Pelosi Floor Speech on Privileged Resolution to Terminate the President’s Emergency Declaration
Speaker Pelosi. I thank the gentleman for yielding and I thank him for the eloquent way that he has presented this legislation to the Floor of the House.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to quote from the Constitution of the United States. It begins with our statement of purpose of the nation, with the preamble: ‘We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.’
Immediately following that sacred purpose – says, ‘Article I.’ Article I – the legislative branch.
Perhaps it's time for our country to have a civics lesson – a values-based civics lesson.
I applaud our colleague, Congressman Castro, for his leadership in ensuring that this House was ready to reassert our responsibility under the Constitution in its systems of checks and balance.
In their wisdom, our Founders rejected the idea of a monarch. They didn't want to live under that. They made that clear. They fought the War of Independence to free themselves from that.
And therefore, in their wisdom, they put forth in this Constitution – a heart and soul and core of it – the separation of powers, co-equal branches of government to be a check and balance on each other. They saw the wisdom of that, and then of course added the Bill of Rights with further freedoms enumerated. But the core of the Constitution is the separation of powers.
So today, we are on this Floor of the House, and our colleagues have spoken eloquently about the reality or mythology of the crisis at the border that the President contends. They've spoken eloquently about the opportunity cost of the money that the President wants to use for this ill-conceived wall and what it means to our national security.
But we, in this House of Representatives, each one of us, and everyone in public service in our country, takes an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. It is our oath. We promise. And that Constitution is about the separation of powers that is being usurped by the Executive branch. We in the Legislative branch cannot let that happen.
In fact, our Republican colleagues – I appeal to our Republican colleagues because I do believe and trust that they are people of their word. And, if they take an oath to uphold the Constitution, that they will honor it with their vote on the Floor today.
In keeping, by the way, with – under the previous House Speaker, our colleagues across the aisle placed a high priority on the separation of powers and Congress's constitutional prerogatives.
The Republican ‘Better Way,’ which they put forth in 2014, that agenda read, and I quote, ‘The people granted Congress the power to write laws, raise revenues and spend and borrow money on behalf of the United States.’ They continue, ‘There is no power more consequential, yet for decades Congress has let this power atrophy, thereby depriving the people of their voice.’
Their ‘Better Way’ goes on to say, ‘The Founders insisted on a separation of powers to protect our constitutional liberties.’ Their proposal goes on to say that James Madison warned that, quote, ‘warned that the Constitution is a mere parchment barrier, unless each branch asserted its powers to keep the other in check.’
That is all in the Republican agenda for ‘A Better Way’ of 2014. So, you would think it would be in keeping with their vote today.
In that spirit, the then-Speaker, Speaker Ryan often lamented that Congress, quote, ‘Keeps forfeiting the game – yielding to the executive branch, giving the President a blank check, not even bothering to read the fine print in some cases.’
Well, we are not going to give any President, Democratic or Republican, a blank check to shred the Constitution of the United States. We would be delinquent in our duties as Members of Congress if we did not overturn what the President is proposing. He is asking each and every one of us to turn our backs on the oath of office that we took to the Constitution of the United States.
I do not believe that the Republicans want to do that. I don't think it's consistent with what they have advocated in the near term, and historically.
Is your oath of office to Donald Trump or is your oath of office to the Constitution of the United States? You cannot let him undermine the strength of your pledge to protect and defend the Constitution.
Again, our colleagues have talked about the opportunity cost of taking money from our national security and spending it in this way. I was at the border this weekend. We all have our stories and the rest, but whatever you think about the wall, let's just put that aside for a moment. And whatever you think about where you take the money from and where you put it, which is substantial, but, putting that aside for a movement, the question is: what do you think about yourself, your Congress, your conscience, your oath of office? Your oath of office?
And I trust that our colleagues, as I say, will be consistent in their beliefs and join us in honoring the oath we all take to support.
The resolution is not about politics. It's not about partisanship. It's about patriotism. It's about the Constitution of the United States, which I hold in my hand here. And George Washington on the cover of this says, ‘Its only keepers, the people.’
We in the People's House are the keepers of this Constitution. We in the Congress are the keepers of this Constitution. We in the Congress, in Article I, the Congress of the United States, spelled out very clearly in the Constitution, the powers given to the Legislative branch: the powers of the purse, the power to declare war – powers enumerated very carefully by our Founders.
How can you ignore that?
And so, I call, I urge a strong bipartisan support of this vital resolution to honor our oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. True faith and allegiance to the Constitution.
I urge a yes vote. And, I yield back the balance of my time.