DENVER – Both of Colorado’s U.S. senators voted Friday to move toward a vote to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the events surrounding the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, though Republicans blocked the commission from being established.
The motion to proceed to debate – the step before a vote on the measure itself – needed 60 votes to break the filibuster and pass in the Senate. But it failed 54-35, with 11 senators not voting, including Democrats Krysten Sinema (Arizona) and Patty Murray (Washington).
Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper – both Democrats – voted in favor of the motion to proceed and have both said they supported the creation of the bipartisan commission after the House passed the measure with bipartisan support.
Republicans voting in favor of the motion were Sens. Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans “chose to defend the ‘Big Lie’ because they believe anything that might upset Donald Trump could hurt them politically” following the vote.
Had the Senate passed the bill following the motion to proceed, a bipartisan commission would have been created to investigate the insurrection in which five people died and more than 130 police officers were injured.
The House passed the measure on May 19 in a 252-175 vote, with bipartisan support from 35 Republicans despite opposition from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Colorado members of the House voted on party lines – with all four Democrats in favor of the commission and all three Republicans opposed.
The bill would have evenly split members of the commission between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, would have only been able to issue subpoenas if the majority of members approved, or if the Democratic chair and Republican vice-chair reached a consensus.
It would have had to develop and issue a report to Congress and President Joe Biden by the end of this year.
The mother of Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed during the insurrection when he had a stroke and died, sent a letter to Republicans earlier this week urging them to vote in favor of the creation of the commission and met with them Thursday to further press them. Other family members did so as well.
Some Republicans even chastised their fellow party members Thursday ahead of Friday’s vote as the majority of the GOP signaled they would not support the commission’s creation.
McConnell had been pushing his fellow Senate Republicans to block the commission, but Murkowski said that McConnell and other senators opposed were “making a decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us on Jan. 6,” as HuffPost and Politico reported.
“Is that really what this is about, one election cycle after another?” the Alaska senator reportedly said. “…Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear?”
Bennet and Hickenlooper had both voiced support for the commission in recent weeks. Bennet said in an interview last week he believed the bill “should” pass with bipartisan support in the Senate.
“It’s vital for us to do this. I mean, there are so many seeds that were planted – some intentionally and maybe some unintentionally – that led to the insurrection on Jan. 6,” he said. “…I mean, a violent mob overcame the Capitol Police, killed members of Capitol Police, threatened the Capitol, invaded the Capitol. And I want us to understand the dimensions of that. Including, by the way, the role that social media played, platforms played, in creating this situation where so many of our fellow Americans came to believe conspiracy theories that just aren’t true.”
He warned in a floor speech on Thursday that “the democracy is still at risk” and called for Republicans to “search their conscience.”
“I think at a moment like this it is important for us not to stand for a party or for a president, but for the truth and for common sense and for our exercise in self-government,” Bennet said.
Hickenlooper said the commission was needed so “future generations can see what happened and know what happened,” CPR News reported.
Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., who was in the House gallery when insurrectionists invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6 and helped his fellow members and who has pressed for investigations of that day, called the Senate’s failure to move forward with the commission “a dereliction of duty.”
“Let’s be clear hear: On 1/6, there was a violent assault on the Capitol & insurrection against our Democracy. We face a growing & violent domestic extremist movement,” he tweeted. “The Senate’s failure today to support a bipartisan commission is nothing less than a dereliction of duty.”
Bennet tweeted: "It is shameful many of my Republican colleagues blocked this effort."
He also told NBC’s Meet the Press on Friday after the vote – with Hickenlooper in the seat behind him as they headed to the airport – that he believes the Senate, no matter what kind of reform it looks at, “should not perpetuate McConnell’s bastardization of the Senate filibuster.”
“The country can’t endure another period of obstruction like the one Mitch McConnell wrought when Barack Obama was President of the United States. There is too much for us to do with respect to building an economy that works for everybody … to make sure this democracy can compete with the Chinese government. The list goes on and on and on of the need for us to get our act together.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who has said he is opposed to reforming the filibuster or doing away with it, called Republican’s filibuster of the commission “the betrayal of the oath we each take.”
“Choosing to put politics and political elections above the health of our Democracy is unconscionable. And the betrayal of the oath we each take is something they will have to live with,” he said in the statement. “…[Y]ou deserve better and I am sorry that my Republican colleagues and friends let political fear prevent them from doing what they know in their hearts to be right.”
He and Sinema, who missed the vote, have been the two Democrats most vocally opposed to filibuster reform.