(The Hill) – President Biden and Democratic lawmakers gathered in Washington on Thursday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol, a grim event that was largely boycotted by Republicans, who are wary of any action that could upset former President Trump.
Biden used the stage to deliver a fiery and remarkably personal speech in the Statues Hall of the Capitol in which he accused Trump in no uncertain terms of orchestrating the insurgency.
âFor the first time in our history, a president not only lost the election, he tried to prevent a peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob violated the Capitol,â Biden said in what was perhaps his most critical speech towards his predecessor so far. in his presidency. “We have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
The unbalanced partisan nature of the commemoration ceremonies marked a stark contrast to the bipartisan solidarity that followed the last major assault on the country’s grassroots institutions: the September 11 attacks.
And it underscored just how eager Republicans – from the upper echelons of leadership to the lower ranks of the grassroots – to move beyond the Jan. 6 insurgency, when a violent pro-Trump mob, ginned by the former president, stormed the Capitol in an unsuccessful effort to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s electoral victory.
The signs of this messaging strategy were everywhere Thursday.
A typically provocative Trump called off a press conference on Jan.6 after pressure from GOP allies, who feared what he might say. Most of the GOP senators, joined by some Democrats, traveled to Atlanta on Thursday to attend the funeral of one of their own, beloved former Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Who died on December 19.
And only three of the 212 House Republicans have been spotted on Capitol Hill. Two of them were Trump loyalists, Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) And Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Who took the opportunity to hold a press conference suggesting, without evidence, that the attack was an upheaval, âa false flag operation orchestrated by the FBI and other federal agencies.
The third was Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Who over the past year has become the face of Republican resistance to Trump and the GOP’s main critic of her role in the attack. Cheney, who had voted to impeach Trump on incitement to siege and is now one of two Republicans on the select committee investigating the attack, was joined in the House by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who made it clear where his loyalties lay. .
âShe does a hell of a job,â he said. âI’m here to support him.
When he was Vice President of George W. Bush, the elder Cheney was a toxic figure in the eyes of Democrats, vilified for his staunch conservatism and accused of having led the country, under false premises, into a dire situation. . conflict in Iraq.
But that was then.
On Thursday, Democrats rallied to their former arch-nemesis, saying any animosities they harbored in the past would be dropped as the parties share a common enemy in Trump.
“We were very honored that he was here,” said President Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Who had previously accused Cheney of being “proud” to defend torture in the war on terror. âHe has the right to be on the track, as a former member of the Chamber. And I was happy to welcome him back and congratulate him on Liz Cheney’s courage.
The two Cheneys were the only two Republicans in the House chamber on Thursday, when Pelosi and dozens of Democrats returned to Capitol Hill at mid-recess to remember the heroism – and the threat to democracy – surrounding the murderous siege of the Capitol a year ago.
The odd alliance – Democrats and Cheneys band together – highlights the drastic ideological shift undergone in recent years by a Republican party in which Trump remains the peerless kingmaker, and most GOP lawmakers – de downward leadership – tread carefully to stay in its good graces for their own political survival.
At the heart of this effort has been widespread Republican endorsement of Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” by a large plot of corrupt lawmakers, tech companies, foreign adversaries, and election officials from both. parties who certified the election results as valid – a claim for which no evidence has surfaced.
Leaving the House floor on Thursday, Dick Cheney criticized current GOP leaders for their loyalty to the former president.
âThis is not a leadership like the ones I knew when I was here for 10 years,â he said, referring to the decade he served in the House to represent Wyoming. .
Walking alongside him, Liz Cheney has been even tougher in her elimination of Republicans who still advance Trump’s lie that Biden’s victory was fraudulent – the false narrative that sparked the Jan.6 attack, to begin with.
âA party with a passion for personality cult is a dangerous party for the country,â said young Cheney. “And I think we really need to get to a place where we focus on the substance and the issues.”
The Cheney’s held court in the House Well, where Dick Cheney once held key GOP leadership positions in the late 1980s. Democrats, including Reps Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Lined up to greet and thank the Cheneys.
âI told him I was proud of his daughter,â McGovern said of Liz Cheney. âWe disagree on almost everything, but I admire his integrity and his commitment to protecting this democracy. He is a true statesman. I mean, he’s someone who has put everything on the line to do what’s right for the country. History will remember her as it will remember Margaret Chase Smith.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) Gave similar praise.
âWe appreciate the fact that he’s here supporting his daughter in what is otherwise a very large minority position within the Republican Party, which is very sad,â Hoyer said.
Democrats, led by Pelosi, filled the day with events to commemorate the attack – and to shame Trump and his GOP loyalists in Congress for stoking the violence and failing to take responsibility for them. role in it.
Biden and Vice President Harris kicked off in the same Statuary Hall, where hundreds of rioters marched a year ago before an armed standoff in the House chamber.
Around noon in the Capitol basement, Democratic lawmakers – including Reps Jason Crow (Colo.), Val Demings (Fla.), Tom Malinowski (NJ) and Dean Phillips (Minn.) – served police officers of the Capitol, Hill employees and other workers. Chicken, Shawarma and Falafel Tacos provided by the non-profit Central Global Kitchen of Celebrity Chef Jose Andres.
And House Democrats put together an hour-long program that included personal testimony from lawmakers who survived the attack; a discussion by historians Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin on the place of January 6 in the nation’s messy history; and a musical number introduced by Lin Manuel Miranda and performed virtually by the cast of “Hamilton”.
“I reflect on that day, being trapped in the [House] gallery, ultimately praying for our safety and peace in our country, âRepresentative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), who is close to Biden, told her colleagues. âI also reflect on how we almost lost it, lost our democracy.
âThose of us stuck in the gallery, we’ve been through it. Bend down, crawl, under, over the railings, hands, knees, sounds, smells, âshe continued. âWe were at the forefront of what lies, hatred or banal disinformation evoke. We have gone from victim to witness, and today we are messengers.
Cristina Marcos contributed.