North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer voted with most of their Republican colleagues on Friday, blocking a vote to form a bipartisan commission that would investigate the events of Jan. 6.
The Senate vote, at 54-35, drew most Democrats’ votes as well as six Republicans’ support. But because the vote did not cross the 60-vote threshold necessary to break a filibuster, the Senate couldn’t take up consideration of the investigating commission, leaving the plan effectively defeated.
Any investigation into the Capitol riot is now likely to fall to standing congressional committees or a select committee created by Democrats. Neither are expected to bring the same degree of efficiency or authority to the investigation as the broader commission plan, which had been modeled on those like the 9/11 commission that had investigated the 2001 terror attacks.
Cramer’s office declined to comment prior to the vote, and referred the Grand Forks Herald to an interview from last week in which Cramer argued that the events of Jan. 6 have already been well-scrutinized by standing committees.
“I think it’s the best place for most investigations,” Cramer said, pointing out the hundreds of ongoing law-enforcement investigations, too. “It’s why we have committees that have jurisdiction over specific areas. It happened in our building, if you will, the United States Capitol. We, as members, were all witness to the event itself.”
Hoeven’s office issued a statement shortly after the vote and after the publication of this story, echoing some of the concerns he’d expressed earlier.
“The Homeland Security and Rules Committees, which have jurisdiction in the Senate and are responsible for oversight, are already conducting bipartisan reviews of January 6, and will be issuing reports,” Hoeven said in the statement. “At the same time, law enforcement officials continue to conduct their investigations into January 6.”
The debate over the commission is also tightly bound to Donald Trump and his hold over the Republican Party, which law enforcement in particular is unlikely to explore. Any investigation into Jan. 6 is expected to grapple with the former president’s remarks to the mob — and his false claims of an election victory — in the moments before the crowd stormed the Capitol. The result of a high-profile investigation could be a political headache for the GOP as midterms arrive in 2022.
The vote also brings new attention to calls to end the filibuster, which many progressives see as an outdated mechanism stifling Senate efficiency. The Jan. 6 commission, for example, had clear majority support, and would have passed easily without a filibuster blocking its passage. But defenders have pointed to the filibuster as an important guarantee for consensus.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., voted to support the filibuster. His South Dakota Republican colleague, Sen. Mike Rounds, did not cast a vote, along with 11 other mostly Republican senators, according to Senate records.
Minnesota Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats, voted in support of the commission.