Floor Speech on H.Res. 503, Establishing the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.Res. 503, which empowers Congress to find the truth of the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol and ensure that such an assault on democracy does not happen again. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his leadership in bringing this important resolution – legislation to the Floor. I thank our distinguished Majority Leader for his clarity in presenting the case for this legislation and all of our colleagues who have come to the Floor on the Democratic side in the search of truth, justice, security for our country.
I particularly thank Mr. McGovern, because on the night of this insurrection, I was in the chair. The security came and pulled me out. He took the chair. He risked his life to take the chair as the assaulters of our Capitol were out to get me for the bullet in the head or to hang the Vice President of the United States, assault the lives of Members of Congress, traumatize our staff, disrespect the workers in the Capitol.
Not an ‘ordinary tourist day in the Capitol,’ as the Republicans have characterized. Republicans have characterized it as a ‘normal day’ in the Congress. Well, we have pictures of those very same people pushing furniture up against the door to keep the intruders out.
We are under the dome of the Capitol. A dome that was built by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. When people said to him, ‘No, we need the steel, the this, the that, to fight the war,’ he said, ‘No. We need to show our determination.’ To show our determination.
One year into the devastation of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln sent a message to Congress imploring Members to join as one to save the union. ‘Fellow citizens,’ he said. ‘We cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.’
Madam Speaker, today we go on record. We have – we, too, have a responsibility, as was described by President Lincoln. We, too, cannot escape history. We have a duty to the Constitution and to the American people to find the truth of January 6th and to ensure that such an assault on our democracy can never happen again. And rather [than] being frivolous with the facts, we are going to be prayerful and patriotic and honor the concerns of the American people by seeking and finding the truth to protect our country from any future or similar assault.
As has been said many times, that day, January 6th, was one of the darkest days of our history. For the Members, the police officers, the staff, the press, the support workers who were there, the memory of that day remains seared in our memory. The sounds of glass shattering, officers fighting, rioters chanting. The smell of tear gas and the taste of smoke in the air. And the sight of people fleeing the Capitol or barricading doors, as Democrats and Republicans did that night. And the sense of terror, hundreds of people fearing for their lives.
And the aftermath: over 140 members of law enforcement were physically and seriously harmed. Five people died. Staff, workers, press and Members were – and still remain – traumatized by the experience.
The sheer scale of the violence of that day is shocking. But what is just as shocking is remembering why this violence occurred: to block the certification of an election and the peaceful transfer of power that is the cornerstone of our democracy.
It was a day actually required by – a date required by the Constitution. It was not just ‘another tourist day in the Capitol.’ Congress returned to the Capitol that same night to accomplish our Constitutional duty. That same night, thanks to the workers, the maintenance people here, the Capitol Police and the rest, we were able to return and send a message to the world that this Congress would honor its Constitutional duties, regardless of the assault that was made on it.
This was important, and it was bipartisan in the decision. Right, Steny, you were there. Mr. McConnell agreed that we would come back while others were saying, ‘go to an undisclosed location.’ We said, ‘No, we are going to the Capitol.’ Congress returns to the Capitol, as I said, to honor that responsibility.
We showed the insurrectionists and the country and the world that we would not be diverted from our duty. We could do that because – we could do that because of the courage of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement, some of whom are with us today. Thank you so much. I especially want to recognize Gladys Sicknick, mother of Brian, who gave his life, and Sandra Garza, his friend and partner.
But it's clear that January 6th was not simply an attack on the Capitol building – it was an attack on our democracy. Every Member here knows that January 6th was an attempt to subvert our democracy, but many across the aisle refuse to admit the truth.
They refuse to admit the truth when they voted against certifying the President – President Biden’s election that night, they refused to admit the truth when they voted against the creating of a bipartisan Commission to investigate the attack. They refused to admit the truth when they called that day a ‘normal tourist visit.’ And today, when they – many will vote against establishing a Select Committee to investigate that day, they will again refuse to admit this truth.
But they did that. 100 percent of them voted ‘No’ against putting resources for the – to ensure the security of our Capitol Police and the security of this building. One hundred and seventy-five Republicans voted ‘No.’ When it came time for the Commission, when it came time for the Commission, 35 yeses on the Republican side.
I'm heartbroken that we don't have the bipartisan Commission. We yielded on every point: numbers, as Mr. Hoyer said, the numbers, the process for subpoenas, the timing – and further yielded on the Senate side on timing again, as well as clarification on staffing. That was never in doubt, but they wanted further clarification. They thought – the Republican Senators thought that they could win the day over there. They thought they could. And they thought they had the votes until the Majority – Minority – the newly Minority Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, asked them to do him a ‘personal favor’ and vote against the Commission.
Too many of them chose to do Mitch McConnell a personal favor, rather than to perform their patriotic duty. And hence, despite the fact that seven Republican Members either voted or said they would vote for the Commission, it was defeated. They said, ‘Give us another week, give us another week, give us another week, give us another week.’ Now it's almost – well, it's four and a half weeks, and we must go forward. It does not appear at this time that we can have a bipartisan Commission – outside Commission. Hopefully, that could still happen, but in the meantime, we will have a Select Committee.
This is not unlike what happened in 2001 at the time of the 9/11 Commission. 9/11 happened exactly then: 9/11/2001. It took almost – more than one year to get the Commission. It was signed into law by the President on November 27, 2002. In the meantime, there was a Congressional investigation, which was useful to the Commission when they finally were formed. So, perhaps we can still hope for that, but we cannot wait for it. To do that, we believed that Congress must, in the spirit of bipartisanship and patriotism, establish this Commission. And it will be conducted with dignity, with patriotism, with respect for the American people so that they can know the truth.
It's a funny thing about Mitch saying he wanted them to do him a personal favor. Oh, my goodness. We had a Commission on this side of the Capitol. Bennie Thompson, our distinguished Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, working with the Ranking Member of the Committee, Mr. Katko, put together a bipartisan Commission.
Only 35 Republicans voted for it, even though we responded to every one of their concerns. Except, as Mr. Hoyer said, ‘scope.’ Scope. They just did not want to go to the truth, sadly.
That is why there will be, and today we are establishing, a Select Committee on the January 6th Insurrection. It will investigate and report upon the facts and causes of the attack. It will report on conclusions and recommendations for preventing any future assault, and it will find the truth, which clearly the Republicans fear – but hopefully not across the country.
This Committee is about our security, ensuring that a future attack does not happen, and it's about patriotism and democracy, ensuring that Congress can continue to serve the American people. Mr. Hoyer rightfully pointed out that, as the other side likes to say, ‘Oh, the Senate. They did a bipartisan’ – they were very limited in what they were allowed to do. They were only allowed to investigate the security of the building, not the causes of it, not the fact that it was an insurrection incited by the Executive Branch. None of that was allowed, so don't use that as an excuse not to have a fuller investigation of the underlying causes of what happened. The underlying causes of white supremist and antisemit – antisemites. One man with a Camp Auschwitz shirt on: ‘six million are not enough.’ You think they would reject that. No, it’s just a ‘normal day of tourism in the Capitol.’
In that message to the Congress that I quoted in the beginning from President Lincoln, he concluded by declaring, ‘We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of Earth. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just. A way, which if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.’ He went on to say, ‘We know how to save the Union, the world knows how – we do know how to save it. We hold the power,’ he said and ‘bear the responsibility.’
Today, we, too, hold the power and bear the responsibility. Let all Members do what is right and vote for this legislation. We will be judged by future generations as to how we value our democracy. Let's be on the right side – not only of history, but the right side of the future. I urge my colleagues to vote ‘aye’ and yield back the balance of my time.