Murkowski votes yes, Sullivan no on establishing a Jan. 6 commission

crowd with Trump banners and flags in front of Capitol
The East Plaza of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (Wikimedia Commons).

The U.S. Senate has blocked a bill that would have established a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of only six Republicans who voted to move ahead with the bill. Sponsors needed 60 votes. They got 54, so the bill died by filibuster.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, like most Republicans, voted no.

RELATED: Senate Republicans block plan for independent commission on Jan. 6 Capitol riot

Murkowski said the attack was an attempt to weaken the pillars of American democracy.

“We just can’t pretend that nothing bad happened, or that people just got too excitable,” she told reporters at the Capitol Thursday night. “Something bad happened. And it’s important to lay that out.”

In a 10-minute hallway interview, Murkowski criticized positions other Republicans have taken minimizing the attack, as well as their arguments against establishing an independent commission. Reporters pointed out Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the commission, and renewed scrutiny of former President Donald Trump’s role, could hurt Republicans in the 2022 election. Murkowski rejected that reasoning.

“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 6 — I think we need to look at that critically,” she said. “Is that really what this is about? Is everything just one election cycle after another?”

The country, she said, is founded on principles of free and fair elections, respect for the results, and the peaceful transition of power.

“I kind of want that to endure beyond just one election cycle,” she said.

Murkowski also said she met Thursday with the mother and girlfriend of late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. He battled the mob on Jan. 6 and died the next day. Sicknick’s loved ones made the rounds of Senate offices, urging Republicans to vote for a commission.

“I started out the conversation by just saying ‘I’m heartsick that you are here,’” Murkowski recounted. “‘I am heartsick 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.’”

Sen. Sullivan’s spokesman said a scheduling conflict prevented Sullivan from meeting with Sicknick’s survivors.

In a written statement, Sullivan condemned the violence of the Jan. 6 attack and noted two Senate Committees are already investigating it.

“Considering the broad, in-depth bipartisan work already under way, I do not believe an additional commission is necessary, and risks further dividing Americans at a time when we need to come together,” Sullivan’s statement said.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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