National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex Act

Floor Speech

Date: May 19, 2021
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding. I also thank him for his great leadership working with Ranking Member Katko on bringing this bipartisan legislation to the floor for a bipartisan commission.

Let's talk about where we are. Here we are in the Capitol of the United States. The dome of the U.S. Capitol has always been a beacon of democracy and hope to America and to the world. Under this dome, our Nation has abolished slavery; secured equal protections for all; ended a civil war; enfranchised women; established Medicare and Medicaid, voting rights and civil rights; and met the needs of the American people.

Under this dome, schoolchildren learn about their country's history and what we are doing to advance their future. They come here and see us honor those who have contributed to the success of our country: Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, et cetera. But they know that our Founders, those patriots, wanted us to be working for a better future as we honor our history.

Under this dome, when children learn about our country's history, they also learn about what we are doing for their futures. Legislators pass laws. The press engages with our democracy, reporting on it. Staff and workers enable all of this to happen.

This dome is a symbol of the determination of America. But this was not always so. Let us recall that the dome of the Capitol was built during the Civil War as our country was riven by brutal conflict. At the time, many said the iron and steel used for construction were needed for the war effort. They urged the President not to continue the work on the dome. President Lincoln said no. He knew that our country needed a symbol of strength and unity, a reminder of the shared ideals and common purpose that built our Nation.

It was a beacon of hope to guide us through times of darkness, and he knew that the work must continue as a sign of our strength and the unity of our country.

Mr. Speaker, on January 6, and in the days, weeks, and months after, the Capitol dome was, once again, such a beacon.

Would we prevail?

January 6 was the day called for in the Constitution to validate the Presidential election. It was not just another day in the life of Congress. That day, one of the darkest days in our history, our temple of democracy was under assault by insurrectionists.

The gleeful desecration of our Capitol resulted in multiple deaths and physical harm to over 140 members of law enforcement and terror and trauma among staff, workers, and even Members.

The insurrection was called for to impede our constitutional mandate, but the Congress returned to the Capitol that night to accomplish our purpose. We agreed in a bipartisan way that day that we would return to the Capitol, and that sent an important signal to the world.

The insurrection called for people to impede our constitutional mandate, but we returned to the Capitol. Thanks to the courage of the Capitol Police, Members, and support workers, we showed the country and, indeed, the world that we would not be diverted from our duty and that we would respect our responsibility to the Constitution of the United States.

We take that oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Again, in a bipartisan way, we agreed to come back to the Capitol.

Today, over 4 months later, many questions regarding the circumstances of this assault on our democracy and response to it remain. It is imperative that we seek the truth of what happened on January 6.

To do that, Congress must, in a spirit, I believe, of bipartisanship and patriotism, establish an independent and bipartisan 9/11-type commission. Today, thanks to the leadership of Chairman Bennie Thompson and Ranking Member John Katko, legislation to create such a commission is on the House floor.

It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that this is happening 4\1/2\ months after the January 6 insurrection. Mr. Speaker, my colleagues know, but many were not here at the time, legislation establishing the 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2001, was not signed into law until the end of November 2002, over 14 months after the attacks.

So, people have been saying: How come we don't have a commission?

It takes time to build bipartisanship and come to agreement. Let us hope that the leadership that Mr. Thompson and Mr. Katko have demonstrated will be leadership that we will follow and that we will continue in the most bipartisan way in order to seek the truth.

Today, 4 months later, many questions regarding the circumstances still exist. This commission is designed to be impartial and experienced. The legislation requires that the commissioners be ``prominent United States citizens with national recognition and significant depth of experience.''

It also indicates that they should not be Members of Congress or elected in another capacity. Commissioners will be appointed from the highest echelons of government service; law enforcement; civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy; Armed Forces; intelligence; counterterrorism; cybersecurity; technology; and law.

The commission will be, again, bipartisan and bicameral, with commissioners appointed by the majority and minority leadership in the House and Senate. It will be actionable and effective, culminating in a final report on the facts and causes of January 6, along with recommendations to prevent further attacks on our democratic institutions.

I heard earlier Chairman Thompson acknowledge the support and endorsement of the previous chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Governor Kean and Chairman Lee Hamilton from Congress, the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission. They had written to us earlier about the need for such a bipartisan commission, but they also wanted not only to find out the truth so this doesn't happen again, but also to reinforce our commitment to democracy and take us on a path that is better and more unifying.

