North Dakota's Kelly Armstrong, Minnesota's Michelle Fischbach vote against Jan. 6 Commission bill

Bill passes House via 252-175 vote.

A view of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17, 2021. REUTERS / Erin Scott / file photo

GRAND FORKS -- Reps. Kelly Armstrong and Michelle Fischbach cast votes on Wednesday evening against a plan to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6., sticking with GOP colleagues even as the full House approved the measure.

The full vote, 252-175, came with unanimous Democratic support, as well as with 35 GOP votes — defections from party leadership that show the internal rifts Republicans have endured since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol that day.

Democrats have sought a closer look at the causes and events of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which will mean scrutiny of Donald Trump's claims about his election loss and his role in the violence. That’s already a sore spot for Republicans, who ousted Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from a leadership post in the House following her repeated criticism of the former president. And the GOP has fretted that the investigation could be too partisan, or could be wielded as a political cudgel in the 2022 elections.

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“Speaker Pelosi appears more interested in reaching the predetermined outcome of her own narrative than a true investigation into the January 6 attack,” Fischbach, R-Minn., said in a statement released by her office while the vote was ongoing. ”Any investigatory body tasked with probing the attack must be completely free from political influence or bias but unfortunately, this proposal does not meet that basic benchmark.”

The office of Armstrong, R-N.D., declined comment prior to the vote, and had not responded to a request for comment afterwards, as of publication of this report.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where its future is uncertain. It will need the entire Democratic caucus plus 10 Republican senators to break a filibuster; after Wednesday's vote, that level of GOP support appears possible, but uncertain.

The bill follows on congressional hearings earlier this year, which Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., touts as an important contribution to immediate, short-term solutions, though she said it’s “not a substitute” for the commission, which she supports.

“Really digging down in to get to the bottom of what happened is really important,” Klobuchar told the Grand Forks Herald Wednesday.

The legislation itself would set up a 10-member commission — half Republican, half Democrat — with the agreement of both party’s senior commission members required to issue a subpoena. And unless the commission’s duration is extended, a final report would be due before the end of the year.

Wider GOP support for the bill had seemed possible as the week began. But during the last several days, Republican support has faltered. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy opposed the legislation on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had joined him.


North Dakota’s senators have not revealed how they’ll vote. The office of Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., appeared lukewarm.

“I’m not a big commission guy. I’m not against them entirely, but I wish the committee process could work,” Cramer said, referring to investigations handled by standing congressional committees.

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“We see that when things happen in the coastal areas, a few years later, they start trending toward the Midwest,” said Rep. Ben Krohmer, serving his first term in the House.
“This is sensationalism at its finest, and it does not deserve to be heard in our state capitol,” Rep. Erin Healy, a Democrat and one of 10 votes against the bill in the 70-person chamber, said.
“Let’s put this in the rearview mirror,” Sen. Michael Diedrich, a Rapid City Republican said.