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Majority Of Senate Republicans Remain Opposed To Insurrection Probe

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Senate is expected to take up legislation today to establish a commission meant to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Senate Republicans, though, will likely block this. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died after a confrontation with the rioters on that day. His mother, Gladys Sicknick, spoke briefly to NPR's Claudia Grisales.

GLADYS SICKNICK: My son is dead and I want to know why.

MARTIN: She's now trying to meet with Republican lawmakers to convince them to make this commission happen. Claudia Grisales joins us now with details. Hi, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: So even with these calls from the mother of the fallen officer, Brian Sicknick, and others who are trying to establish this commission, a majority of Senate Republicans are still against this. Explain why.

GRISALES: They find themselves once again in a political bind after the presidency of Donald Trump, who is against the commission. So now GOP leaders and the majorities of their party in both chambers are opposed. They've said this despite this proposal being modeled after the 9/11 Commission, with their commissioners divvied up between the parties and bipartisan subpoena power. And Republicans want to take it a step further to allow their party to help select its staff, too. That aside, members have conceded that there are concerns that Democrats could use the commission's findings as a political weapon for the midterms next year. And as we know, the stakes are very high for the GOP to try to get back control in Congress.

MARTIN: There is some Republican support, though - right? - familiar names?

GRISALES: Yes. GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine wants to vote yes on this commission because she wants to offer an amendment to address the Republican staffing concerns. But it's not clear she has enough support yet. Democrats need 10 Republicans in the evenly divided Senate to proceed. We only know of Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, who have said they'll vote yes to move forward.

MARTIN: So this commission, though, Claudia, this isn't the only way that Congress can investigate the events of January 6, right? There are other inquiries happening.

GRISALES: Yes, those are still ongoing. This includes hundreds of criminal cases that are being prosecuted, as well as multiple congressional probes. For example, there's one joint bipartisan Senate effort that could produce their first report after the upcoming Memorial Day recess. And this is part of what Republicans who are not on board point to; they say that's plenty. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already signaled if the Senate can't move this commission forward - and again, we could see this happen today because Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says they'll move to this procedural vote on this commission after they wrap a massive bill focused on ramping up competition against China. So she says if that does not happen, she could move towards a select committee that would be run by Democrats. It would have potentially subpoena power and try to replicate the commission's efforts.

And we've seen this before. Republicans put together a select committee to look into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, but the issue with going that route is it would likely be very partisan and it won't have the brand of an independent outside commission. That all said, as we hear voices like Gladys Sicknick calling for a commission, it's possible some of these holdout Republicans could reconsider. She said this GOP rejection is a slap in the face for others who did their jobs on January 6 by rejecting this commission and those who are should visit her son's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and think about what a hurtful decision this could be.

MARTIN: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales, thank you.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.