Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: Rep. McKinley sets standard for Congress to follow

by Zach Wamp and Meredith McGehee

When newly elected members of Congress are sworn in, they are called on to take an oath of office. This is not a pledge of fealty to their political party or the president, but a commitment to uphold the Constitution and act as both a leader and representative for their constituents.

Rep. David McKinley upheld this oath by voting in favor of a bill (HR 3233) to create an independent and bipartisan commission that will investigate the events of Jan. 6, 2021. In voting yes, McKinley stood with the Capitol Police, congressional staff and all those who were put in harm’s way that day.

Jan. 6 was a dark day for American democracy. When a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol, they threatened the lives of congressional members and staff, including Vice-President Pence. Because of this violence, a Capitol Police officer lost his life and many of his colleagues were left with significant injuries and lasting trauma. In the hours that followed, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy condemned these actions as “un-American” and called that day the “saddest” he’d ever had in Congress. “Mobs don’t rule America. Laws rule America,” McCarthy said.

We know such an attack must never be allowed to happen again, but we don’t yet know the entire story. The assault raised questions about our nation’s capacity to anticipate and react to domestic terror attacks. It highlighted major security and intelligence-gathering concerns, including about the preparedness of the Capitol Police and Sergeants at Arms. The thin margin of escape for many members and staff forces us to consider whether Congress would have been able to convene a quorum of the legislative body had the worst occurred.

The commission created by HR 3233 is uniquely tailored to address these questions. This bipartisan bill was crafted by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Vice Chair John Katko (R-NY), who modeled their proposal directly on the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. The Jan. 6 commission would be selected and staffed by both parties, with each party having the ability to make or reject subpoena requests.

No current members of Congress can serve on the commission, a design that will insulate the commission’s investigation from partisan interference. These elements will help ensure all Americans have faith in the commission’s investigation and the recommendations it produces at its conclusion.

This structure has been endorsed by the chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, former Republican Gov. Thomas Kean and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton. These leaders knew an independent and objective review was necessary in the wake of 9/11 to protect our country, advance government-wide national security reforms and help heal a deeply wounded nation. These same steps are needed today. That is why Gov. Kean and Congressman Hamilton have called on both parties to put the security of our country first by supporting a Jan. 6 commission.

 McKinley has answered this call. By seeking a complete picture of exactly what happened and what went wrong that day, he prioritized our nation’s security and the safety of the Capitol Police. While the Senate has so far failed to move forward on the House-passed bill, McKinley should be commended for his willingness to put country first and pass this bipartisan legislation.

By voting to create an independent commission, McKinley did his part to help the country get one step closer to ensuring the Jan. 6 attack never occurs again.

 Zach Wamp is a former Republican congressman from Tennessee. He is a member of the National Council on Election Integrity. He currently serves as co-chair of Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus, the largest bipartisan group of former members of Congress, governors, and cabinet secretaries ever assembled to advocate for political reform. Meredith McGehee is one of the nation’s foremost experts on Congress. As the executive director at Issue One, McGehee directs legislative efforts for the leading cross-partisan political reform group in Washington, D.C. Her experience as a leading public interest advocate, policy expert at numerous nonprofit organizations and legislative director on Capitol Hill has distinguished McGehee as a policy expert on transparent, accountable and effective governance.