have a party on the Republican side willing to create that national consensus. [So] it’s better if the president is not directly linked to any of this.

The whole assault was based on the “big lie” that Joe Biden didn’t win the election. If Joe Biden creates the group looking into this, it’s going to provide fodder for Trump and his acolytes to turn it against him.

Sargent: There isn’t going to be a serious inquiry into what happened that’s bipartisan.

Ornstein: The only way to make this work otherwise is if we can find a way to have the attorney general pick a group that uses the power of the Justice Department — not like a special prosecutor that can itself bring actions against people, but that could make recommendations where action by prosecutors was warranted or not. Justice Department subpoena power is a completely different matter.

Sargent: What would be the legal authority or mechanism for creating something like this?

Ornstein: The Justice Department has the responsibility to look at potential criminal violations, especially those that involve sedition. So doing it in an innovative fashion makes sense.

Whether the attorney general can do this on his own, I’m not entirely sure. If you had to have some kind of executive order, I’d rather have it done in a fashion that empowers the attorney general to do this [with] a commitment from the attorney general that he’d be hands off once this group were created.

But it seems to me you could be innovative here. The attorney general under the regulations of the Justice Department has some ability to create groups like this.

Sargent: In essence, it would be an investigation to determine whether there was criminality, and then it would produce a report on what happened, no matter what it recommended in terms of criminal charges?

Ornstein: That’s the idea. You could have a public report.

Sargent: There isn’t going to be a bipartisan effort at accountability as long as one party is committed to covering up what happened.

Ornstein: That’s the tragic and infuriating bottom line here. It’s hard to imagine something like this that doesn’t have full buy in from everybody who has a drop of patriotic blood running through his or her veins.

That you have one party which has as a singular goal evading responsibility and covering up what happened is almost beyond description.

17 thoughts on “What Are Our Options?

  1. It’s infuriating how long this has taken for any semblance of a commission to take. It’s no surprising that the GOP wants to stay quiet. I swear there was some inside job stuff going on when the insurrectionists somehow knew to go to certain parts of the Capitol building. I’ve know I’ve said this before and I’m not the only one to say this, but if the January Sixers were mostly Black or Arab, they wouldn’t have made it to the Capitol Hill steps since they’d be gunned down without a second thought. Those same people who wanted violence on anti-racist protestors by the police ans white supremacist groups are the same ones who assaulted the police in the building while also wanting to assassinate politicians. Double standards, much? This really shows hypocrisy with how certain people are treated in this country and there needs to be action done to punish these traitors. To paraphrase Dave Chappelle, even the Confederate Army wasn’t able to bust in the Capitol building and have their flags around during the Civil War.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your points are all exactly right, my friend. This was the closest we have come, at least in my lifetime, to destroying the U.S. Constitution, and I want every single person who participated either in the planning stages or the execution of the attack to be identified and imprisoned! I have no doubt that there are a number of members of Congress who had some role in the planning, in encouraging the attackers, and the main reason the Republicans want any investigation squashed is they fear the effect it will have on them in the mid-term elections next year. You see, it’s not about the safety of the nation, not about We the People, but only about their ability to retain power.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Jill. It makes sense and it could’ve succeeded if they weren’t told to go home nicely by Drumpf. Everyone involved in the insurrection should be arrested and be faced with terrorism charges. That’s a good point about next year’s midterms being at stake. Even leaders in other countries called out America like how the president of Uganda of all people clapped back about people questioning their upcoming election and brought up January 6th as a way to say “You can’t talk!” when it comes to people believing the nonexistent Big Lie.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. damn it, there were no guns fired by trump supporters but 1 trump supporter was killed by police. stop this damn nonsense, it’s ridiculous and you and everyone else knows it.


    • What ‘nonsense’ exactly are you referring to, Scott? There was a vicious attack on our Congress, on the Capitol, and an attempt to overthrow our election. 5 people were killed that day, 140 police officers injured. Please don’t tell me what I know, for you seem not to understand that I KNOW if the insurgents had succeeded in their mission, we would be having a civil war of sorts right now. Also, I KNOW that certain members of Congress played a role in the planning and execution of this attack. Those are things I know, so don’t call it nonsense, or ridiculous, and DON’T presume to tell me how to think.


  3. Jill, the truth is not on the side of the Republicans on this and other key issues involving the former president. So called leaders of that party can try to tell us it did not happen that way, but they were placed in danger by the deceitful and seditious words and actions of the former president leading up to, during and even still about a planned and staged election fraud narrative.

    Not that I am prescient, as all I did was read, but I wrote in September the president-at-the-time would claim election fraud. Why? Because his campaign had already hired 1,000 attorneys to prepare for it. Then, watch Senator Bernie Sanders say in an interview in October with eerie accuracy, what the former president would do in November. And, the niece Mary said her uncle would burn it all down to avoid losing the election.

    While I knew the former president would do this as it is in his nature, it still bothers me how many Republican sycophants have forgotten their oath to the constitution. I fault the two Macs, McCarthy and McConnell, as they are in a position of authority. I fault people who threatened and denigrated Republicans who spoke the truth about the deceitful and seditious actions of this former president. I fault Republicans who let honorable diplomats, inspectors general and staff lose their jobs over raising concerns about the deceitful actions of this former president. They left this people hanging to save a very deceitful acting person.

    The truth must matter more than this party is allowing. I can disagree with Democrats and Republicans on policy, but this independent voter is concerned and embarrassed by the adrift Republican party. And, if they don’t like what I said, then ask them what they will have to defend next week, the week after and the month after that. What should scare the crap out of them, is they do not know all of the skeletons in this former president’s closet (and he is running out of fake news paint). Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • All you say is true. The former guy actually laid the groundwork during the 2016 election when he said that if he lost, it would be because of voter fraud. The stakes were even higher in 2020, so nothing he did surprised me, but like you, I am deeply disappointed in the members of Congress who took an oath of office and have now violated it many times over. I wonder sometimes if they have repeated the lies so much that they’ve actually started to believe them? Worse yet is that a large portion of the people/voters in this country believe the lies! Where are their brains?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Just another nail in the Repuglycan garbage can coffin. Rebublican voters might not want to take responsibility for electing seditious politicians, but the Democratic voters will not forget.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope this remains front-page news until November 8th 2022, the mid-term elections, when some of those who helped plan the attack will be seeking re-election.


    • I hope so, too! And I want this kept in the news daily from now until at least November 8th 2022, the date of the mid-term elections when those who helped plan and execute the attack on the Capitol will be seeking re-election! And any findings must be made public record! I’m tired of being kept in the dark about things that affect every person in this country … on the planet!

      Liked by 1 person

    • More and more there are things here that are reminiscent of the former (and present) communist countries. I like your expression about the mirror … so very true! You have a great day also, my friend! xx

      Liked by 2 people

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