Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks at Press Conference on January 6th Commission & Emergency Security Supplemental

May 19, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, Chairman Bennie Thompson and Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren for a press conference on legislation to establish an independent, bipartisan 9/11-style Commission to investigate the January 6th attack as well as provide $1.9 billion in emergency security supplemental funding to secure the Capitol.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good afternoon, everyone.  

This is a very special day for us in the Capitol – because we had one of the darkest days in our history on January 6th.  Our temple of democracy was attacked by insurrectionists, as you know, on that day.  The gleeful desecration of the Capitol resulted in multiple deaths, physical harm to over 140 members of this law enforcement and terror and trauma among the staff, support workers and even among our Members.

Congress has a clear and urgent responsibility to come to the truth of what happened and to ensure that this can never happen again.  It is my honor to stand here with three of our leaders in how we make matters right from what happened on January 6th.  Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson – he has worked to establish the bipartisan agreement, a 9/11-style Commission to report on that facts and the causes of the attack.  And we're so proud that he reached bipartisan agreement with his Ranking Member, and I commend Ranking Member Katko for his leadership as well.  Thank you, Mr. Thompson.  Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, for her leadership and that of the Subcommittee Chairs, who worked so hard on hearings, et cetera for emergency security supplemental that will protect the Capitol and all who serve and work here.  Again, that is really important.  And then our Chair of the House Administration Committee, leading reviews and holding hearings to inform our work and harden the Capitol and defend democracy, especially as we go forward.  Each has been persistent, patriotic and principled as they achieve these steps.  

This is all important, because this place, this Capitol of the United States, has been a beacon of democracy to the world.  The fact that it was assaulted on a day which the Constitution called for – to us – for us to ascertain, to certify the President of the United States, as voted by the Electoral College and the American people, made that day especially – especially harmful to our democracy and our Constitution.

So, here we are, January 6th, and now the middle of May, and we have a Commission – a bipartisan Commission coming to the Floor of the House.  You may not know this, because many of you were not here then, but our bill – well, 9/11, you know, when that was, 9/11/2001.  The 9/11 Commission legislation was signed into law November 27, 2002, more than fourteen months later. 

Just a little more than four months later, we have a bill coming to the Floor.  This is a remarkable achievement and one that is very necessary.  

I'm especially pleased that this morning, at a press event – perhaps you were participating in it – the bipartisan Commission was endorsed by the 9/11 Commission Co-Chairs, Governor Thomas Kean of New Jersey, and Mr. Chairman, Lee Hamilton, former Member of Congress.  They were the Co-Chairs of the 9/11 Commission.  In the interest of bipartisanship, we yielded on many points, which we thought would be important.  And we're not necessarily mirroring 9/11, but mirroring many Commissions since 9/11.

Giving the President appointments – the Republicans didn't like that, so, we have five and five, what they wanted.  We had a subpoena power in the Majority.  They didn't like that, so, we have bipartisanship in terms of the subpoena.  You have to have bipartisanship.  We had findings in the legislation that were very important.  We took a big chunk out.  They still wanted more out, even the testimony of the director of the FBI earlier in the – before – before January 6th.  And we took that out.  We wouldn't budge on the purpose: to examine what happened on January 6th.  Our distinguished Chairman will speak to that.  

And it is my honor to yield to the person responsible for this bipartisan agreement, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson, Mr. Chairman.

* * *

The distinguished Chair of the House Administration Committee mentioned she has a hearing coming up.  So, we and – we have votes on the Floor.  So, we will take a few questions, though.  Yes, sir.

Q:  Madam Speaker, I'm sure you've heard both Leader McCarthy and Leader McConnell discount the viability of this Commission, calling it a partisan effort and casting doubt that it can actually pass the Senate.  What do you say to them?

Speaker Pelosi.  Perhaps you heard the distinguished Majority Leader of the Senate at an earlier press availability we had today say that this bill will come to the Floor.  They will have the debate to see who wants to seek the truth or not.  

Yes, Garrett.

