WASHINGTON — House Republicans blocked a vote Wednesday on legislation to create an independent commission to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
A Democratic effort to force a vote failed, with only one Republican – Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina – joining them in a procedural vote that would have allowed them to bring up the bill. But Democrats also launched a petition Wednesday that would allow them to force a vote on the bill at a later date if they get a majority of lawmakers to sign on.
“Today is a courage call for our Republican colleagues,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell of Calif., who co-authored the bill with Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. “Can they — as we have done with past attacks against our country — can they put party aside, put our country first and unite with Democrats to say that never again will we tolerate an attack like this?”
The legislation would create a 12-member, bipartisan commission that could interview witnesses, obtain documents, issue subpoenas and receive public testimony to investigate Russia’s attempts to influence the election.
The bill’s 199 cosponsors include two Republicans – Jones and Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan. Amash voted with his party to block bringing up the bill.
The bill is one piece of congressional Democrats’ broader strategy of pressuring Republicans to join them in calling for an independent investigation of possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Senate Democrats continue to push for a special prosecutor, who would be appointed by the Justice Department and could investigate criminal behavior.
Those calls have intensified following Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the bureau’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and revelations that Trump may have revealed classified information to Russian diplomats.
Republicans are also seeking more information from the administration through existing congressional investigations. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is seeking information involving Trump and Comey following reports that Trump may have pressured Comey to shut down an investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as part of the Russia probe.
“I have my subpoena pen ready,” Chaffetz tweeted on Tuesday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee demanded documents and audio tapes, if any exist, that reflect conversations between Trump and Comey regarding the Russia investigation.
Several Republicans, including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, have said they may be open to creating an independent investigation.