Time for the cover-up: There's only one reason why Republicans oppose a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission

Republicans have endless excuses to stall on the January 6 commission — except for the real reason

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published May 18, 2021 12:51PM (EDT)

Capitol rioters | Kevin McCarthy (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Capitol rioters | Kevin McCarthy (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Republicans sure do have a lot of excuses for why the January 6 commission needs to be stalled! And, of course, Politico is here to present those excuses as if they were a series of sincere concerns, as opposed to transparent bad faith from people clearly engaged in a cover-up. 

"Republicans not sold on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission," Politico's headline reads. In prose that doesn't have a hint of irony, reporters Burgess Everett, Marianne Levine, and Melanie Zanona write that, "Several Senate Republicans on Monday evening expressed worries" about the commission, and that these "worries" are leading them to look to "filibuster power" to "demand changes or bottle up the legislation altogether."

Cue laugh track.

Republicans are not worried, nor do they have concerns, nor do they wish to make modifications. What they want is to stop this commission from happening and the reason is singular and straightforward: They don't want to enshrine into history a narrative that paints Donald Trump and the insurrections in a negative light. As there is no way to speak about the facts of January 6 without making Trump or his anti-democratic cause look bad, Republicans would rather just avoid the discussion altogether. 

But if you ask Republicans, they will never admit their real reasons, preferring instead to engage in a bunch of squirrelly excuses that don't make any sense, logically, or in some cases, grammatically.

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Take for instance Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who complained that Democrats have to "broaden the inquiry in order to get 60 votes" because "there's more things wrong in this country than just [what] happened on January 6th," as if a single commission needs to solve all the nation's problems or it's not worth conducting. Then there is Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri who rolled out the confusing gambit that he fears the commission "will slow us down from some of the things we need to do with the Capitol Police and police board," trying to spin fact-finding and information-gathering as somehow too time-consuming to be bothered with. And who knows what Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is trying to say with this: "I mean, I'd be surprised if anything they find out about January 6th fully developed on that day. So I would not tie their hands."

Of course, some Senate Republicans —Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, anyone? — are making a big show out of how they might support a commission and how they supposedly want the truth about the insurrection to come out. But that's an easy stance to take when they can hide behind a filibuster that prevents them from taking a hard vote on a bill creating the commission. Republicans in the Senate are just offering words to fill the air so that they can sound like they are saying something while assiduously avoiding saying anything at all. 

For House Republicans, who don't have the filibuster to prevent them from having to take a vote, pretending to be open-minded isn't an option. That's why the top Republican in the House is barely putting any effort into his bad faith excuses:

As I argued in Tuesday's Standing Room Only newsletter, Republicans are caught in a conundrum. On one hand, they quite clearly support Trump and, more importantly, the general anti-democratic goals of the insurrectionists. On the other hand, they don't like admitting as much to reporters and prefer instead to pretend that they find the politics of fascist insurrection distasteful.

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It's unclear why Republicans care what reporters think when they're on apparently an unstoppable path to permanent minority rule. After all, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona have made sure Democrats aren't doing anything to stop the GOP war on democracy. But, of course, it really isn't much of a cover-up if you admit you're engaged in a cover-up. And a cover-up is exactly what Republicans are engaged in, as they fight to make sure there's never any commission that looks into the insurrection that Trump incited on January 6. Instead, Republicans making incoherent excuses to Politico reporters, and Politico reporters writing down those incoherent excuses as if they were words that make sense. 

No doubt then that the quickly calcifying Beltway wisdom, as evidenced by this credulous Politico article, is that it's some kind of #resistance hysterics to believe that the majority of congressional Republicans support Trump in his anti-democratic and insurrectionist goals. After all, many of them were quite clearly rattled by being attacked by a violent mob that was threatening to murder members of Congress, as well as then-Vice President Mike Pence. And, of course, few of them will say anything laudatory about the insurrection to reporters, instead pulling faces and acting as if they deplore such violence. 

But when we look away from words to actions, the pro-insurrection pattern of the GOP becomes clear.

Even while the blood and broken glass from the Capitol riot was still on the floor, 147 congressional Republicans voted to back Trump's demands that the 2020 election results be thrown out. A few days later, the insurrectionist cause gained even more power over the GOP caucus, as all but 10 Republicans voted 'no' on impeaching Trump for his obvious incitement of the riot. A month later, 86% of Senate Republicans sided with the insurrectionists by voting to acquit Trump. The pro-insurrectionists have only solidified their support in the GOP caucus since then, which is why Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was ousted from her leadership position by the majority of House Republicans, to punish her for continuing to insist that Trump's insurrection was a bad thing. In the months since the insurrection, multiple Republican leaders — including McCarthy — have made the pilgrimage to Mar-A-Lago to kiss the ring of the man who attempted to overthrow an election. 

And that's just the GOP reaction to the riot itself. When it comes to the bigger picture — namely, Trump's lies about Joe Biden "stealing" the election and his two-and-a-half-month effort to pressure courts and election officials to steal the election for him — Republicans are even more enthusiastic, purging officials who stood in Trump's way, rewriting laws to make the next coup easier to pull off, and openly campaigning off of Trump's Big Lie for the 2022 election.

The myth of the reasonable, well-meaning Republican still has a powerful hold on the Beltway media. Because of this, Republicans continue to get away with pretending they're outraged by the January 6 riot, while actually shielding the instigator from any accountability and doing their damnedest to fill the goals of the insurrectionists. But there really should be no mystery about why Republicans keep findiing excuses to cover for Trump and the insurrectionists: It's because they're complicit. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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