Congress is Failing the Country Again

The Washington Post reports that the prospects for Congress establishing an independent commission to investigate and report on the January 6 attack on the Capitol are dimming. In a report that could have emerged from Alice in Wonderland, the Post says,

Congress’s pursuit of an independent investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection is facing long odds, as bipartisan resolve to hold the perpetrators and instigators accountable erodes, and Republicans face sustained pressure to disavow that it was supporters of former president Donald Trump who attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Once again, it seems, “political interests steadily overtake lawmakers’ appetite to push for accountability.”

Apparently, the Republicans in the House are demanding “equal representation” and “subpoena authority” despite their position as the minority party in Congress. If Republican resistance continues, which seems a virtual certainty, Speaker Pelosi reportedly could appoint a “select committee” or allow the multiple Congressional committees already bogged down in multiple proceedings. Republicans have undermined efforts to move ahead in the manner of the post-9/11 commission by demanding, in classic deflection style, that any such commission also investigate “left-wing extremism” which would include the “antifa” movement.

Republican resistance is reportedly still driven by the bizarre reality that “a majority [of rank-and-file Republicans] still believe the election was stolen from Trump.”

Norm Ornstein, an emeritus scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, was quoted in this confession:

“The political imperative at this point is to discredit any investigation, to deny any ties either to Donald Trump or to the members of Congress . . . who either helped to plan the [riot] or helped to incite it.”

The Republican strategy is apparently working, as

“public hearings held by the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees have devolved into shouting matches, as GOP members accuse Democrats of ignoring threats from the far left, while Democrats accuse them of equivocating to distract from the fact that far-right extremists have become an active force in the Republican Party.”

Much of the current focus appears to be on the question of how the government security apparatus was caught off-guard and failed to respond properly to the unfolding threat to the Capitol. Those are certainly important questions that must be addressed. But the most significant forward-looking issue is how the attack came to pass: who planned it, who inspired it, who coordinated it, who supported it? Those questions include not only the active participants in the insurrection but the critical question whether Members of Congress were involved in any actions related to planning and/or executing the attack. The purpose of the assault was to stop the Constitutional process of final accounting for the election outcome and certification of the Electoral College votes. There are numerous indications of involvement by Members of Congress in both houses.

It is time to move this process forward rapidly and to focus on the key questions. It is obvious now that the Republican Party is 100 percent dedicated to preventing any substantive accountability for the attack that led to multiple deaths, many severe injuries and exposed members of Congress to possible capture and even death. Recall the battle cry of the insurrectionists: “Hang Mike Pence!”

The stalling and deflection by the minority party are unconscionable. It’s time for the Biden administration to take charge and get his task done. There is no space for “bipartisanship” here – Republicans have no interest in that, so it’s fine to ignore them.

The administration should bring this to a head by having the Justice Department take charge of the investigation on a top priority basis. Every passing month with no answers to the complicity of the Republican Members of Congress makes it that much harder to get political accountability in the mid-term elections as memories fade and new bright objects overtake the public consciousness of the threat to democracy that the January 6 attack represented. If Members of Congress are culpable, action should be taken against them promptly. They do not enjoy the same privileges regarding indictment and arrest for criminal conduct as does the President.  Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606 (1972).

Attacks on the central elements of our democracy cannot be tolerated. The First Amendment allows Americans in most circumstances to advocate many types of change in the operation of government. It does not sanction violence to stop the execution of Constitutional duties related to national elections. That is what was attempted on January 6 and justice must be brought to bear on the perpetrators inside as well as outside the Congress.

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