/  Ranking Member Cole Floor Remarks on H.R. 3237 and H.R. 3233

Ranking Member Cole Floor Remarks on H.R. 3237 and H.R. 3233

As prepared for delivery on the House floor during debate on the rule for H.R. 3237 and H.R. 3233:

Today’s rule covers two items, Madam Speaker. The first item I’ll discuss is H.R. 3237, a supplemental appropriations bill intended to provide security funding for the Capitol Complex, including funding for the U.S. Capitol Police, National Guard and other agencies that responded to the January 6 attack on the Capitol Complex, as well as to provide funds to address coronavirus throughout a variety of agencies Congress directly controls.

Though the process leading to this bill started out with bipartisan negotiations, unfortunately, no deal was reached. Instead of negotiating with Republicans on our counter-proposal, as is typical in these discussions, Democrats walked away, once again choosing to go it alone with the partisan bill before us today.

Madam Speaker, it’s truly disappointing that Democrats were unwilling to continue to work toward an agreement with Republicans on a matter of this magnitude. And, given that the Senate is in no hurry to take up this legislation, a few additional weeks of discussion could and likely would have led to a bipartisan product, instead of a product destined for the legislative graveyard. 

In the wake of the January 6 attack, I had hoped that the majority would join with Republicans and choose to speak with one voice. Instead, like so many other items this Congress, the majority has insisted on its way or the highway, and today, they are doing so again with this partisan bill.

House Republicans, and even some Senate Democrats, have concerns with this package. 

The bill creates a rapid response force with the D.C. National Guard. Any rapid response force intended to provide backup for the U.S. Capitol Police and to protect the Capitol Complex should be under the control of, and housed within, Congress. As a number of my colleagues mentioned during debate in the Rules Committee yesterday, housing these capabilities within the D.C. National Guard introduces the exact same concerns my friends on the other side raised in the aftermath of January 6 – that Congress would be reliant on the executive branch to deploy this rapid response force. 

I have deep concerns about putting this rapid response force under the control of any other entity, whether that is the government of the District of Columbia or the executive branch. I also have grave concerns about assigning this role to the military since this is undoubtedly a law enforcement function. Further bipartisan and bicameral negotiations would have helped us to tailor the package to allay some of the serious concerns members have and at the same time would direct funds to where they are needed most.

I do know, Madam Speaker, that what the House passes this week will not be the final word. And I am hopeful that in the not-too-distant future the House will take up a different version of this package, one that has been negotiated with Republicans and that can pass the Senate. And I look forward to supporting that package before the president signs it into law.

Our second item for today is H.R. 3233, a bill which establishes a national commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol Complex. 

I want to thank Ranking Member John Katko and Chairman Bennie Thompson of the Homeland Security Committee for their hard work in putting this legislation together. They took an unworkable and hyper-partisan proposal from the Speaker and turned it into a far better bill. I commend these two gentlemen for their desire to find bipartisan agreement.

However, I continue to have concerns with the legislation – concerns that could have been addressed if several of the amendments proposed at our Rules Committee hearing would have been made in order. On an issue this serious, the full House deserves the opportunity to debate and discuss areas of disagreement to see if we can find common ground.

One of these areas of continued disagreement is that of scope, which remains too narrow in the proposal. As the culture of our national politics has coarsened over the past several years, there has been a resulting broader wave of political violence in this country. This includes events like the 2017 domestic terror attack that targeted Republican members of Congress at a baseball practice and which would have been catastrophically worse but for the bravery of the U.S. Capitol Police officers who were present that day. It includes the April 2 attack that killed U.S. Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans. It includes the wave of violence, rioting and property destruction that swept across the country last summer. The commission should have specific flexibility to examine these events in their appropriate context.  

I am also concerned about current language in the bill related to the ongoing work of law enforcement to bring the perpetrators of January 6 to justice. There are multiple investigations already underway. Several committees in both the House and Senate have held – and will continue to hold – hearings on this topic. The Architect of the Capitol is reviewing security vulnerabilities in the Capitol Complex. And as of yesterday, more than 440 people have been arrested in connection with the events of January, with at least 100 more arrests to come. All of these individuals will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, as well they should.  

Given each of these ongoing investigations and proceedings, I fear that adding yet another investigation from this proposed commission would only muddy the waters and make achieving due process and reaching justice all that much harder. For that reason, I supported an amendment offered in the Rules Committee that would ensure that the ongoing and critically important work of law enforcement would continue unimpeded by this commission. For reasons I do not fully understand, this amendment was blocked. 

Moreover, in my personal opinion, the commission would benefit from any revelations emerging from investigations currently under way.

In addition, I note that it was 14 months between the events of 9/11 and the creation of the 9/11 Commission. During that time, many facts emerged that informed the investigation of the commission. The same could be true here. As such, it makes sense to take more time prior to commencing an undertaking like this commission.

Though I have reservations about the bill, I have no reservations at all about the job Ranking Member Katko and Chairman Thompson have done. I am hopeful that this bill will be improved further as it proceeds through the legislative process.

With that, Madam Speaker, I urge opposition to this rule.

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Created: May 19, 2021