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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz joined with their Republican colleagues Friday to block a commission tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in a 54-35 vote.
While the bill establishing the commission passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. House last week, Senate Republicans effectively killed the proposal by way of the filibuster. In the Senate, 60 members are needed to move a bill to an up-or-down vote, breaking the filibuster, and Republicans successfully stopped that from happening.
Cornyn advocated in February for the same kind of commission he voted against Friday.
“The 1/6 attack on the Capitol was horrific & appalling,” he tweeted earlier this year. “Those who planned & participated in the violence that day should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I agree w/Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi – a 911-type investigation is called for to help prevent this from happening again.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — a close ally of Cornyn’s — reportedly pushed Republican members hard against moving the bill forward.
Cruz released a statement after the commission was defeated, saying that he opposed it because it was "politically motivated."
"The January 6 terrorist attack on the Capitol was a dark moment in our nation's history, and I fully support the ongoing law enforcement investigations into anyone involved. Everyone who attacked the Capitol must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and brought to justice," Cruz said. "I also support the Senate committees of jurisdiction who are exercising their proper oversight roles to provide an in-depth and complete account of the attack. With multiple investigations already underway, I do not support the politically motivated January 6 Commission led by Sen. [Chuck] Schumer and Speaker Pelosi."
The bill was modeled on the 9/11 Commission, which led to sweeping government reforms in order to prevent terrorist attacks.
The commission was to be equally divided with five Republicans and five Democrats. To qualify, each commissioner could not be currently serving in government and was to have a background in two of the following areas: government service, law enforcement, civil rights and civil liberties, the armed forces, intelligence, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, technology or the law.
While there are concurrent criminal investigations, the point of a commission was to evaluate the government’s failures that led to the event and examine how to better respond in the future.
Initially, House Democrats pushed for the membership of the commission to have more Democrats than Republicans.
But House Republican members were deeply involved in negotiating the bill with the blessing of party leaders, and Democrats made a number of concessions, leading to the proposal with an even bipartisan split.
Last week, though, House leaders turned against the bill. The House version of the bill passed with some bipartisan support. While most House Republicans voted against the proposal, 35 Republicans crossed party lines to back the bill, including two Texans, U.S. Reps. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio and Van Taylor of Plano.
Only six Senate Republicans broke ranks with former President Donald Trump and the majority of Republicans on opposing the creation of a commission. Moderate Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, also indicated his support for the commission leading up to the vote.
"Republicans in both chambers are trying to rewrite history and claim that Jan. 6 was a peaceful protest that got a little out of hand. And now this," Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, said on the Senate floor after Republicans blocked the commission. "We all know what's going on here. ... Republicans chose to defend the big lie because they believe anything that upsets Donald Trump might hurt them politically."
Bryan Mena contributed to this report.
Correction, May 28, 2021: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story cited the wrong date for the U.S. Senate's vote on the commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection. The vote occurred Friday, not Thursday.