AP Fact Check: Senate GOP misrepresents Jan. 6 riot panel

Hope Yen
Associated Press

Washington — With a showdown vote looming, Senate Republicans are misrepresenting the timeline of a proposed independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.

The House easily approved the bill last week with 35 Republicans signing on. But the measure faces an uncertain fate in the evenly divided Senate. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is opposed and former President Donald Trump is demanding the effort be quashed.

On Sunday, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, suggested that a roadblock to gaining GOP support is the commission’s timing, echoing concerns from Republican leaders last week that the panel’s final report could extend into the 2022 midterm election year.

That’s not the case.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

COLLINS, citing issues that could lead her to oppose the panel: “I see no reason why the report cannot be completed by the end of this year. The commissioners have to be appointed within 10 days. There’s plenty of time to complete the work. And I’m optimistic that we can get past these issues based on recent conversations I’ve had with” Democrats. — interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas, suggesting that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will drag the commission’s work well into the middle of 2022: “Well, part of the concern is that’s the plan. That’s Pelosi’s plan ... That would be the Democrats’ dream.” — interview with CNN on May 19.

THE FACTS: Those claims of a delayed report are untrue. The bill calls for the report to be complete by the end of this year.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas,

According to the legislation, the “final report” from the bipartisan commission, whose members would be evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, must be submitted to the president and Congress “not later than December 31, 2021.”

There is a subsequent 60-day period for the commission to finish administrative tasks, such as to distribute the report and provide testimony to congressional committees, which would come in the early part of 2022. But the panel's investigation, including all findings, conclusions and recommendations, would need to be fully complete this year.

So there has not been a roadblock to Senate Republican support for the panel based on the report’s timing as Collins and others describe it.

Collins said she wants an independent commission and is talking with House leaders about her issues with the bill, including how staffing is handled. She wants assurances that the panel’s staff, along with commission members, will be bipartisan. The legislation calls for the chairperson, who would be appointed by Democrats, to hire staff “in consultation with the vice chairperson," who would be chosen by Republicans. Collins said Sunday that staff should be either jointly appointed by both parties or staffed in equal numbers by both sides.

If approved, the bipartisan commission is expected to look at Trump’s role in stoking the Jan. 6 riot, including his persistent false claims in the months beforehand that the November election was “stolen.”