The U.S. Senate couldn’t muster 60 votes Friday to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot on Congress, prompting a salty response from a frustrated Montana Sen. Jon Tester.
His staff later issued a toned down response to the Montana press.
Republicans killed the proposal using a procedural filibuster. After the vote failed 54 to 35, Tester said Republicans who are afraid to back the investigation for fear of angering Donald Trump needed to retire.
“We’ve got to get to the bottom of this s**t,” Tester was quoted in Politico. “Jesus. It’s a nonpartisan investigation of what happened. And if it’s because they’re afraid of Trump then they need to get out of office. It’s bull****.”
It’s been nearly six months since Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, egged on by the president’s false claims that the election was stolen from him. At least 81 Capitol police offers were assaulted according the U.S. Department of Justice. Four rioters died. A stroke killed one Capitol police officer the following day. Another Capitol police officer committed suicide the day after.
Trump continues to repeatedly insist, falsely, that he was robbed of victory in an election that his own Department of Homeland Security concluded was the most secure election in American history. In the past week, Trump has insisted the election was “rigged and stolen,” calling the 2021 election a “massive crime” and vowing to “keep fighting on.” His initial falsehood that voting machines stole more than 2 million votes hasn’t been uttered lately.
Republicans have responded by launching ballot investigations in several states, including Montana, which have kept the controversy going but haven’t found the smoking gun to back Trump’s false claims.
Not falling in line with Trump triggers consequences for Republican members of Congress. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney was removed from her No. 3 leadership post in the House Republican caucus. Montana’s lone representative, Republican Matt Rosendale, was one of the first lawmakers to call for Cheney to resign after Cheney backed Trump’s impeachment for incitement of insurrection.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, after Cheney's ouster, told the press, "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with. We're sitting here with the president today." He was about to meet with President Joe Biden.
After Cheney’s demotion, Rosendale tweeted an image of the historic “mission accomplished” banner that had served as the backdrop for former President George Bush’s 2003 speech declaring the end to the Iraq war. Of course, the war was formally declared over again in November 2011.
A Rosendale spokesman, Harry Fones, said the representative opposed the commission because Rosendale didn’t think it was about the riot at all.
“Rep. Rosendale voted against it because this commission was a political diversion and politically controlled by the other party who are attempting to divert attention away from the failures of the Biden administration,” Fones said.
In the House, 35 Republicans supported creating the Jan. 6 Commission. With Republican input, the commission was going to have 10 non-government members, each party’s congressional leadership selecting five, similar to the 9/11 Commission. The House approved the commission with a bipartisan vote, but in the Senate the Republican argument against it pivoted from the commission members to whether the staff could be trusted.
Trump was booted from Twitter and Facebook after those platforms concluded Trump’s false, seditious remarks about being the victim of a stolen election presented too big a risk. He’s been dispatching emails concerning the election through his super PAC regularly. After the House vote, Trump attacked the 35 Republicans supporting the commission.
“See, 35 wayward Republicans — they just can’t help themselves. We have much better policy and are much better for the Country, but the Democrats stick together, the Republicans don’t. They don’t have the Romney’s, Little Ben Sasse’s, and Cheney’s of the world. Unfortunately, we do. Sometimes there are consequences to being ineffective and weak. The voters understand!” Trump said in email May 20.
Montana Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, didn’t support the commission because he considered it redundant, said Katie Schoettler, a Daines adviser and communications director.
“There’s going to be a joint bipartisan report, from two committees, expected to come out the week after next with at least 40 recommendations, we’re hearing. There are investigations still happening at the federal level,” Schoettler said.
Daines was among the lawmakers hurried out a Senate side door moments before rioters took control of the chamber Jan. 6. He was prepared to vote against accepting the election results from Arizona before the riot. He had earlier also backed a 10-day election audit to into the fairness of the election. After the riot, he returned to the Senate to accept the electoral college results without question.
Thursday, Daines visited by phone with Gladys Sicknick, the mother of deceased Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. The officer was assaulted during the riot and died the following day of natural causes, namely two strokes. The officer’s mother, accompanied by his long-time companion Sandra Garza, had urged Republicans to “back the blue” by approving the Jan. 6 commission, even it meant angering Trump.
“It was really sad, but it was a good conversation and it was very personal, kind of between them and we didn’t blast it out,” Schoettler said explaining the decision not to publicize the visit. “Not all Republicans did, but there was a chance to meet with her. He thought that was important to offer his condolences and then talk to her a little bit and share his views. I think it was good conversation. I’m glad he did it.”
Gladys Sicknick and Garza appeared on CNN after the vote and said Senate Republicans aren’t backing the blue. The mother said Republicans she visited with were going through the motions of being nice but weren’t swayed.
By Friday afternoon, Trump was issuing a new email falsely claiming the Georgia election was stolen from him and that another audit of ballots in Fulton County would prove he won. “Republicans must fight hard and win,” Trump said in his email.