Sen. Lisa Murkowski at impeachment trial

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) walks to the Senate Chamber on the first day of the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 21, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

From NBC News to The Washington Post, major media companies headlined Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s comments criticizing GOP leaders for blocking an independent panel to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

“Something bad happened, and it’s important to lay that out,” Murkowski told reporters after last week's Senate vote on forming an outside, nonpartisan commission.

Murkowski was among six Republican senators who broke with party ranks and aligned with Democrats to support debating the bill on the Senate floor. 

She was joined by Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

But the Senate vote was six short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation. It was the first bill of the new Democratic-controlled Congress to end by filibuster in the Senate.

"We just can't pretend that nothing bad happened, or that people just got too excitable,” Murkowski told reporters later.

“Something bad happened. And it's important to lay that out," she said, objecting to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell telling fellow Republicans to block the bill.

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan voted against it. 

Alaska Rep. Don Young opposed the legislation in the House, where it passed on a vote of 252-175, before moving to the Senate, where it was defeated.

On Jan. 6, the nation’s Capitol was stormed by pro-Trump supporters who tried to disrupt the certification of Democrat Joe Biden as president. Five people died and scores were injured.

Gladys Sicknick's son was a Capitol police officer who died after responding to the violence. Brian Sicknick, 42, suffered two strokes and died a day after the attack. His mother reached out to Murkowski and other members of Congress before the vote.

“I suggest that all congressmen and senators who are against this bill visit my son's grave in Arlington National Cemetery, and while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward,” Gladys Sicknick said.

GOP looks to 2022 

Former President Donald Trump warned GOP leadership to oppose the commission, calling it a "Democratic trap." 

Under the legislation, the commission would have 10 members, outside the federal government and appointed by congressional leaders from both parties.

Democrats and Republicans would appoint an equal number of members.

McConnell said that forming the outside commission to investigative the violence would hurt the Republican Party's chances to win back control of Congress in 2022.

Murkowski is among GOP senators up for re-election. 

But Murkowski said that an independent investigation conducted by a nonpartisan commission was too important to delay over party politics.

"Is that really what this is about?” Murkowski replied to a reporter’s question. “Is everything just one election cycle after another? 

“Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear" that "we have free and fair elections and we respect the results of those elections, and we allow for a peaceful transition of power," she said. 

'An attack on our Capitol'

Murkowski challenged comments by GOP members who downplayed the violence. She told reporters that the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol was an attempt to thwart U.S. democracy.

"This was an attack on our Capitol, designed to stop a process that has been in play for, for a century plus, when we move to allow for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next," Murkowski said.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, host Chuck Todd used Murkowski’s comments as a contrast to McConnell’s public opposition to the Jan. 6 panel.

McConnell said that he did not want to “re-litigate” the Capitol attack, which would be televised to the nation. 

Todd interviewed former U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, a two-term Republican from Virginia, who said that Murkowski met personally with Sicknick's mother.

Comstock attended the meeting between Murkowski and Gladys Sicknick. 

She said the Alaska senator apologized to “Mrs. Sicknick that she should even have to be there on this painful Memorial Day weekend when her son lies at Arlington National Cemetery, as she pointed out, because he fought so well,” Comstock said.

Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.