On Jan. 3, 2021, Congressman Don Bacon took his oath of office and was sworn in for a new term as the representative of Nebraska’s 2nd District. By taking this oath, Rep. Bacon made a commitment to uphold the Constitution, act as a leader and a voice of reason, and serve his constituents in Washington.
Just three days later, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol. The mob threatened the lives of congressional members and staff, including Vice President Pence. A Capitol Police officer lost his life, and many of his colleagues were left with significant injuries and lasting trauma. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called that day the “saddest” he’d seen in Congress. “Mobs don’t rule America. Laws rule America,” McCarthy said.
Congressman Bacon upheld his oath by voting in favor of a bill (H.R. 3233) to create an independent and bipartisan commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6, 2021. In voting yes, he stood with the Capitol Police, congressional staff and all those who were put in harm’s way that day. The Senate failed to do its part and approve the legislation. But a congressionally approved Jan. 6 commission remains the best approach to respond to and learn from this attack.
There are many questions remaining about the Jan. 6 attack. 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 Jan. 6 commission under H.R. 3233 is designed to answer these questions. At a time when Congress is known for its hyperpartisanship, this bill emerged from a bipartisan collaboration between House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, and Vice Chair John Katko, R-New York. That is why this bill would create a bipartisan commission, with equal power given to Republicans and Democrats.
Modeled directly on the 9/11 Commission, the Jan. 6 commission would be selected and staffed by both parties. It’s also important to note that no current members of Congress would serve on the commission — a distinction that will help distance the investigation from everyday politics. At its conclusion, the commission would issue an independent and objective report that would protect our national security and shape national security reforms for years to come.
This design even earned the endorsement of former Republican Gov. Thomas Kean of New Jersey and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, chair and co-chair, respectively, of the 9/11 Commission — who called on Democrats and Republicans to once again prioritize our nation’s security and support this commission.
Congressman Bacon has answered this call. He put the security of our nation and the Capitol Police first in order to help create a complete picture of exactly what happened and what went wrong that day. We still have work to do, but by voting to create an independent commission, Congressman Bacon helped the country get one step closer to ensuring that 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 and serves as co-chair of the nonprofit group Issue One’s bipartisan ReFormers Caucus. Meredith McGehee is executive director at Issue One, directing legislative efforts to promote cross-partisan political reform in Washington, D.C.