That is a responsibility we have, and that is a hope that I have emerging from this debate and this vote today, that we will be able to have a strong bipartisan vote that takes us down a path more unifying for our country. We have this opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, the press says to me: Why don't you just go do your own task force and your own select committee to investigate this? You have the votes, you have subpoena power, and you have this or that.

I said: I don't want to do that. We want this to be as it is shaped, bipartisan with shared responsibility and shared staff in a way that the public will have respect for the outcome.

To that end, 140 national security leaders have called for such a commission. This is what they have said: ``The events of January 6 exposed severe vulnerabilities in the Nation's preparedness for preventing and responding to domestic terrorist attacks. The immediate security failings that permitted a lethal breach of the Capitol complex by armed extremists raise serious questions and demand immediate solutions. . . . A failure to deploy the full suite of tools available to fully understand January 6 and address its causes will leave the Capitol, and the Nation, vulnerable to future attacks.''

This list is nonpartisan, 140 Democrats and Republicans. I don't even know what party some of them are.

I include their statement in the Record, Mr. Speaker.

Letter From Former Senior National Security, Military, and Elected

Officials Calling On Congress To Create a Bipartisan 1/6 Commission

Dear Members of Congress: We are former senior national security, military, and elected officials who have represented or served Democrats, Republicans, or administrations of both parties. We write to encourage this Congress to establish an independent and bipartisan national commission to investigate the January 6th assault of the U.S. Capitol Complex and its direct causes, and to make recommendations to prevent future assaults and strengthen the resilience of our democratic institutions.

We also write to you with great urgency in light of what we collectively see as an exigent and growing threat. The events of January 6th exposed severe vulnerabilities in the nation's preparedness for preventing and responding to domestic terrorist attacks. The immediate security failings that permitted a lethal breach of the Capitol Complex by armed extremists raise serious questions and demand immediate solutions.

But January 6th was also the result of complex national security threats. These include coordinated disinformation campaigns, nontransparent financing of extremist networks, potential foreign influences, and white supremacist violent extremism, which the Department of Homeland Security identified in an October 2020 report as among ``the most persistent and lethal threat[s] in the Homeland.'' As FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to you recently, ``January 6th was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now and it's not going away anytime soon.'' Understanding how these forces culminated in an attack on the infrastructure of our democracy is critical to preventing future attacks.

In the wake of September 11th, the administration and Congress jointly acknowledged that the attack's causes were complex and that an independent and well-equipped national commission was an essential tool to aid the federal government. Congressional inquiries, law enforcement activities, and a national commission not only worked in parallel, but critically complemented each other's necessary work. An independent commission should not supplant the ongoing work by the legislative and executive branches, but it can uniquely support them by providing comprehensive and expert recommendations for Congress to act upon.

Commissions--properly empowered, resourced, and led--can establish a full picture of events and an analysis of their causes, from which nonpartisan recommendations can authoritatively flow. With dedicated time, resources, and expert staffing, they can also exclusively focus on the matter at hand over an appropriate time horizon. Given the gravity of January 6th as a national security matter--the violent disruption to the transition of power and the continuing threat of future attacks--a national commission examining the lead up to the January 6th assault, and the attendant security lapses, is not only appropriate, but a critical component of the national response.

A failure to deploy the full suite of tools available to fully understand January 6th and address its causes will leave the Capitol, and the nation, vulnerable to future attacks. In bipartisan fashion, we have successfully marshaled these tools before, and we implore you to do so once again. Sincerely,

(Note: All titles are former positions or military ranks held prior to retirement.)

Javed Ali, Senior Director for Counterterrorism, National Security Council.

Thad Allen, Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard; Commandant of the Coast Guard.

Wendy R. Anderson, Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of Defense.

Daniel Baer, U.S. Ambassador; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Brian Baird, U.S. Representative, 1999-2011.

Daniella Ballou-Aares, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State.

Rand Beers, Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Deputy Homeland Security Advisor.

John Bellinger, Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State; Legal Advisor, National Security Council.

Tatyana Bolton, Cyber Policy Lead--Senior Policy Analyst, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Charles Boustany, U.S. Representative, 2005-2017.

