“Be careful what you wish for,” goes the old saying. “You may get it.” Having blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the causes and consequences of the events of 1/6, Republicans may learn of some of the less pleasant consequences of getting their way. They should change their minds to avoid Democratic domination of investigations of 1/6.
Democratic members of Congress unanimously support the creation of such a commission. They say we must learn the truth about what really happened on 1/6 and why, and how a recurrence can be prevented. But only small minorities of Senate and House Republicans agree.
Most Republican senators and representatives argue that no such commission is needed. They claim that 1/6 is already being investigated, that a new commission will be a distraction from the real work of Congress, that creating a new commission is simply a partisan stunt to make Republicans look bad, etc., etc.
While House Republicans were unable to block House approval of a bill to create the commission, Senate Republicans have been able to prevent the Senate from considering such a bill. But their success could come back to haunt them.
Whether a bipartisan commission is created, investigations by the executive branch and various congressional committees will continue. But under the party system for organizing the government, all investigations will be dominated by the Democrats. After all, the heads of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are Democrats appointed by and answerable to the President, also a Democrat. And because the Democrats are in the majority of each chamber of Congress, they control all congressional committees as well. Each committee is headed by a Democratic senator or representative, who controls the committee staff. Moreover, Democrats have majorities on all congressional committees and subcommittees (other than the ethics committees which, by law, must have even numbers of Democrats and Republicans). Not controlling the White House and being relegated to minority status in Congress, Republican power to influence investigations is small. How can Republicans really want investigations in which their opportunity to participate is minimal? Yet that is what they’ll get in the absence of a truly bipartisan investigation.
But a bipartisan commission would greatly increase Republican power to guide the future course of investigations and prevent them from becoming mere exercises in partisan blame gaming. On the commission designed by the proposed law the Republicans are currently blocking, each party would have 5 members. While the chairmanship would go to a Democrat, the Republicans would get the vice chairmanship. The commission would be unable to act without the approval of both parties. The Republicans, therefore, would have what they currently lack: The power to veto and block whatever course of action the commission’s Democrats might want to take.
The events of 1/6 were tragic, especially given that 5 people were killed and the effective operation of the last step in electing the president was threatened. We need to find out who did what, where, when, why, and how, in order to punish the guilty, vindicate the innocent, and reduce the probability of a recurrence in the future. A bipartisan commission on which Democrats and Republicans share equal power and responsibility is the best way to seek the truth while minimizing each party’s ability to turn such an investigation to its own partisan advantage. Congressional Republicans currently opposing its creation should reverse their position and approve its creation.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.