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House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy opposes Rep. John Katko's Jan. 6 commission deal

Congress Divided Republicans

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

U.S. Rep. John Katko secured some significant concessions from Democrats, but it wasn't enough to get House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to support the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

McCarthy said Tuesday that he will oppose the legislation that Katko, R-Camillus, and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson co-authored to establish the commission. He criticized Democrats, specifically House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for their negotiating tactics and questioned the limited scope of the commission. 

He also suggested that the commission's work would overlap with existing investigations into the Jan. 6 attack.

"Given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the speaker's shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation," McCarthy said. 

Katko, who is the ranking Republican member on the House Homeland Security Committee, released a statement responding to McCarthy's comments. 

"I am confident Chairman Thompson and I negotiated a solid, fair agreement that is a dramatic improvement over previous proposals that sought to politicize a security review of the Capitol," he said.

"I recognize there are differing views on this issue, which is an inherent part of the legislative process and not something I take personally. However, as the Republican leader of the Homeland Security Committee, I feel a deep obligation to get the answers U.S. Capitol Police and Americans deserve and ensure an attack on the heart of our democracy never happens again." 

McCarthy's position could be an indication that more Republicans will oppose the bill, and it raises doubts about the legislation's prospects in the Senate. 

Katko and Thompson announced an agreement on Friday to establish a commission that would investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which occurred while Congress certified the 2020 presidential election results. The deal brokered by Katko contains some concessions from Democrats, including the composition of the committee. 

The early Democratic proposals for the commission called for an 11-member panel, with Democrats appointing seven members. Republicans believed that each party should appoint an equal number of commissioners, which is what Katko secured in the bill. The legislation would create a 10-member panel, with Democratic and GOP leaders each appointing five members. Democrats will appoint the chair of the commission and Republicans will name the vice-chair. 

The commission would have subpoena power as it conducts its inquiry. Under the Democrats' initial proposal, only the Democratic chair would need to approve subpoenas. But Katko won another concession in negotiations that allows for the chair and the GOP-appointed vice-chair to sign off on the commission's subpoenas. 

The scope of the commission's investigation would focus on "the facts and circumstances of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as well as the influencing factors that may have provoked the attack on our democracy." It would issue a final report and recommendations by the end of the year. 

But McCarthy indicated Friday that he didn't approve the deal Katko negotiated and panned some elements of the agreement, including its limited scope. He thought the panel should focus on other acts of political violence, including the mass shooting at a congressional Republican baseball practice in 2017. 

On Tuesday, he made it official: He won't support the bill when the House votes on it this week. 

The Democratic-led House is expected to pass the measure. In the Senate, at least 10 Republican senators must support it to end debate and allow for a final vote. Some GOP senators have criticized the legislation, while others — including U.S. Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate — think that a bill to create a Jan. 6 commission could receive support. 

If Congress approves the bill introduced by Katko and Thompson, President Joe Biden will sign it into law. The White House released a statement on Tuesday announcing the Biden administration's support for the legislation and the bipartisan commission. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at

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