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House Homeland Security Committee chair tapped to strike deal on January 6 commission

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has been asked to negotiate directly with his Republican counterpart Rep. John Katko to find a way forward on the January 6 commission, a senior Democratic aide told CNN Tuesday.

The aide said the hope is that a deal could be reached by the end of the week and put to a vote on the House floor by next week.

But major obstacles remain, with GOP leaders in the House and Senate still talking about wanting a commission that is focused on far more than just the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, and instead encompassing political violence more generally — a nonstarter for Democrats.

It’s not clear how much room Katko, as the committee’s top Republican, will have to find a middle ground, but he and Thompson have a good working relationship. Punchbowl News was the first to report on this.

Thompson told reporters Tuesday that he has been trading proposals with Katko on the commission, though a sticking point still remains between the two parties over the scope of an independent panel and whether it would go beyond the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

“I think the conversation, we’re going to look at January 6,” Thompson said. “It was something we all saw, we can identify with. And there’s no sense of putting other issues, and if some people want to look at something else, it’s their right to go forward with it in that respect.”

Thompson said that his goal is for the commission to issue a report on the January 6 Capitol attack before next year’s midterm elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in February announced plans to form an independent 9/11-style commission tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the attack on the US Capitol. But the proposal was met with partisan bickering and efforts to establish the commission stalled.

A commission of this nature would be established by a statute that has to be passed by both chambers and then signed into law by President Joe Biden. The commission members would not be elected leaders and would be from outside the government.

Pelosi recently conceded to allowing Republicans and Democrats to appoint an even number of members to the panel, after Republicans objected to her initial plan that would have been a 7-4 split for Democrats.

She also agreed to allow subpoenas to be issued either through a joint decision from the commission’s chair and vice chair or by a majority vote from the panel, after initially proposing that only the chair, who would be appointed by Democrats, would have subpoena power.

Republicans insist the commission must also investigate violence from far-left groups, like Antifa, surrounding last year’s protests of police brutality, something Democrats say is an attempt to distract from the role former President Donald Trump played in the lead-up to the insurrection.

Democrats have suggested they’re willing to abandon the idea of a commission if a deal cannot be reached and proceed with the ongoing investigations in various House committees or establish a congressional select committee as an alternative.

Democrats want to hold votes on both the January 6 commission proposal and a $2 billion supplemental package to bolster Capitol security on the floor next week, though it’s unclear if they’ll be able to strike a deal with Republicans on either measure.

A senior Democratic aide said talks on the supplemental package are ongoing and the hope is still that an agreement can be reached, but Democrats are considering moving forward on the spending bill without Republican support.

On Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on “unanswered questions” about the January 6 attack, and consider the “need to establish” the 9/11-style commission. Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and acting US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen are expected to testify.

Meanwhile, Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, has filed a civil lawsuit against Trump, accusing the former President of conspiring with far-right groups to incite the January 6 insurrection. The suit cites a post-Civil War law designed to combat violence and intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan.

This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.

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