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Republicans block probe of US Capitol riot

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former president Donald Trump (File photo)

Republicans in the US Senate have derailed a bipartisan inquiry into the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol in spite of a torrent of criticism the lawmakers were playing down the violence.

In what seems to be a victory for former president Donald Trump, whose supporters stormed the Capitol leaving five people dead including a Capitol Police officer, GOP lawmakers on Friday blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the deadly assault.

Throngs of mostly white pro-Trump supporters, some armed and carrying Confederate flags and others dressed in tactical gear, breached the Capitol building, largely unobstructed by law enforcement officers.

The riot, which was intended to disrupt the ceremonial counting of Joe Biden’s electoral votes in Congress, was in part blamed on Trump’s rhetoric and his refusal to concede defeat in the November 3 election.

Democrats and some moderate Republicans had later called for a commission to probe the events prior the riot and the assault that day too.

GOP lawmakers and supporters feared the inquiry commission would keep public attention on violence at the US Capitol and could expose new details about Trump's handling of the Jan. 6 events that might affect the party’s chances in 2022 midterm elections.

On Friday, the measure mustered a 54-35 vote which fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation in the 100-member Senate. The 35 no votes were all Republicans. Only six Republicans joined Democrats to vote in favor of the commission.

This marked the first time this year that Republicans used the 60-vote hurdle, known as a filibuster, to defeat legislation.

"We all know what's going on here. Senate Republicans chose to defend the Big Lie because they feared that anything that might upset Donald Trump could hurt them politically," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote.

The vote highlights the challenges Democrats are facing in the evenly divided chamber, as they will need to win the support of at least one in five Republicans to pass policing reforms, voting-rights legislation and other priorities.

The White House, in the meantime, said Biden still remained committed to a full, independent investigation of the attack.

The proposed commission would have had the power to force witnesses, possibly including Trump, to testify under oath about the riot.

Trump had previously called on Republican lawmakers to vote against the measure, warming of "consequences" for those who backed it.

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