Q:  Madam Speaker, one of the complaints about this, I guess, is the idea that it could be duplicative.  There's a half a dozen Congressional committees looking into various elements of this, all of the criminal cases that are open.  What can only a Commission do?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, first of all, it is – when we had the 9/11 Commission, I had the privilege of serving as a Co-Chair of the Congressional, bipartisan – in that case, bicameral – commission, and we worked leading up to the actual signing of this law.  So there is – and the Commission, in the legislation, it says to take advantage of other initiatives, governmental and other level.  So this is not – I appreciate the sincerity of your question, because it gives me a chance to say that this is all the more reason for us to have a bipartisan Commission, which commands the respect of the American people by dint of the caliber of people who will serve on it. 

I certainly could call for hearings in the House, with a Majority of the Members being Democrats, with full subpoena power, with the agenda being determined by the Democrats.  But that's not the path we have chosen to go. 

So we will take advantage of what you’ve described.  Other research – certainly not to stand in the way of law enforcement, that is never anybody's intention – but also to reap the benefits of research that is being done and some of the findings, in fact, that the FBI and the others may make available to us.

Q:  Can I follow up on that?  Is it safe to say you're reserving the right to take that other path if necessary?  

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't want to.  I don't want to.  I – what is important, and the reason I was willing to – we, as a group, were willing to yield on certain points, which we thought were, shall we say, contradictory to past Republican behavior when it came to appointing commissions, was that we wanted the American people to have the fullest confidence in the product that there is.  We will find the truth.  So it's not a question of doing this in addition – something in addition to this.  It's a question of if they don't want to do this, we will.  Right, Mr. Chairman?  We will find the truth.  Would you like to speak to that?

Chairman Thompson.  Well, thank you, Madam Speaker.  I think it's clear that with the hearings that have gone on, there is a base level of information that's available, that should be helpful to the Commission to do its job.  But at the end of the day, we would like the Commission to come back with recommendations based on what their reviews have discovered.  And we trust their qualification, of the people who serve, to do just that. 

So, commissions, as the Speaker has already said, is not something new.  We adopted all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.  And, you know, it worked.  And so, we used that as a template for this 1/6 Commission, and we accepted the language, in terms of a lot of inclusivity, in the product.  But it's, it's a labor of love.  The Ranking Member and I spent many hours working back and forth, getting to this point of accepting the document.  And, in principle, we thought we actually had agreement on all sides, and it was as big a shock to the Speaker and all of us that our Minority Leader had not – well, he even said he had not seen it.  Which, we have letters from him responding to it.  So it's not like he hadn't seen it, so – but we didn't want it to become purely political.  That's why we worked diligently to make it bipartisan.

Speaker Pelosi.  And that's why the deal of the distinguished Chairman was so respected by our colleagues.  But, really, to be technical about your question.  It's one thing to have a series of hearings, and I encouraged committees in the House and the Senate to have their Committees, where it is appropriate, for their oversight.  But, there's one thing to have individual information.  It’s another thing to see it in the aggregate.  To see it in the aggregate shows you the weight of any one of the actions that were taken.  And that is how you should be viewing it. 

One more?  Yes, sir.

Staff.  Last question.

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, do you think Republicans, including Leader McCarthy, are afraid of being subpoenaed or afraid of President Trump being subpoenaed in this Commission?

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't know.  You'll have to ask them what they're afraid of.  You’ll have to ask them, but it sounds like they're afraid of the truth, and that's most unfortunate.  But, hopefully, they'll get used to the idea that the American people want us to find the truth.  And that is what we intend to do.  And to do it in a way that is as unifying as possible.  That's why we yielded.  As unifying as possible.  If I wanted to go to another Committee, I would have done it sooner, but I didn't want to go there.  And to do it in a unifying way, and in a way that Governor Kean and Chairman – the Co-Chairs of the 9/11 Commission – Chairman Hamilton have suggested: that we find a way to strengthen our democracy as we find the truth.  We strengthen our democracy as we go forward because that's our responsibility.  And we, again, unify the country as we do. 

Thank you all very much.  Thank you.