Fox News Congressional correspondent Chad Pergram provides updates on Capitol Hill as Republicans and Democrats debate the filibuster and mask policies.
Eleven senators missed the high-stakes Senate procedural vote Friday on legislation to form a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission to investigate the Capitol attack.
The vote was initially anticipated for Thursday, but when it got bumped to the Friday before the long Memorial Day weekend, several senators opted to maintain their travel plans and left Washington before casting their vote. Some senators said they had longstanding family obligations or other work commitments outside of D.C., while others did not provide an immediate explanation to Fox News.
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Two Democrats – Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – missed the Friday vote that started around 11:30 a.m. And nine Republicans were also absent from the chamber: Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Braun of Indiana, Richard Burr of North Carolina, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, James Risch of Idaho, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
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Murray said she had to fly home for a “personal family matter.” But Sinema, a moderate Democrat who has supported maintaining the legislative filibuster, caught plenty of heat from the left for not showing up for the vote, especially after calling the Jan. 6 commission “critical” and imploring her GOP colleagues to support it.
“Sinema is a coward’s coward,” tweeted supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
A spokesperson for Sinema did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment and she did not offer an explanation for Sinema’s absence to the senator’s home state paper either, the Arizona Republic.
The final tally Friday was 54 senators supporting moving forward with the Jan. 6 commission bill and 35 senators opposed to the procedural vote. But the legislation needed 60 votes to overcome the GOP filibuster and fell short of that threshold. Friday marked the first successful GOP filibuster during the Biden presidency.
Six Republicans joined with all the Democrats present to move forward with debating the bill: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a Congressional Oversight Commission hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday Dec. 10, 2020. Toomey had to miss a vote on the Jan. 6 commission on May 28, 2021, due to a family commitment, his spokesperson said. (Sarah Silbiger/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
Toomey would have been a seventh GOP “yes” vote to proceed on the Jan. 6 commission legislation had he been present, but he had a family commitment Friday he had to attend, according to his spokesperson. Toomey was also supportive of an amendment that Collins was to offer that addressed GOP concerns on staffing and the duration of the commission.
Three more GOP senators would have needed to buck their leadership to break the filibuster. Based on the previous statements of the other absent Republicans, their presence would not have changed the final outcome of effectively killing the Jan. 6 independent panel – at least for now.
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Shelby’s office said the senator had to return to Alabama for a family engagement. Risch also returned to his home state of Idaho to attend the high school graduation for his two granddaughters. Both senators opposed the Jan. 6 commission, according to their offices.
Blackburn, R-Tenn., would have also been a “no” vote had she been in attendance believing there’s already enough ongoing investigations into the attack.
“The FBI has arrested almost 500 people in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol breach and multiple congressional committees are also investigating,” a Blackburn spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News. “Those investigations and prosecutions are ongoing and do not require any interference.”
Blunt skipped the Senate vote so he could maintain a commitment to attend a reopening ceremony in Missouri for Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.
Rounds, R-S.D., missed the vote Friday for preplanned work travel overseas.
WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 18: U.S. Sen. Michael Rounds (R-SD) speaks to members of the press as he arrives at a Senate Republican policy luncheon at the Hart Senate Office Building November 18, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senate GOP members held a policy luncheon to discuss the Republican agenda. Rounds had to miss a vote on the Jan. 6 commission on May 28, 2021, due to work travel overseas, his spokesperson said. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
“Senator Rounds is currently fulfilling his responsibilities critical to his role on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees by meeting with strategic partners and military leaders in war zones overseas,” said Dezmond Ward, Rounds communications director, who noted the senator opposed the Jan. 6 commission.
HOUSE APPROVES LEGISLATION TO FORM JAN. 6 BIPARTISAN COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE CAPITOL RIOT
Under the proposal that already passed the House, the Jan. 6 panel would have been a 10-person bipartisan commission. Half of the commissioners would be appointed by Democrats and the other half would be appointed by Republicans. The commission would have subpoena power to carry out the investigation, but only if there is bipartisan support to issue them.
The commission would have to issue a final report by Dec. 31, 2021.
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Democrats argued the nonpartisan investigation – modeled after the bipartisan 9/11 commission – was needed to get to the root of the Jan. 6 attack and to make policy recommendations on how to prevent such violence in the future. Republicans, however, privately expressed political concerns that rehashing the attack would undermine their messaging in their effort to win back Congress in 2022.