Steven Browning, U.S. Ambassador; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Todd F. Buchwald, U.S. Ambassador, Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State.

Sharon Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy.

Daniel Byman, Professional Staff Member, 9/11 Commission.

Piper Campbell, U.S. Ambassador; Head U.S. Mission to ASEAN.

Kevin Carroll, Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Homeland Security; Senior Counsel to the House Homeland Security Committee.

J.E. Cartwright, General, U.S. Marine Corps; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Steven Cash, Chief Counsel, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein; Intelligence Officer, CIA; Assistant District Attorney, New York.

Michael Chertoff, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Peter Chiarelli, General, U.S. Army, 32nd Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence.

William Cohen, Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense.

Tom Coleman, U.S. Representative, 1976-1993.

Gary Corn, Colonel, U.S. Army, Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Cyber Command.

Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation.

Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador.

George Croner, Litigation Counsel, National Security Agency; Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice.

Carlos Curbelo, U.S. Representative, 2015-2019.

John Danforth, U.S. Senator, 1976-1995.

J. Michael Daniel, Special Assistant to President Obama and Cybersecurity Coordinator.

Tom Daschle, U.S. Senator, 1987-2005.

Greg Delawie, U.S. Ambassador.

Charles W. Dent, U.S. Representative, 2005-2018.

Murray Dickman, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General.

David Durenberger, U.S. Senator, 1978-1995.

R.P. Eddy, Director, National Security Council; Chief of Staff, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

Eric Edelman, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Mickey Edwards, U.S. Representative, 1977-1993; Chair, House Republican Policy Committee, 1989-1993.

Susan Elliott, U.S. Ambassador.

Jeffrey Feltman, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

Brenner Fissell, Appellate Counsel, Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions.

Emil Frankel, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation.

Charles Fried, Solicitor General of the United States.

Francis Fukuyama, Deputy Director, Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State.

Kim Fuller, U.S. Department of the Army, Director of International Affairs (Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary).

Larry Garber, USAID Mission Director, West Bank/Gaza.

Richard Gephardt, U.S. Representative, 1977-2005.

Stuart Gerson, Acting Attorney General of the U.S.; Assistant Attorney General; U.S. Air Force Counterintelligence Officer.

Glenn Gerstell, General Counsel, National Security Agency.

James Glassman, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

Kevin Green, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy.

Nina Hachigian, U.S. Ambassador.

Chuck Hagel, Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense.

Morton Halperin, Director, Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State.

Jane Harman, U.S. Representative, 1993-1991, 2001-2011.

Gary Hart, U.S. Senator, 1975-1987.

Luke Hartig, Senior Director for Counterterrorism, National Security Council.

Michael V. Hayden, General, U.S. Air Force; Director, CIA; Director, NSA.

Jason Healey, Director, Critical Infrastructure Protection, Homeland Security Council.

Margaret Henoch, CIA Senior Intelligence Service.

Rush D. Holt, U.S. Representative, 1999-2015.

Cameron Hume, U.S. Ambassador.

Gordon Humphrey, U.S. Senator, 1979-1991.

Paul Douglas Humphries, CIA.

Carol Humphries, CIA, Captain, U.S. Navy Reserve.

Bob Inglis, U.S. Representative, 1993-1999, 2005-2011.

Steve Israel, U.S. Representative, 2001-2017.

Jeh Johnson, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Susan Koch, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction Policy.

Jim Kolbe, U.S. Representative, 1985-2007.

David J. Kramer, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor.

David Laufman, Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section in the National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice.

J. William Leonard, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Security & Information Operations).

Jason Lewis-Berry, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State.

Andrew Liepman, Deputy Director, National Counterrorism Center; Deputy Director, CIA/Counterterrorism Center; Director, Office of Iraq Analysis; Deputy Director, Weapons Intelligence Non Proliferation and Arms Control Center.

Robert Litt, General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

George Little, Press Secretary, Pentagon; Spokesman, CIA.

James Loy, Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard; Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Lewis Lukens, U.S. Ambassador.

Michael McFaul, Ambassador; Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council.

Steven McGann, U.S. Ambassador.

Dennis McGinn, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy; Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Joseph Medina, Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps.

