Almost all Republican members of Congress resist the idea of an independent commission to investigate the web of spy craft that undermined the integrity of the 2016 election. They argue that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are up to the task.
They are wrong. However well-intentioned individual members, these committees cannot do the job.
One of the few Republicans to break ranks is Idaho’s Mike Simpson who has publicly advocated for a truly independent commission. The Washington Post and The Hill report that Simpson thinks members of the Intelligence Committees are “too involved” to do a proper job. He wisely suggests that we learn from history, observing that – in the early 1970s – many politicians were too quick to dismiss the notion that Nixon had done anything wrong.
I share the anger of others who are profoundly disappointed in Simpson’s vote to repeal the ACA and replace it with “Trumpcare” and his inclination to support the rest of the Trump agenda. But unlike other members of Idaho’s all GOP congressional delegation, Simpson will, on occasion, put country before party. This is such a time, and it is significant.
We must understand all ramifications of foreign interference in the 2016 election so that we can prepare to address new threats and make sure this never happens again. The appointment of a special counsel was a critical first step in the process. But a prosecutor's focus is, necessarily, on past conduct. In order to prepare to thwart future meddling, an independent commission is needed. Creating such a commission will be a very heavy lift. It requires legislation – a bill passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.
Several polls show that a large majority of the American public supports creation of an independent commission. But Democrats alone don't have the numbers to pass a bill. Only if enough Republicans summon the courage to follow Mike Simpson’s lead and join the Democratic minority will a bill establishing this commission pass in the House and Senate.
If and when that bill lands on his desk, there will be tremendous pressure on the president to sign it into law. If he vetoes the bill, we can reasonably conclude that he wants to bury the truth, that he has a lot to hide, and that he is unwilling to address the escalating threats going forward. Should the president veto such a bill, it would help confirm what a growing body of evidence strongly suggests – that he is, indeed, Russia's errand boy.
But if Congress acts to establish an independent commission, it will be because a handful of Republicans, like Mike Simpson, finally stepped up to break the partisan log jam. Regardless of my adverse views on much of Simpson’s record, I acknowledge and applaud his leadership on this extremely serious matter.
But now it is time for Simpson’s actions to match his words. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, has introduced a bill that would create a bipartisan, 12-member panel in the mold of the 9/11 Commission. Simpson should join his Republican colleagues Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina as co-sponsors of Swalwell’s bill.
Last week, the Republican majority in the House blocked a move to bring Swalwell’s bill to a vote. Democrats are now gathering signatures on a discharge petition, which would trigger a floor vote if a majority of Congress signs on. That means they need 23 Republican signatures.
This is where the rubber meets the road for Mike Simpson. If Simpson co-sponsors Swalwell’s bill and signs the discharge petition, we will know that his show of independence is more than lip service. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”