One of Washington‘s traditional strengths was commemorating and healing from national trauma, but with the current state of the country and the rifts between political parties and within the Republican Party, this is no longer the case.
Republicans were noticeably absent from Friday morning’s moment of silence at the Capitol to remember the attack on the building that took place on January 6, 2021. Incoming and current Democratic leaders, including Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Hakeem Jeffries, spoke briefly.
The Capitol Police officers who defended the building that day were honored, along with the families of law enforcement officers who lost their lives putting out the fires left by the rioters. Many more will forever be scarred by the bloodthirsty violence of the insurrectionist mob,” Jeffries said of the day’s police officers.
It is thanks to those officers that our democracy is still functioning properly and we can gather here today. Few Republicans were expected to attend a White House ceremony where Vice President Joe Biden would award Presidential Citizens Medals to a dozen state and local officials, election workers, and police officers for their “exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens” in protecting the integrity of the 2020 election and restraining the Capitol mob.
Everything is a far cry from the events of September 11, 2001, when Republicans and Democrats stood shoulder to shoulder in a moment of silence and sang “God Bless America” in the Capitol after having evacuated it during the terrorist attack.
An Australian newspaper reported a moving scene on the Capitol steps, with members of Congress “shaken and tearful, their love of nation and all that it symbolises plain for all to see.” This passage is now canon in the House’s official history.
Today, the insurgents who took over the American government two years ago have given the world a very different impression of the state of American democracy. The legislative branch of government is paralysed once again, this time not due to violence but to a protracted struggle within the Republican Party over who should lead the party and the House of Representatives as speaker.
However, concerns remain about the chamber’s ability to manage even the most essential legislation, such as funding the government and meeting the nation’s debt obligations, even as the GOP leadership negotiates to appease its hard-right flank and avert an imminent crisis.
In his afternoon remarks, Biden will recount instances of bravery, such as when people risked their lives to protect election workers from a mob of Trump supporters or when the Capitol was stormed by a similar group of people angry over Trump’s election victory.
To encourage harmony, he will make an appeal. Even so, the Democratic president can’t ignore the signs that it might happen again. Many candidates who denied the results of 2020’s free and fair election were soundly defeated in the midterms for key statewide positions overseeing elections in battleground states, and several election deniers who were running for Congress were also defeated.
Many of the legislators who made spurious allegations of election fraud or who offered excuses for the violence on January 6 are still in office and have been given increased authority. Trump’s campaign for president in 2024 has been slow to get off the ground, but he has a well-stocked war chest, and some of his potential opponents for the Republican nomination have adopted some of his misleading talking points from the 2020 campaign.
In addition, despite Trump’s remote appeals for them to back Rep. Kevin McCarthy and end the fight, a number of lawmakers who shared his false claims about a stolen election are at the centre of the effort to derail McCarthy’s speakership.
Because of the prolonged conflict, the House currently has no leader and is thus unable to do much aside from hold vote after vote for speaker until a majority is reached. Since the newly elected representatives have not yet taken the oath of office, they are unable to perform any official duties, including receiving briefings on national security issues or assisting their constituents in navigating federal bureaucracy.
There is a connection between January 6 and the eyes of some Democrats. One of the lawmakers who fled the rioters two years ago, Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, said that the chaos surrounding the election of the speaker “is about destruction of an institution in a different way.”
The insurgents eventually managed to corral a number of representatives inside the House chamber, but they were unable to gain entry. They slowed down national commerce for a number of hours that day.
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