WASHINGTON – Rep. Dean Phillips, who was in the House chamber when insurrectionists violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, expressed dismay on Wednesday as most of his Republican colleagues came out against a bipartisan inquiry into what happened.
"If anything should be unanimous in this institution, it should be this," Phillips, D-Minn., said in an interview before the vote Wednesday. Subsequent efforts by some Republicans to downplay what happened are "staggering to me," he said.
The House's 252-175 vote in favor of the legislation saw Democrats, including four from Minnesota, line up behind the proposed 10-person commission. While 35 House Republicans broke ranks in support, Minnesota's four Republican members voted against it.
Republican Rep. Tom Emmer said authorities continue to apprehend those responsible for breaching the nation's Capitol, and three congressional committees in both chambers continue to investigate. "Adding another commission does nothing to help the American people move forward or bridge the current political divide in our country," Emmer said in a statement.
The partisan division in Minnesota's House delegation underscored the still fierce tensions within Congress over the impact of former President Donald Trump's election falsehoods and the chaos caused by Capitol rioters trying to block certification of President Joe Biden's victory.
"It is clear that they are currently now just making up things because they realize that once this commission is created that the American people will know the truth, and the truth has implications for them," Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, said of Republicans.
Republican Rep. Pete Stauber said in a statement he voted against the bill because of "serious concerns about the scope" of this proposed Commission.
"Any Commission formed must investigate the many other tragic cases of political violence that have occurred in recent years," Stauber said in his statement.
Trump was impeached by the House after the attack and later acquitted by the Senate. On his website he publicly opposed the bill, calling on Republicans not to support what he called a "Democrat trap." Minnesota Republicans followed that guidance.
Reps. Jim Hagedorn and Michelle Fischbach were among the House Republicans who objected to certifying Biden's presidential election win in the aftermath of the insurrection and Trump's election falsehoods.
"Speaker Pelosi appears more interested in reaching the predetermined outcome of her own narrative than a true investigation into the January 6 attack," Fischbach, a freshman GOP lawmaker representing western Minnesota, said in a statement.
"I don't like the process," said Hagedorn, the Republican who represents southern Minnesota, adding that Democrats would have "too much influence" over the process. The proposed panel would have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
Asked about Trump's continued false claims that the election was stolen from him, Hagedorn responded that "you guys in the media and about a handful of Republicans are the only ones that want to keep talking about that."
Minnesota Democrats said they were baffled to see GOP colleagues turn against the bill.
"We need to understand how it occurred, who was responsible, precisely who was responsible, and we need to make sure that we put efforts in place to have this never happen again," Rep. Angie Craig, who represents a district south of the Twin Cities, said about Jan. 6.
It is not clear how the legislation will fare in the Senate, with Republican leader Mitch McConnell now on record against it. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who leads the Senate's Rules and Administration Committee, is working with Democratic and Republican colleagues on a separate Jan. 6 report.
It was not lost on Phillips that Republicans who vote in favor of the commission are putting themselves in a potentially risky political position within a divided GOP.
For voting yes, he said, they should be celebrated.
"Because it is not easy to buck Donald Trump," Phillips said.
Hunter Woodall • 612-673-4559