Former Vice President Mike Pence sits for an interview with the Associated Press, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in New York. Credit: John Minchillo / AP

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Former Vice President Mike Pence is right about some things. He’s right that voters want to see more civility and respect from their leaders. He’s right that people want to move past continued efforts to question the results of past elections.

But as Pence rightly suggests that voters are ready to look forward, not back, he has missed some critical context about past events. Even as people want to move forward, it is critical that we don’t lose a shared grasp on the facts.

Pence, who is in the midst of promoting a new book and has his eyes on a potential 2024 run for president, spoke with CBS News recently about various issues, including whether he would testify before the Jan. 6 committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He closed that door, and criticized the committee in the process.

“The partisan nature of the January 6th committee has been a disappointment to me,” Pence told Margaret Brennan of CBS.

“It seemed to me in the beginning, there was an opportunity to examine every aspect of what happened on January 6, and to do so more in the spirit of the 9/11 Commission, nonpartisan, nonpolitical, and that was an opportunity lost,” Pence continued.

Let’s be clear about something: It wasn’t an opportunity lost. It was an opportunity prevented by Republican lawmakers. This isn’t a partisan statement; it’s a fact.

We too would have preferred a nonpartisan 9/11 Commission-style investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, 2021. We called for the creation of such a panel repeatedly in early 2021 after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. We criticized a lopsided initial proposal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and celebrated the bipartisan work done later by Reps. Bennie Thompson and John Katko to craft a compromise bill that hewed closely to the 9/11 Commission model. Thompson is a Democrat from Mississippi who went on to chair the eventual Jan. 6 committee in the House. Katko is a Republican from New York who was tapped by House Republican leader Kevin McCarty to undertake these negotiations.

Despite this good bipartisan work, McCarthy ultimately abandoned the efforts of his own chosen negotiator to oppose the reasonable proposal. The bill still passed with bipartisan support in the House, but with pressure from former President Donald Trump, most Republican senators ultimately opposed this creation of a 9/11-style Commission (with a few exceptions, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins), and the bill failed in May of 2021.

The creation of the Jan. 6 committee in the House, which does include two Republicans, by the way, didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened, not because of Democratic partisanship, but because most Republicans rejected the nonpartisan 9/11 Commission model. So while Pence’s remarks weren’t as over the top and irresponsible as other criticism has been, it was bereft of important context.  

Pence is right to call Trump’s words and actions that day “reckless” and point out that they “endangered” him and his family. But Pence is wrong to criticize the Jan. 6 committee for being “partisan,” when it was Republicans’ actions that ultimately shaped how it was created.

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...