/  Ranking Member Cole Floor Remarks on H. Res. 21

Ranking Member Cole Floor Remarks on H. Res. 21

As prepared for delivery on the House floor:

Just a few days ago, the nation was shaken by the violent and destructive actions of an outrageous mob that stormed the Capitol and attempted to gain access to this very chamber, seeking to harm innocent lives and disrupt democracy at work. I vehemently condemn their lawless actions. This never should have happened, and the perpetrators of these despicable crimes that took place in this building must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

While Americans have the right to passionately voice their views and peacefully dissent in protest, the siege on our Capitol last Wednesday was the furthest thing from peaceful protest. As a result of the violent and frightening events of the day, six lives have been lost. This includes two courageous Capitol Police officers, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, secure the building and restore order. We will never forget their selfless sacrifices and bravery. Our deepest prayers remain with their families, friends, loved ones and the entire United States Capitol Police force as they grapple with their heavy loss.    

As we seek to pick up the pieces and move toward healing our nation, I am concerned that the majority is proceeding with the wrong course of action. 

Earlier today, the Rules Committee met and reported out a rule for consideration of H. Res. 21. This is a non-binding resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to convene the Cabinet and declare President Trump incapable of executing his duties, pursuant to section four of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. 

I think this resolution is misguided and inappropriate for the legislative branch to pursue, and as such, I must oppose it.

Mr. Speaker, under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, when it appears that the president is unable to fulfill his or her duties, it is the responsibility of the vice president, with the concurrence of a majority of the Cabinet, to initiate the process for making that determination. That responsibility, grave as it is, rests solely with the vice president. There is no role for Congress in this process. The only role for Congress arises later, and only in the circumstances where there is a dispute between the president and the vice president about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her duties. 

But we are not faced with that situation now. Nor is this resolution intended to designate, by law, another body besides the Cabinet to exercise this power, which the text of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment says we may do.

Instead, with today’s resolution, what the majority is asking the House to do is to assume a power it does not have. The House has no role in initiating section four of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, and we should not pretend otherwise.

Instead, that power lies with the vice president. And we should be very clear about what this resolution actually is: it's an attempt to pressure the vice president into performing a duty he clearly does not believe is necessary at this time.

Mr. Speaker, I was here in the Capitol last week, as were all of my colleagues. We all had an opportunity to watch Vice President Pence as he fulfilled his duty under the Constitution. He showed sound judgment, poise under pressure and his was actions were above reproach. Indeed, he fulfilled his oath of office and acted in a manner befitting his constitutional role. It was a statesman like performance under the most difficult circumstances. 

Despite witnessing the vice president’s sound judgment and ability to fulfill his oath in person, the majority is now seeking to push him into performing an additional action under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. The vice president has not done what the majority wishes him to do, and so they are bringing up this resolution now in an effort to pressuring him into doing so. This act – attempting to substitute the House’s judgment for the vice president’s – is not contemplated anywhere in the Constitution.

And, as we all saw last Wednesday, Vice President Pence’s judgment is sound. There is no need for the House to attempt to substitute its judgment for his own. I personally have strong faith in him, and I believe he will consider this constitutional duty in the same manner that he carries out all of the other constitutional duties assigned to him: in a forthright manner that fulfills his oath of office and attests to his personal integrity.

Should the Vice President ever believe that the Twenty-Fifth Amendment needs to be invoked, I have no doubt that Vice President Pence, both as a leader, as a former House colleague and as a friend, would exercise good judgment with respect to performing that duty. That he has not taken action thus far is not an indication that the House needs to push him to do so. His record of sound judgment should speak to us on this issue.

As such, I urge my colleagues to reject this resolution. I urge a no vote on the rule, a no vote on the underlying measure, and I reserve the balance of my time.
 

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Created: January 12, 2021