US Senate Republicans have blocked creation of a bipartisan panel to investigate the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol, displaying continuing party loyalty to former president Donald Trump and firm determination to shift the political focus away from the violent insurrection by his GOP supporters.
The Senate vote on Friday was 54-35 - six short of the 60 needed - to take up a House-passed bill that would have formed an independent 10-member commission evenly split between the two parties.
It came a day after emotional appeals for the commission from police who fought the mob, the family of an officer who died and lawmakers in both parties who fled Capitol chambers in the worst attack on the building in two centuries.
The Republicans were mostly but not totally united: Six voted with Democrats to move forward. Eleven senators - nine Republicans and two Democrats - missed the vote, an unusually high number of absentees for one of the highest-profile votes of the year. At least one of the missing Republicans would have voted in favour of considering the commission, according to his office.
The GOP opposition means that questions about who should bear responsibility for the attack could continue to be filtered through a partisan lens - in congressional committees - rather than addressed by an outside, independent panel modelled after the commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The vote was in part a GOP attempt to placate Trump, or avoid his reprisals, as he has kept a firm hold on the party since his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden. The former president told his supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat before the siege and continues to falsely say he won the election - claims shouted by his supporters as they stormed the building. Trump called the commission legislation a "Democrat trap".
Friday's vote - the first successful use of a Senate filibuster in the Biden presidency - was emblematic of the profound mistrust between the two parties since the siege, especially among Republicans, with some in the party downplaying the violence and defending the rioters.
The vote also is likely to galvanise Democratic pressure to do away with the filibuster, a time-honoured procedure typically used to kill major legislation. It requires 60 votes to move ahead, rather than a simple majority in the 100-member Senate. With the Senate evenly split 50-50, Democrats needed support from 10 Republicans to move to the commission bill.
Speaking to his Republican colleagues, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote they were "trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug" out of "fear or fealty" to Trump.
He left open the possibility of another vote in the future on establishing a bipartisan commission, declaring, "The events of January 6 will be investigated".
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed that commitment, saying Democrats "will find the truth".
Though the bill to form the commission passed the House earlier this month with the support of almost three dozen Republicans, most GOP senators said they believed the bipartisan panel would eventually be used against them politically.
While initially saying he was open to the idea, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell turned firmly against it in recent days, arguing that the panel's investigation would be partisan despite the even split among party members.
McConnell, who once said Trump was responsible for provoking the mob attack on the Capitol, said dismissively of Democrats, "They'd like to continue to litigate the former president, into the future."
The attack was the worst on the Capitol in 200 years. The protesters interrupted the certification of Biden's win over Trump, constructed a mock gallows in front of the Capitol and called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, who was overseeing the proceedings inside. Lawmakers hid on the floor of the House balcony as the rioters tried to break in, and senators evacuated their chamber mere minutes before it was ransacked.
Four of the protesters died that day, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber. Dozens of police officers were injured, and two took their own lives in the days afterward.