Toomey at Chamber

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey speaks to local leaders at the Lancaster Chamber in Lancaster city on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

THE ISSUE

A vote is expected this week in the U.S. Senate on legislation to create an independent commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6. As The Associated Press reported, the bill is “the product of bipartisan negotiations by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and the top Republican on that panel, New York Rep. John Katko.” It would consist of 10 members — five appointed by Democrats and five appointed by Republicans. The legislation passed easily in the House, as 35 Republicans joined with Democrats last week in voting for it. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County voted against it.

We first were inclined to mock the increasingly desperate attempts of congressional Republicans to whitewash the horrific events of Jan. 6.

One letter writer did this brilliantly in the Sunday LNP | LancasterOnline Perspective section. Responding to Georgia Congressman Andrew Clyde’s assertion that the violent Jan. 6 insurrection was akin to a “normal tourist visit” to the U.S. Capitol, Don Rossi of Manheim Township suggested making the day an annual holiday. On that holiday, he suggested, patriots could bring their flags — Confederate and QAnon flags included — to the Capitol, where they could enjoy wall climbing and a Capitol Rotunda mosh pit. “Food, important papers, plaques and computers are on the ‘House,’ so bring your zip ties to secure your souvenirs,” Rossi wrote.

It was satire as cutting as barbed wire.

In reality, there’s no humor in this situation. The Jan. 6 insurrection was a devastating attack on our democracy. And politicians like Smucker advanced the aims of the insurrectionists by arguing without basis in law or fact that votes of Americans, cast legally in November, should be nullified by Congress.

Now some Republican lawmakers are resisting a commission to examine the terrible events of that day.

We find it puzzling that law-and-order Republicans, who claim to “back the blue,” don’t want an exhaustive investigation into an attack in which more than 140 law enforcement officers — including one whose eye was gouged — were injured.

Of course, Smucker was fined $5,000 for failing to pass through a security screening on his way to the House floor last week, according to multiple U.S. Capitol Police reports, “while disregarding clearly stated verbal directions” from officers. So perhaps law and order are concepts that Smucker only embraces when campaigning.

We find it hard to imagine ignoring the verbal directions of some of the very officers who protected Congress from a violent siege just months before. We’d likely go out of our way to show our respect to them. But Smucker only returned for the mandatory security screening after voting on the House floor — at his convenience, it seems.

The wider resistance to a Jan. 6 commission shows a similarly disturbing lack of respect for security.

Republicans insist with straight faces that legislation negotiated by Rep. Katko, a stalwart Republican and former federal prosecutor, is somehow biased against them.

Perhaps their resistance stems from their guilt about having ginned up the Big Lie claiming that the November election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

But are they capable of feeling guilty? After all, they took oaths pledging to protect the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. To still insist that an attack on the heart of our democracy doesn’t merit an independent investigation requires a disturbing lack of conscience. And logic.

If this attack doesn’t merit investigation, what would?

Local connections

For residents of Lancaster County, the Jan. 6 insurrection wasn’t a distant thing. County residents, including Elizabethtown Area school board candidates Danielle and Stephen Lindemuth, traveled to Washington, D.C., that day to take part in the rally at which Trump urged rallygoers to march to the Capitol.

Michael Lopatic, of Manheim Township, “has been charged with repeatedly punching one police officer in the head outside the Capitol,” LNP | LancasterOnline’s Dan Nephin has reported.

And, as Nephin reported last Saturday, the far-right anti-government group the Oath Keepers met in the Quarryville area on Jan. 3 to plan for Jan. 6, according to an affidavit filed as part of a federal criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

“This will be the day we get our comms on point with multiple other patriot groups, share rally points etc. This one is important and I believe this is our last chance to organize before the show. This meeting will be for leaders only,” James Breheny, an Oath Keeper from New Jersey who was arrested last week for crimes related to the Capitol breach, wrote to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

According to BuzzFeed News, “prosecutors investigating the Capitol insurrection have charged 13 other people associated with the Oath Keepers.”

It sickens us to know that the Oath Keepers met in Lancaster County’s southern end.

It sickens us that some lawmakers won’t stand up for democracy, that they aren’t determined to get at the truth of the horrors of Jan. 6.

A mother’s plea

Even U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who voted to convict Trump in February for the high crime and misdemeanor of inciting the insurrection, has been frustratingly evasive about how he’ll vote on the commission bill.

“I’m still evaluating it,” Toomey said, according to a tweet Tuesday from Forbes reporter Andrew Solender.

We hope Toomey will heed the plea of Gladys Sicknick, the mother of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who suffered two strokes and died the day after defending lawmakers from the insurrectionists.

Gladys Sicknick will be on Capitol Hill today, hoping to meet with Republican senators.

In a statement first reported by Politico, Gladys Sicknick said that her son and his fellow police officers “fought for hours and hours against those animals who were trying to take over the Capitol Building and our Democracy, as we know it.”

D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone was beaten, shocked with a stun gun and dragged down the Capitol steps. He told CNN last month that what he experienced Jan. 6 was “the most brutal, savage, hand-to-hand combat of my entire life, let alone my policing career, which spans almost two decades.”

As Gladys Sicknick wrote in her statement, “Not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day. ... I suggest that all Congressmen and Senators who are against this Bill visit my son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward.”

Sen. Toomey: How do you respond to this? How do you answer this question Gladys Sicknick asked of lawmakers in her statement: “Putting politics aside, wouldn’t they want to know the truth of what happened on January 6? If not, they do not deserve to have the jobs they were elected to do.”

In a brief interview with The Washington Post, the grieving mother said, “My son has been gone for over four months and I want answers, that’s all.”

Of course, she wants answers. And she’s entitled to them.

All Americans are.

Republicans understandably insisted on investigating the deadly 2012 terrorist attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

We join others in pointing out that for Senate Republicans now to block an investigation into a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol is not just the height of hypocrisy but of craven negligence.

If we don’t get a thorough independent investigation into what transpired Jan. 6 — if we don’t learn why and precisely how it happened — we risk another such attack. Only next time, Brian Sicknick won’t be there to defend our democracy. And surviving police officers, faced with evidence of congressional inaction and cowardice, may wonder why they should risk their lives when members of Congress won’t even summon the courage to seek the truth.

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