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Republicans and Democrats strike deal on '9/11-style' commission to investigate Jan. 6 attack on US Capitol

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

House lawmakers have reached a deal to create a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 "domestic terror attack on the United States Capitol" and to recommend changes to protect the building in the future.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) announced the legislation to create the commission on Friday, which will be co-sponsored by committee ranking member Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.).

"There has been a growing consensus that the January 6th attack is of a complexity and national significance that what we need an independent commission to investigate. I am pleased that after many months of intensive discussion, Ranking Member Katko and I were able to reach a bipartisan agreement," Thompson said.

The commission will be responsible for studying the facts and circumstances that led to the events of Jan. 6, when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results and declaring President Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election. Rioters trespassed in the Capitol building and assaulted several Capitol Police officers during the day's events. One woman, Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, was shot by Capitol Police and later died of her injuries.

The makeup of the Jan. 6 commission will be similar to the 9/11 commission, featuring 10 commissioners, five Republicans and five Democrats, who will be appointed by House and Senate leaders in both parties.

"Commissioners must have significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity. Current government officers or employees are prohibited from appointment," Thompson's announcement said.

The commission will have the authority to issue subpoenas in the course of its investigation with joint agreement between the chair and vice chair or a vote by a majority of commission members.

A final report on the commissions findings and recommendations to prevent a future attack on the Capitol will be due by Dec. 31, 2021.

"Inaction – or just moving on – is simply not an option. The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the U.S. Capitol. After all, the Capitol is not just a historic landmark, it is where our constituents come to see their democracy in action," Thompson said. "As such, we owe it to the Capitol Police and all who enter our citadel of democracy to investigate the attack. The timing of this action is particularly poignant with this being National Police Week, when we honor those who gave their lives to protect us."

Katko praised the agreement in a statement.

"Unfortunately the Capitol remains a target for extremists of all ideologies, as we also witnessed during the April 2 attack that took a Capitol Police officer's life. That's why we must do everything we can to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again," Katko said. "An independent, bipartisan commission will remove politicization of the conversation and focus solely on the facts and circumstances surrounding the security breach at the Capitol as well as other instances of violence relevant to such a review."

However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) expressed concerns with the legislation shortly after it was announced, telling reporters that he hadn't approved the agreement and wasn't aware the announcement would be made Friday morning.

"That's very concerning to me," McCarthy said after a reporter informed him the commission's scope would be limited to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

""You've got to look at what the build-up before and what has gone on afterwards, otherwise the commission does not work," he added.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement it is "imperative that we seek the truth of what happened on January 6 with an independent, bipartisan 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack."

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