Welch votes to create bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6 insurrection

Crowd with Trump flags in front of US Capitol dome
Pro-Trump rioters broke through barricades and clashed with police in an unprecedented and violent disruption of the U.S. Congress on Jan 6. Photo (c) 2021 by Mukul Ranjan

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., voted Wednesday night in favor of creating an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

Legislation creating the commission passed the House on a vote of 252 to 175, with 35 Republicans joining the Democratic majority in approving it. The Senate has yet to take up the bill.

Welch said the commission would create an opportunity to further examine the origins of the riot. He said it would also establish a “historical record” to offset what he described as attempts by some congressional Republicans to rewrite the history of the events of Jan. 6. 

“What you’re seeing is the counter-narrative, basically the creation and perpetuation of a lie about what happened,” Welch said in an interview before Wednesday’s vote. “In fact, we’ve got to own our history. We’ve got to know our history in order to move ahead.”  

Peter Welch
Rep. Peter Welch tweeted video updates from inside the U.S. Capitol during the lockdown on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

Welch, who was at the Capitol when rioters breached building security, condemned the phrase “normal tourist visit,” which was used by Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., as a point of comparison for the violent mob. 

Welch has been vocal since the day of the attacks about the terror and confusion he and others experienced and witnessed. 

The commission, according to Welch, “is much more about what America suffered than what any of the folks who were in the building may have experienced or suffered.”

Several notable Republicans have spoken out against the creation of the commission in recent days, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

McConnell said it wasn’t clear what a commission to investigate the insurrection could add on top of other investigations underway by Congress and federal law enforcement agencies.

But according to Welch, the commission would be able to go beyond the scope of the law enforcement investigations, which are focused on individual criminal acts. More than 400 people have been arrested as of early May. 

The independent, bipartisan commission is modeled after a similar one formed in the wake of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. It would include a 10-person panel, with Democrats and Republicans allowed to appoint five members each. 

[Get the latest status on more than 30 key pieces of legislation in VTDigger's 2021 Bill Tracker.]

Welch said the effectiveness of the commission would likely come down to the fairness of its appointees, and he called for it to be populated with a group similar to those who served on the 9/11 commission.  

“You need to get people who are respected to both sides, and there’s people out there who could do that,” Welch said. “But it’d be a question of whether the leadership would appoint partisans, or people who have a high reputation for public service and fairness.”

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