Pressed to explain his decision, Rep. Greg Pence of Indiana praised his brother as a "hero" and turned his ire on Democrats, calling the commission a "coverup about the failed Biden administration." He was even more aggressive in a baseless statement labeling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a "hanging judge" who "is hellbent on pushing her version of partisan justice complete with a hand-picked jury that will carry out her predetermined political execution of Donald Trump."
Pence's swift pivot to attacking Democrats and defending the former president about a riot that threatened his brother's life is a stark measure of how the horror of Jan. 6 has been reduced from a violent assault on American democracy to a purely political fight.
Rather than uniting behind a bipartisan investigation like the ones that followed the 9/11 terror attacks, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or Pearl Harbor, Republicans are calculating they can regain at least partial control of Congress if they put the issue behind them as quickly as possible without antagonizing Trump or his supporters.
"There's no reason to be doing this," said Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who is leading the GOP's efforts to win a Senate majority next year.
The Republican resistance to an independent commission comes as many in the GOP attempt to rewrite the history of Jan. 6, minimizing the haunting events of the day when a mob of Trump supporters used flagpoles as weapons and brutally beat police officers.
The issue could come to a head next week if the legislation creating the commission, which passed the House, gets a vote in the Senate. Democrats will need at least 10 Republicans to join them in backing the measure, a dim prospect after Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell expressed opposition this week.
The partisan fight over the new panel is alarming to historians who say an independent record of that dark day is needed to understand what happened and hold those involved accountable.