With the strong support of Oklahoma’s two members, Republicans in the United States Senate today successfully blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection. Supporters of the bill - Democrats and a handful of Republicans - needed 60 votes to overcome the GOP filibuster; the vote was 54-35.
The House passed the measure last week on a 252-175 vote. 35 Republicans, including Oklahoma's 5th District Representative Stephanie Bice, joined Democrats in the lower chamber in sending the bill to the Senate, but Republican leadership there was determined to keep it from going any further.
Following Friday’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D) New York, said this was clear evidence of the hold former President Donald Trump has over the Republican party and that his continued perpetration of "the big lie" that the election was stolen is proving a real danger to the nation.
"I'm just terribly disappointed so many Republicans refused to even look at a bipartisan down-the-middle look at [January 6] because they're afraid of Donald Trump," Sen. Schumer told reporters. "Donald Trump is a bane to our democracy. And unless people in his own party stand up to him, it's bad for the party, and it's bad for those individuals, but most of all it's bad for the country."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R) Alaska, one of six Republicans who voted in favor of allowing the bill to move forward, expressed similar disappointment in her colleagues for choosing a politically safe vote over finding the truth.
“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," said Sen. Murkowski, "I think we need to look at that critically.”
But Oklahoma's two Senators say their opposition had nothing to do with appeasing Donald Trump or not wanting a better understanding of how the insurrection happened.
"We’ve worked through the process to try to figure out what happened, what went wrong during January 6, how did security break down so rapidly, what do we have to do to prevent it," said Sen. James Lankford, (R) Oklahoma, in an interview Thursday.
Sen. Lankford said another investigation isn't needed because individual Senate committees have already been looking into the insurrection.
"And in the next two weeks we will have a major release of here are all the things we’ve already discovered," said Lankford, "and here’s about 40 different proposals that need to be put in place that Republicans and Democrats have already agreed to."
Lankford said Sen. Schumer forced a vote on the commission now for political reasons. Sen. Inhofe said the commission itself would be a political tool of the left.
"It’s just another effort for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to try to work toward the election of 2022," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, (R) Oklahoma, also in an interview Thursday.
Sen. Inhofe said everything that needs to be investigated is already being investigated, and that this is all about keeping the insurrection, its disturbing images and the associated anti-Trump messaging fresh in voters’ minds leading up to the midterm elections, in which Democrats could lose control of both the House and Senate.
"I anticipate that will happen," said Inhofe. "They are concerned that’s going to happen, and they’re going to try and keep anything negative they can about Trump alive until the election of '22."
The defeat of the bipartisan commission doesn’t mean this all goes away. The Democrats have other options, including the creation of a Select Committee to investigate the insurrection, similar to how Republicans investigated Benghazi during President Obama’s second term.