The US House of Representatives passed a Democratic bill on Wednesday creating a 13-member committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol, with only two Republicans voting in favour and the rest of the party dismissing the inquiry as an exercise in partisan politics.
“That day, January 6, was one of the darkest days in American history,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote. The mob sought “to block the certification of an election and the peaceful transfer of power that is the cornerstone of our democracy".
The vote was 222-190 to create the House select committee, which doesn’t require assent of the Senate or the signature of the president to begin its investigation.
In May, 35 House Republicans voted in favour of an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the causes of the insurrection by a mob of former president Donald Trump’s supporters as Congress was certifying the result of the 2020 election. But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell led a successful effort to block the commission legislation, prompting Ms Pelosi to push ahead with a House inquiry.
Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois were the two Republicans who backed the select committee.
“It is right to be wary of an overtly partisan inquiry,” Ms Cheney said in a statement before the vote. “But Congress is obligated to conduct a full investigation of the most serious attack on our Capitol since 1814. Our nation, and the families of the brave law enforcement officers who were injured defending us or died following the attack, deserve answers. I believe this select committee is our only remaining option.”
Mr Kinzinger said the nation needs “a full accounting” of what happened on January 6. “It is our duty to conduct a thorough investigation of this most egregious attack on the Capitol.”
The bill provides no deadline for the committee to complete its work, which could extend into 2022, an election year in which control of the House and Senate will be decided.
Ms Pelosi will be able to pick the panel’s chairman, who would have the power to issue subpoenas, requiring only consultation with the panel’s top Republican.
She also would appoint all the other members of the panel, though five would be chosen “after consultation with the minority leader”. Her office has said she is considering choosing a Republican.
“[The committee] will investigate and report upon the facts and causes of the attack. It will report on conclusions and recommendations for preventing any future assault. And it will find the truth,” Ms Pelosi said in a letter.
It will also scrutinise the security preparations for the day and the response of US Capitol Police as well as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Another focus is to be what the bill calls “influencing factors that fomented such an attack on American representative democracy while engaged in a constitutional process”, a reference to the disruption of certifying Electoral College votes.