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SC Rep. Tom Rice votes for Jan. 6 Capitol riot commission, other SC Republicans vote no

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U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-South Carolina, said he knows he may lose his seat thanks to his support of the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Rice was one of only 10 House Republicans to join Democrats in voting to impeach the president.

COLUMBIA — Only one of the six House Republicans in South Carolina's congressional delegation voted to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, with the others arguing that ongoing investigations by federal authorities are sufficient.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, who was also the only South Carolina Republican to vote to impeach now-former President Donald Trump for inciting the riots, again found himself as the lone GOP member from the state to support an independent commission to probe the incident.

Rice issued a statement afterward saying the "Capitol was ransacked, police were beaten and five people were killed. I was shocked and angered. As members of Congress, we took an oath to defend our democracy. I believe we must fully know the facts and causes of the event in order to secure our Capitol and ensure our democracy remains intact for future generations."

The bill ultimately passed May 19, 252-175, with 35 Republicans voting in favor.

Beyond Rice, the Palmetto State's other Republican lawmakers expressed uniform opposition to the proposal.

"Investigations into the Jan. 6 riot are already underway," said U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale. "The addition of an investigative commission is duplicative and solely political."

That reasoning was echoed by several of Wilson's colleagues, including U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, who noted that multiple federal agencies are already looking into the riot and have arrested hundreds of alleged participants from the pro-Trump mob.

“Make no mistake: the very fabric of our republic was attacked on January 6th, and I'm committed to holding those who instigated this assault accountable and learning from the security failures which allowed it to happen," said Mace, R-Charleston. "But creating an entirely new government commission with an endless budget and unknown scope accomplishes none of these goals."

The bipartisan authors of the bill to establish the commission sought to assuage those concerns, including a provision directing the members of the commission to "avoid unnecessary duplication" by reviewing the findings of other investigations into the riot.

Modeled after the revered investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks, their bill would establish an independent 10-member commission, evenly divided between the two parties, that would have subpoena power and an end-of-year deadline for completing its work.

But that did not appear to satisfy South Carolina Republicans, who said avoiding duplication would be impossible with other investigations ongoing.

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"The partisan process and limited scope will lead to a commission unlike the one established in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," said U.S. Rep. William Timmons, R-Greenville. "I fear this would end up being a political, duplicative investigation without a definitive end date."

Even U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, who cosponsored a similar bill to create a Jan. 6 commission earlier this year, decided to vote against the latest version. A spokesman said the Rock Hill Republican believes the timing would not be right because law enforcement investigations have since expanded.

"So adding yet another investigation now would be both redundant and disruptive on multiple levels," said Norman's spokesman, Austin Livingston.

Livingston added that Norman could potentially support a commission after the other investigations have concluded to "compile all that has been (and will be) learned from the numerous efforts currently underway, and to assess the preparedness and plans to prevent Jan. 6 from ever happening again."

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, also voted against the bill but did not respond to a request for comment.

South Carolina's sole Democratic congressman, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of Columbia, voted in favor of the commission, along with all other Democrats.

The bill may face an uphill battle in the Senate after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also came out against it May 19, calling the proposal "slanted and unbalanced."

At least six South Carolinians are among the suspects who have been charged for alleged involvement in the riot.

The South Carolina GOP executive committee censured Rice after his January vote to impeach Trump, prompting Rice to say at the time the party "has forgotten its own creed that says, ‘I will cower before no man save my God.'"

"It seems to me they are cowering before Donald Trump," Rice said.

A flood of GOP primary challengers have announced their intentions to run against Rice in the aftermath of his impeachment vote, including state Rep. Russell Fry, conservative media personality Allen Graham, Horry County school board Chairman Ken Richardson, Marine Corps veteran Steve Reichert, businessman Tom Dunn and more.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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