Donald Trump’s supporters in front of The Capitol, January 6, 2021 (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell vows to block an investigation of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The Kentucky senator issued his statement as the House voted 252-175 on Wednesday to create an independent commission. Of the 211 GOP members, 35 defied Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Trumpists, joining Democrats to pass the bill.

“After careful consideration, I’ve made the decision to oppose the House Democrats’ slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January 6,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

The GOP leader had said on Tuesday that he was open to supporting the investigation, and just after the Capitol attack — while protecting Donald Trump from conviction on an impeachment charge of incitement of insurrection — he said that “the mob was fed lies” by Trump and he could face criminal prosecution.

But the Senate leader appeared to be swayed by the Trumpist influence among House Republicans, five weeks after Trump berated McConnell as “a dumb son of a bitch…who didn’t fight for the Presidency”.

The House GOP has removed its third-ranking member, Rep. Liz Cheney, after she voted for impeachment and criticized Trump’s instigation of the assault on the US Capitol. Representatives have presented the attackers as “peaceful patriots”, said the invasion was a “tourist visit”, or falsely claimed that the assailants were left-wing radicals.

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“We Need to Get to the Bottom of This”

Modeled after the 9-11 Commission, the 10-member panel would deliver its report by December 31.

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California recounted on Wednesday, “I was on the Capitol floor, the speaker was in the chair, and a howling mob attacked the United States Capitol.”

She spoke of the police officers injured by the attackers: “We need to get to the bottom of this to not just understand what happened leading up to the Sixth, but how to prevent that from happening again — how to protect the oldest democracy in the world in the future.”

Capitol Police officers ciriculated a letter expressing “profound disappointment” with GOP leaders McCarthy and Mr. McConnell: “It is unconscionable to even think anyone could suggest we need to move forward and get over it.”

But in the Senate, Republicans fell into line behind McConnell, as they did in protecting Trump from removal in two impeachment trials.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, McConnell’s deputy, claimed Americans weren’t concerned about the Capitol Attack:

I want our midterm message to be about the kinds of issues that the American people are dealing with — it’s jobs and wages and the economy, national security, safe streets, strong borders and those types of issues. Not relitigating the 2020 election.

In a 50-50 Senate, Democrats need 60 votes to prevent opponents from blocking the investigation indefinitely.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said he would still pursue a vote: “The American people will see for themselves whether our Republican friends stand on the side of truth or on the side of Donald Trump’s big lie.”

House Republicans are expected on Thursday to oppose a $1.9 billion plan to strengthen Capitol defenses.

“You’ll have to ask them what they are afraid of,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said. “But it sounds like they are afraid of the truth, and that is most unfortunate.”

Republicans who sided with the Democrats cited the need to establish the circumstances that led to the attack.

Rep. John Katko of New York, who drafted the bill with Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said, “Make no mistake about it, this is about facts, it’s not partisan politics.”

Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan explained:

January 6 is going to haunt this institution for a long, long time. Five months later, we still don’t have answers to the basic questions: who knew what when, and what did they do about it?

But Rep. Greg Pence of Indiana, the brother of Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, voted no. He said, aid Speaker Pelosi was trying to appoint herself “hanging judge” to carry out a “predetermined political execution of Donald Trump”.

The statement was an inadvertent echo of the threat by the Capitol attackers to “hang” Pence, with a mock gallows set up outside the building.