/  Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H. Res. 21

Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H. Res. 21

As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:

Today is a very sad day for all of us. This is not how I thought the opening of the 117th Congress would begin, and I associate myself with how strongly everybody feels about what happened last Wednesday. It was a horrific, unacceptable day in American history and a sobering day and one full of tragedy that will cast a long shadow on the Congress in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Sadly, we are here today on a grave matter. We are meeting to discuss H. Res. 21, a resolution sponsored by our Rules Committee colleague and friend, Congressman Raskin. This resolution calls on Vice President Pence to convene the officers of the Cabinet and invoke section 4 of the 25th Amendment, declaring the President of the United States incapable of executing the duties of his office. 

While I greatly respect my friend, I think this resolution is misguided and inappropriate for the legislative branch to pursue.

Under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, the responsibility for initiating the process for making a determination as to whether or not the president is unable to fulfill his or her duties lies solely with the vice president. There is no role for Congress absent a dispute between the president and the vice president and Cabinet over his or her ability to fulfill those duties. And though Congress may designate another body besides the Cabinet to exercise this power, to date it has not done so, nor is it achieved by this resolution. 

With today’s resolution, the majority is asking the House to assume a power it does not have. The House has no role in initiating section 4 of the 25th Amendment, not even through a non-binding resolution, and we should not pretend otherwise.

Instead, that power lies with the vice president and the Cabinet. I have to say that during last Wednesday’s events, Vice President Pence showed sound judgment. His performance was above reproach. Indeed, he fulfilled his oath of office and acted in a manner befitting his constitutional role as vice president.  

We should call this resolution what this is: a transparent attempt to pressure the vice president into performing a duty he does not believe is necessary at this time. The vice president has not done what the majority wants him to do, and so they are pushing forward this resolution in an attempt to make him execute the House’s will. 

I have strong faith in Vice President Pence and believe he will consider his constitutional duty in the same manner that he carries out all his other constitutional duties: in a forthright manner that fulfills his oath of office. Should he believe that the 25th Amendment needs to be invoked, I have faith that Vice President Pence, both as a leader and as a former House colleague, would exercise good judgment with respect to performing that duty. Again, Vice President Pence’s record of sound judgment in times of crisis should speak for all of us on this issue.

Last Wednesday’s events were deeply troubling for the nation, Mr. Chairman. There is no one joining this meeting today who condones the violent and destructive actions of the mob that stormed the Capitol last week, sought to harm innocent lives and disrupt democracy at work. Indeed, it never should have happened, and I cannot condemn the lawless perpetrators of the crimes strongly enough. And I know that we are all committed to ensuring justice is served to the fullest extent of the law. 

However, I believe the resolution before the committee today will not achieve the desired result. 

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Created: January 12, 2021