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Two Florida Republicans break ranks, vote for commission on Jan. 6 attack

Two Miami Republicians were among 35 Republicans who joined 217 Democrats in support of a bill that creates a mechanism to investigate the day a violent mass of Donald Trump supporters overran the Capitol.
Protesters storm the U.S. Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C..
Protesters storm the U.S. Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.. [ KENT NISHIMURA | Los Angeles Times ]
Published May 20
Updated May 20

Miami U.S. Reps. Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar broke ranks with the rest of Florida’s Republican delegation Wednesday, voting to create a commission to investigate the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Republican representatives from Tampa Bay — Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, and Scott Franklin of Lakeland — were among the 175 House Republicans who voted against the commission. Daniel Webster, who represents Hernando County, didn’t vote.

In a statement, Bilirakis said there were numerous ongoing investigations into the Jan. 6 attack, and he was concerned the new commission would interfere with them. He also, along with Buchanan, said he wanted a review of all events linked to political violence, citing incidents that were blamed on those with left wing views.

“The commission bill as currently drafted is unacceptable because it fails to require a balanced investigation into the riots and violence by far-left protesters last summer,” Buchanan said in a statement, referencing the protests against police violence last year that were mostly peaceful. Bilirakis cited the 2017 shooting of five, including Rep. Steve Scalise, during a Republican charity baseball game in Alexandria, Va. Police identified the shooter as a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders who died from injuries in the subsequent shootout.

Webster was unavoidably detained in his district and couldn’t make it in time for the vote because of limited flight options, according to his spokeswoman, Jaryn Emhof. He’s opposed to proxy voting. Franklin couldn’t be reached.

Gimenez and Salazar, both freshmen lawmakers, were among 35 Republicans who joined 217 Democrats in support of a bill that creates a mechanism to investigate the day a violent mass of Donald Trump supporters overran the Capitol as Congress prepared to vote to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

The bill, if passed by the Senate, would create an independent 10-member commission that would create a proposal for securing the Capitol and an official accounting of the deadly riot.

Though dozens of Republicans supported the proposal — which passed the House 252-175 — Gimenez and Salazar were the only Republicans from Florida to vote in favor of the bill. They split with the dean of Miami House Republicans, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

By breaking rank, both members defied Trump and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who worked to get them elected. Trump issued a statement Tuesday urging Republicans to vote against what he called a “Democrat trap.”

In a statement, Gimenez — who voted Jan. 7 to overturn the results of the presidential election in two states — said “we need to analyze the facts surrounding the assault on the Capitol building on January 6th. These recommendations from the Commission will produce valuable insight on how to improve our security at the Capitol and what can be done to prevent these events from happening again.”

He tamped down the fears of some members that Democrats will politicize the process, and said he is certain Republicans will have “an equal voice at the table.”

“There is no doubt that January 6th left many questions to be asked of those in charge of the security protocols on Capitol Hill,” he said. “This commission will provide a legitimized mechanism for those questions to be answered.”

Gimenez told CNN Wednesday that “I’ve been able to break ranks with my party on a number of issues, unlike the Democrats who don’t break ranks.”

“Apparently Nancy Pelosi does not like any of her Democrats to break ranks.”

A Salazar spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this story.

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