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House passes Katko's Jan. 6 commission: ‘This is about facts, not partisan politics’

On the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday, central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) defended the agreement he negotiated with Democrats to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The legislation passed the House with 35 Republicans joining the Democrats. 

The commission would investigate how and why the attack occurred, and make recommendations to prevent similar attacks and improve security at the Capitol complex. It would consist of 10 members, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and modeled after the 9/11 Commission. A final report would be issued by the end of the year.

“The American people and the Capitol Police deserve answers and action as soon as possible to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,” Katko said.

Katko said the commission would investigate what information was known before the attack, why Capitol Police were left unprepared and why it took so long for reinforcements to arrive.

“This is about facts, it’s not partisan politics,” he said. “We would’ve never got to this point if it was about partisan politics.”

But Republicans in the House did say the commission is political and would be used to smear former President Donald Trump and his supporters. One congressman suggested Katko was being played by Democrats. Katko addressed some of the criticism from his party, including that the scope of the commission is too narrow. He said the commission can investigate targeted violence and domestic terrorism related to the attack. He said it’s untrue that the commission is controlled by partisan staff. Staff is agreed to by the Democratic and Republican appointees. Katko also said the commission will not interfere with criminal investigations.

“Criminal investigations alone won’t get us what we need, like the 9/11 Commission concluded,” Katko said. “It won’t get us the recommendations, the insight, the expertise from the people on the commission, who can come in, look at the Capitol security matrix and say, this is what needs fixing. A prosecutor can’t tell you that, a commission can.”

Katko said the attack on Jan. 6 was a completely preventable failure of intelligence, information sharing, decision making and preparedness. He said 140 law enforcement officers were injured and three officers lost their lives in the wake of the attack.

“These people every single day are willing to lay down their lives for us. They deserve better and we’re going to deliver this.”

Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning), who represents parts of the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Western New York, voted in favor of the bill. Reps. Claudia Tenney and Elise Stefanik both voted against it. 

Statement from Rep. John Katko 

The security breach that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was completely unacceptable. It directly threatened the safety of our staffs, U.S. Capitol Police, and fellow Members of Congress. It was a major breakdown in information sharing and preparedness, much like the shortfalls that existed prior to 9/11, and can never happen again. An independent, bipartisan commission will protect against politicization and enable a review that focuses solely on the facts and circumstances surrounding the security breach at the Capitol as well as other instances of relevant violence.

I appreciate each lawmaker’s consideration of the bill and respect the diversity of thought. Again, I would like to thank Chairman Thompson for his good-faith collaboration and strong commitment to working together on this effort. The Homeland Security Committee remains a committee focused on securing the nation while ignoring the political noise, which is exactly how it should be. Securing our homeland is far too important for any other approach.

Statement from Rep. Tom Reed

We as Americans should be united to ensure what happened on January 6th never occurs again. Therefore, I support this inquiry to make sure history is clear - violence will never settle our differences in America, and democracy at our ballot box will and must persevere.

Statement from Rep. Claudia Tenney

I condemn the unlawful acts at the US Capitol on January 6. Those who threaten, destroy and steal property betray our fundamental Constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly.

Congress has the authority and the obligation to investigate the events of January 6 and should take steps to prevent lawlessness from occurring again. Congress and its committees of jurisdiction are fully equipped to handle this inquiry. They have subpoena power and subject-matter expertise. Most importantly, members of Congress must be accountable to the people, unlike a commission staffed with unelected, partisan appointees. 

To date, congressional committees have already held nine bipartisan hearings on the events of January 6. Most, if not all, should release reports or findings. These and future hearings must remain substantive, bipartisan, and transparent. Before rushing to create yet another new process, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats must explain to the American people why under their leadership, Congress cannot be counted on to fulfill its most basic oversight functions and responsibilities with accountability and integrity.

In addition to the existing inquiries, the Architect of the Capitol is launching its own review of security vulnerabilities at the Capitol, which will be fully nonpartisan. Congress should demand a full review and release of all documents and evidence of every type relevant to uncovering the truth. The American people have a right to know.

I fear that this committee is little more than a fishing expedition at the taxpayer's expense and will cherry-pick the evidence to conform to the Democrat's narrative. Targeting individual members based on political views is also a grave concern. The very last revelation an outcome-based inquiry will produce is the truth.

Wasting taxpayer money on duplicative investigations that appear to have a political motive is not serving the public or upholding our Constitutional principles which require adherence to the rule of law and the quest for truth.

Statement from Rep. Elise Stefanik

I oppose Speaker Pelosi’s commission. It fails to address the broad scope of political violence including the shooting of Republicans at a Congressional baseball practice, the destruction and violence by Black Lives Matter and Antifa, the events of January 6th and the tragic murder of Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans on Good Friday. Any commission must address the growing threat of political violence broadly, rather than solely focusing on one event to be used as a political tool for Speaker Pelosi and Far-Left Democrats. In addition, Speaker Pelosi’s commission could potentially interfere with the ongoing investigations into January 6th by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and undermine their ability to prosecute those who committed crimes to the fullest extent of the law.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.