It’s been six months since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and made their way inside the House and Senate chambers while Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election. The world watched the insurrection unfold on live television.
Despite all the evidence of the day’s events, bipartisan efforts to form a commission looking into the insurrection failed. Last week, the Democratic-controlled House passed legislation to form a select committee to investigate what spurred the breach of the Capitol and what happened on the day itself.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named eight people to serve on the committee, including three from California. While Democrats Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren became household names thanks to their roles in the first impeachment of the former president, Pete Aguilar of Redlands has maintained a relatively low profile.
The Inland Empire congressman points to his committee assignments as playing a role in why he was chosen to be a part of the inquiry into the insurrection.
“I serve on two committees of jurisdiction with respect to the events of January 6 – the House Appropriations Committee, as well as the House Administration Committee, which has oversight over the U.S. Capitol Police,” Aguilar says.
“Because of the work that I have done on the committees, the Speaker asked me if I would serve. I agreed and here we are,” he says with a chuckle.
But Aguilar thinks there may be another reason behind his appointment.
“I also think that the fact that I am not known as a firebrand among my colleagues – I’m known as someone who’s pragmatic and thoughtful – I think also played a role,” he says.
When it comes to the scope of this newly formed committee, Aguilar says it will be broad, including what led up to the events of January 6, the actual storming of the Capitol that day, and the role violent extremism played in the insurrection.
“I would note that there was a bipartisan proposal that had a very specific scope and a very specific timeline, and unfortunately Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans voted against it overwhelmingly,” Aguilar says. “Mitch McConnell asked the Senate Republican caucus to do him a personal favor and to defeat the measure.”
Given the latitude this House committee will have in conducting its inquiry, Aguilar expects witness testimony will play a significant part. He’s already expecting to hear from one agency.
“We’re going to start with the U.S. Capitol Police, who have indicated to us that they want to share their story, and so we’re going to hear from them, and we’re going to do that as soon as we can,” Aguilar says.
The congressman who first took office in 2015 is quick to point out that this new committee is in its early days, and it’s still not fully formed.
Bakersfield Republican and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has input on who sits on the committee. He’s allowed to suggest several members of his caucus, which the Speaker can accept or reject. Pelosi already took the rare step of crossing the aisle by tapping Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, to serve.
Given the bitterly partisan climate, it’s unclear if McCarthy will offer any Republican names to potentially join the January 6 committee. Aguilar hopes he does.
“We have a quorum of the committee that’s already been constituted,” Aguilar says. “And we have a Republican on the committee appointed by the Speaker, so we can carry forward, but my hope and belief is that House Republicans will place individuals that will share in our desire to seek the truth.”
Aguilar says he’s acquainted with Cheney, but he has not worked with her on issues in the past. As he enters into this venture with her, he commends her principles.
“She is someone who – even when you disagree with some of her policy positions – you can’t say that she isn’t thoughtful or has conviction,” Aguilar says. “She’s going to be included in this process, and she shares a willingness to be guided by the oath that we took as members of Congress and to seek the truth.”
Reflecting on the nature of the committee, Aguilar highlights the real impacts still being felt in the wake of January 6.
“One hundred forty police officers injured [sic] – some of them permanently, five have lost a life since then,” Aguilar says. “Many staff members who work in these buildings and members of Congress who have had trauma as a result of those events – we owe it to all of them to find the truth and to be guided by the facts. That's what we plan to do.”