Democrats prepare for hardball as doubts linger over Jan. 6 commission: The Note

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is making clear that she has a backup plan.

May 20, 2021, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Democrats celebrated Wednesday night's passage of a bill creating a Jan. 6 commission with words like "bipartisan" and "independent," and also with words like "chaos" and "incoherence" to note that a divided GOP again sided overwhelmingly with former President Donald Trump.

But they know the numbers that matter from here aren't the 252-175 vote in the House, even with 35 Republicans joining Democrats on the bill. The Senate math remains brutal, with the prospect of 10 GOP members voting with Democrats exceedingly slim so long as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is opposed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is making clear that she has a backup plan. That matters profoundly for how the attempted insurrection is investigated -- and perhaps how Democrats seek to push the rest of their agenda from here.

"If they don't want to do this," Pelosi said of Senate Republicans, "we will find the truth."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi answers questions at a press conference on the establishment of a commission to investigate the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, May 19, 2021, in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

Not having an independent commission would likely mean a select committee formed by -- and, as Pelosi reminded her colleagues Wednesday, disproportionately comprised of -- Democratic House members. Think something closer to Republicans' two-and-a-half-year-long Benghazi probe, as opposed to anything resembling the 9/11 Commission.

As for the rest of the agenda, how both McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy came to oppose this commission is already fueling long-running arguments among Democrats. Why even try to negotiate with Republicans, the thinking goes, when GOP leaders will bow to Trump in the end anyway?

This week marks the second in a row where House Republicans turned against each other as part of the extended reckoning over Trump and what he continues to mean to his party.

Now, with the commission bill through the House, attention turns to the Senate. The upper chamber was already the focus of Democrats' frustration in a host of other areas, and having nearly three dozen House Republicans buck their party could change calculations, even for McConnell.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Patience on the part of progressive lawmakers is wearing thin as it relates to President Joe Biden's stance on Israeli airstrikes in Palestinian territories. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan and Rashida Tlaib have put forth a resolution opposing the sale of $735 million worth of weapons to the Israeli government.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 13, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The resolution comes as the White House, which has treaded carefully on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, issued a readout of the president's latest call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he used the strongest language to date in calling for a reduction in violence.

"The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire," the statement released Wednesday reads.

Netanyahu responded via tweet, saying he is "determined to continue the operation," which includes airstrikes that have killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza. Twelve people have been killed by Hamas rocket fire in Israel.

An Israeli artillery unit fires shells towards targets in Gaza Strip, at the Israeli Gaza border, Wednesday, May 19, 2021.
Tsafrir Abayov/AP

For progressives, Biden's slight change in tune is too little, too late.

"Benjamin Netanyahu thinks that Joe Biden is going to stand by him and I think we have to quickly reverse that idea," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal on CNN, who supports opposing the arms sale. "I think that approving the arm sale in the middle of it sends an extraordinarily bad message."

While the resolution has little chance of passing, it serves as a warning shot to the president who's initial pro-Israel statements on the violence are increasingly out of step with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

The TIP with Meg Cunningham

In the aftermath of the coronavirus and what many Republicans viewed as executive overreach from their governors, Pennsylvania voters became the first in the nation to vote to limit those powers on Tuesday night after voting in favor of a constitutional amendment to do so.

The measure is similar to many pieces of legislation introduced across the country to limit the power of the executive. Legislatures in at least 40 states, Puerto Rico and Guam have introduced over 300 bills or resolutions this year relating to legislative oversight of executive actions during the COVID-19 pandemic or other emergencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at an event, May 12, 2021, in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Marc Levy/AP

At least eight other states have enacted similarly limiting measures so far, some of which reduce the amount of time emergency proclamations can be put in place. Many of the pending bills look to increase involvement of the state legislature in emergency situations -- either calling for approval from the legislature or requiring a special session to be called if executives choose to exercise their emergency powers.

The increased involvement mirrors other provisions introduced when it comes to election administration, which would turn some control and oversight of the process over to lawmakers.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs, who explains why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still struggling to control messaging around masking. ABC News Chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega examines President Joe Biden's response to the unrest in Israel. And ABC News' Bob Woodruff explains why the treatment of Uighurs in China could complicate the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.


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