Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Bringing Bipartisan Legislation For A January 6th Commission Up For A Vote And Urging Senate Republicans To Step Up And Join Democrats

May 20, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding his intention to bring bipartisan legislation to establish a commission to investigate the events of January 6th to the Senate floor for a vote. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

January 6th was only a few months ago. The memory is still fresh for all of us who experienced it firsthand. A violent mob stormed this citadel of democracy, assaulted our capitol police, and tried to halt the peaceful transfer of power. 140 officers were injured –  five people would eventually lose their lives in connection to the attack. I was within 20 feet of these hooligans.

It was one of the darkest moments in American democracy, the first time the Capitol was breached since the War of 1812, over 200 years ago.

And yet, not five months later, many on the Republican side are trying to whitewash what happened.

Here’s what one Senate Republican said about the attack, last night: “By and large, it was a peaceful protests…except for a few agitators,” he said.

“Even calling it an insurrection,” this Senator continued, was wrong.

If there was ever a justification for creating a bipartisan commission to study and report on the truth behind the attack of January 6th, the comments of that Senator provide it.

Republicans in both chambers are trying to re-write history. In fealty to, or in fear of, the former president, Donald Trump, Republicans in both chambers are trying to erase the memory of January 6th and perpetuate the Big Lie.

They’re now likening the mob on January 6th to a group of “normal tourists.” Anyone who’s seen the pictures of them breaking through the Capitol barriers knows that they’re not normal tourists. They’re calling the mob, not the police, the victims of the attack. We have dead and injured police officers, and they are calling the mob the victims!

Only a week ago, the House Republicans fired Congresswoman Cheney for the crime of merely repeating the truth about the election. It certainly wasn’t about policy. Congresswoman Cheney voted with President Trump far more often than the member who replaced her. She was fired because she stood up to the Big Lie.

It was a Thomas Moore moment here in 2021.

All of the shameful comments by Republicans reveal that a bipartisan commission is even more necessary than it once was. We always needed to look into it, but the fact that there is such denial, there is such lying, there is such obeisance to Donald Trump's big lie and to his fundamentally dishonest personality makes the need for the truth, for a commission, greater than it ever has been.

For the sake of our democracy, it is crucial to end the poison of the Big Lie, to establish an independent and trusted record of what transpired, and make sure an event like January 6th never—never—happens again.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed legislation establishing just such a commission with a strong bipartisan vote.

35 Republicans joined Democrats in approving the measure, defying their leadership who turned tail at the eleventh hour in an act of utter spinelessness.

Last night, and this morning, I began the Rule 14 process that would make this legislation available for consideration on the floor of the Senate. I just moved to place legislation for a commission on the calendar under rule 14. And it is my intention to bring the bipartisan legislation for January 6th Commission up for a vote.

My Senate Republican colleagues must now ask themselves: are they going to join us in pursuing the truth, or are they going to cover for Donald Trump and his Big Lie?

I understand the Republican leader has decided to oppose the bill. The Republican Leader, who called the January 6th attack a “disgrace”, who said he believed there was “no question” Donald Trump was “morally responsible” for the attacks, now finds this whole endeavor unnecessary.

Of course, that wasn’t always the case. In the aftermath of the Capitol Attack, the Republican leader Senator McConnell said we needed a “serious and thorough review" of the attacks.

But very quickly, the goal posts started to move. A few weeks after the attack, Republicans started complaining that Democratic proposals for establishing a commission were too partisan.

When Democrats accepted all the changes—all the changes—requested by House Republicans, the Senate Republican Leader said that his conference was undecided but “willing to listen.”

But now, once again, the goal posts have shifted. Now the Republican Leader believes we don’t need a bipartisan commission at all.

Let me be very clear: To my Republican colleagues, there is no good justification for opposing the commission.

The commission is not partisan. It will have a 50-50 split of Democrats and Republicans, with subpoena powers requiring cooperation from both sides. It was negotiated on a bipartisan basis by both the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee. It won the support of 35 Republicans on the House floor.

The commission is not duplicative. The scope of the investigations into January 6th by our Senate Committees are very focused. We need a dedicated, bipartisan commission to look at the whole picture. The fact that our committees can investigate didn’t stop Congress from establishing a 9/11 Commission. A January 6th Commission is necessary for the same reasons that the 9/11 Commission was necessary.

The real reason, it seems, Republican leaders are suddenly opposed to this bipartisan commission is they don’t want to talk about the Big Lie at all. They don’t even want to investigate how former President Trump instigated an attack on our democracy because he was angry about losing the 2020 election, and lied to the American people about the results.

Even now, five months to the day after he left office, the Republican Party is still so terrified of Donald Trump that they are apparently willing to abandon the truth and the safety of our democracy on into the future.

Maybe, despite the opposition of the Republican leader, the unfortunate and sad opposition of the Republican leader, enough of my Republican colleagues will step up and join with Democrats to establish the commission. They will get a chance to do so very soon. 

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