WASHINGTON — Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, ripped her colleagues who are opposing a bill to investigate Jan. 6 Capitol riot, accusing her party of bending to electoral political concerns while "there's more to be learned."
"We just can't pretend that nothing bad happened, or that people just got too excitable. Something bad happened. And it's important to lay that out," Murkowski told reporters after a vote on the proposed commission was delayed on Thursday night after the Senate grinded to a halt in a fight over a piece of China-focused legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged Republicans to vote against the commission, calling it a "purely political exercise." Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters last week that some of his colleagues had concerns that the proposed commission's work could be "weaponized" against them in next year's midterm elections.
Murkowski said Republicans have an obligation to try to look at the truth, regardless of the repercussions
"To be making a decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us, on January 6th I, I think we need to look at that critically," Murkowski said.
"Is that really what this is about? Is everything is just one election cycle after another? Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear" that "we have free and fair elections and we respect the results of those elections and we we allow for a peaceful transition of power," she said. "I kind of want that to endure beyond just one election cycle."
Murkowski also pushed back against characterizations by some of her colleagues that the storming of the Capitol during the certification of the Electoral College results was not a big deal.
"This was not a group of tourists coming through. This was not a protest that was mild," Murkowski said, referring to comments by Republicans in the House who've downplayed the riot.
"So to suggest that somehow or other, this was not so bad — this was an attack on our Capitol, designed to stop a process that has been in play for, for a century plus, when we move to allow for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next," she said.
Murkowski said she felt Congress owed it to the scores Capitol Police officers who were injured in the assault to act. She said she'd met earlier in the day with the mother and partner of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the attack. The pair were part of a group that spent the day lobbying Republican senators to vote in favor of the commission.
“It was a good meeting, but I started out the conversation by just saying 'I'm heartsick that you are here. I am heart sick that you feel that you need to come and advocate to members of Congress that we stand up and say, the truth is hard, but the truth is necessary'," she said.
Democrats are hoping to vote on the bill – which would establish a bipartisan 9/11 style commission to study the deadly riot – sometime on Friday.
Frank Thorp V, Julie Tsirkin and Sahil Kapur reported from Washington and Dareh Gregorian reported from New York.
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