Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks: The Senate Will Vote On The Independent January 6 Commission

May 26, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to create an independent commission to study the events of January 6th to establish a trusted record of events, and begin to restore faith in our democracy. Senator Schumer shared a report that Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is urging all Republican Senators to oppose legislation to establish an independent commission no matter the changes made. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Last night I filed cloture on the House-passed legislation to create an independent commission and report on the events of January 6th.

There is an obvious and urgent need to establish such a commission. What happened on January 6th was a travesty, the culmination of months of deliberate lies about our elections propagated by the former president, a dishonest man, and his allies. The Capitol was breached for the first time since the war of 1812. Capitol Police officers were brutalized, one was killed in connection to the attack.

I shouldn’t need to remind this chamber of the scene on January 6th. We were all there. At one point, I was within 20 feet of these white supremacist hooligans.

That day continues to haunt us.

Faith in our elections and our democracy has nosedived. In a variety of polls, listen to this, in a variety of polls, more than half of the Republican Party believes the election was rigged, and Joe Biden isn’t the real president.

That is a flashing red warning sign for our democracy. If the American people, if a large chunk of them, believe the Big Lie, if the majority of Americans believe that our elections are not on the level, we are on the road to ruin. This grand, beautiful, wonderful several-century-old democracy could teeter when people don't believe it's fair, when people don't believe that the elections are on the level. And in all the fighting in the past, all the internecine fighting, I can't remember a moment in history where people doubted the veracity of our elections. They may not have liked the outcome, but they believed they were on the level. If you stop believing that, and believe me, it will spread. One side will feel that way one day, and then the other side will feel that way the next day—and then nobody will believe in this democracy.

But right now, unfortunately, there is a lack of courage from the other side when it comes to defeating these lies. Down the hall, House Republicans have started to make ridiculous claims about January 6th: defending the mob, blaming antifa for the attack, pretending the entire event was just a peaceful protest. Congresswoman Cheney, a brave woman, was literally fired for saying that Joe Biden is president, for just saying the simple fact that Joe Biden is president.

We need an independent, trusted, bipartisan commission now more than ever. It is critically important to establish a trusted record of events, and begin to restore faith in our democracy.

And I think our Republican colleagues know it, or at least they used to. Because over the last few months, a funny thing has happened. Our Senate Republican colleagues have gone from mostly supporting the idea of an independent commission to mostly opposing one. And they can’t seem to get their story straight.

Over the weekend, one Senate Republican told a national news program that it was “too early” to establish a commission on January 6th, even though more than 5 months have gone by. Another Republican Senator worried that the Commission’s work would end up “dragging on indefinitely.”

Well, which is it? Too early, or too late? Of course, both concerns are silly. There is no justification for a waiting period. And the legislation itself includes a firm deadline for the commission to issue a report—no later than December 31 of this year.

One Senate Republican said that he wouldn’t vote for a January 6th Commission “until it was bipartisan.”

Of course, the legislation we’re talking about was negotiated by the Republican Ranking Member on the House Homeland Security Committee, the committee of jurisdiction. House Democrats accepted every change requested by the House Republican leadership. And the bill received 35 Republican votes in the House and likely a lot more if House leadership didn’t flip their position at the last minute.

Despite the pressure of Donald Trump to go along with his Big Lie, 35 House Republicans voted to go forward. They're brave, should be commended, and shows that this truly is a national, a bipartisan national need.

Another Republican Senator, in worried tones, said the January 6th Commission should be more like the 9/11 commission and be chaired by outside, independent investigators appointed by both parties.

Hello? I hate to break it to my Republican colleagues, but the legislation passed by the House is modeled after the 9/11 commission and, you guessed it, would be chaired by outside, independent personnel appointed by both parties. They say they want that in the bill, it's in the bill!

So what is really going on here? Why the various, shifting reasons why Republicans can’t support a simple, bipartisan, down the middle, 50-50 commission to report on a very serious event in our nation’s history?

Well, it seems the real reason has nothing to do with the structure of the commission, nothing to do with the details of the bill, it all has to do with politics. According to Politico this morning, the Republican Leader, Senator McConnell, told his members behind closed doors that “regardless of tweaks to the bill—approving the commission could hurt the party’s midterm election message.” Again, that’s a quote from a report in Politico.

Let me repeat that. According to this report, the Republican Leader of the Senate opposes any independent inquiry into the January 6th insurrection because he is worried the truth could hurt Republicans politically.

Look, I’m sorry if an independent commission to study an attack on our democracy isn’t a Republican ad-maker’s idea of a good time. This is too important, too important. We cannot let the Big Lie fester. We cannot let faith in our elections continue to erode. We must get at the truth, and restore Americans’ confidence in this beautiful, noble ongoing experiment in democracy.

The Senate will vote on the commission. I hope our Republican colleagues rise to the occasion.