Christopher Mellon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Connie Morella, U.S. Representative, 2003-2006; U.S. Ambassador.

Janet Napolitano, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Elizabeth Neumann, Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Suzanne Nossel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

William Owens, Admiral, U.S. Navy; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Christopher Painter, Coordinator for Cyber Issues, U.S. Department of State.

William Perry, Secretary of Defense.

Larry Pfeiffer, Chief of Staff, CIA; Senior Director, White House Situation Room.

Annie Pforzheimer, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Afghanistan.

Randal Phillips, Senior Intelligence Service, CIA.

William Piekney, Senior Operations Manager, CIA.

Steven Pifer, Senior Foreign Service Officer; U.S. Ambassador.

Tony Pipa, Chief Strategy Officer, USAID.

Marc Polymeropoulos, Senior Intelligence Service, Directorate of Operations, CIA.

Allison Price, Senior Spokesperson, U.S. Department of Justice.

Deborah Pryce, U.S. Representative, 1993-2009.

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor.

Thomas Ridge, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Denver Riggleman, U.S. Representative, 2019-2021.

Thomas B. Robertson, U.S. Ambassador.

Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commissioner; U.S. Ambassador; U.S. Representative, 1991-2003.

Michael Rogers, Admiral, U.S. Navy; Commander, U.S. Cyber Command; Director, National Security Agency.

Todd Rosenblum, Deputy Under Secretary of Intelligence, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Paul Rosenzweig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Nicholas Rostow, Legal Advisor to the National Security Council; Staff Director, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Joel Rubin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Nilmini Rubin, Director, National Security Council.

David Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador.

Robert Shanks, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice; General Counsel, Overseas Private Investment Corporation; General Counsel, Peace Corps.

Christopher Shays, U.S. Representative, 1987-2009.

Douglas Silliman, U.S. Ambassador.

John Sipher, Senior Intelligence Service, CIA Clandestine Service.

Peter Smith, U.S. Representative, 1989-1991.

Suzanne Spaulding, Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State.

Miles Taylor, Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Tomicah Tillemann, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State; Speechwriter to the Secretary of State.

Kurt Tong, U.S. Ambassador.

Olivia Troye, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor to Vice President Mike Pence.

Stanley A. Twardy, Jr., United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, 1985-1991.

Alexander Vershbow, NATO Deputy Secretary General; Assistant Secretary of Defense; U.S. Ambassador.

Alexander Vindman, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army; Director for European Affairs, National Security Council.

Edward Walker, U.S. Ambassador; Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

James Walsh, U.S. Representative, 1989-2009.

Zach Wamp, U.S. Representative, 1995-2011.

Thomas Warrick, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

William Wechsler, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Special Operations and Combatting Terrorism.

Pamela White, U.S. Ambassador.

Christine Todd Whitman, Governor of New Jersey; Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Jonathan Winer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Law Enforcement; Special Envoy for Libya.

Tim Wirth, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; U.S. Senator, 1987-1993; U.S. Representative, 1975-1987.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel, U.S. Army; Chief of Staff, U.S. Secretary of State.

Douglas H. Wise, CIA Senior Intelligence Service; Deputy Director, Defense Intelligence Agency.

Tamara Cofman Wittes, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Stephen N. Xenakis, Brigadier General, U.S. Army.

Marie Yovanovitch, U.S. Ambassador.

Dov S. Zakheim, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).

Peter D. Zimmerman, Chief Scientist, Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Chief Scientific Advisor, US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Science Advisor for Arms Control, U.S. Department of State.


Ms. PELOSI. After the bipartisan agreement on this commission was reached, the respected bipartisan chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, endorsed it, as was mentioned by the chairman and as I referenced earlier.

I want to repeat it because I think it bears repetition:

We very strongly urge House Members to support H.R. 3233, the bipartisan National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex bill that would create a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. That was a dark day in American history, one of the darkest.

As chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, unity of purpose was key to the effectiveness of the group. We put country above party, without bias, the events before, during, and after the attack. We sought to understand our vulnerabilities in order to prevent future acts of terrorism.

The chair and vice chair went on to say:

Today, democracy faces a new threat. The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was one of the darkest days in the history of our country. Americans deserve an objective and accurate account of what happened.

Mr. Hamilton and Governor Kean said:

As we did in the wake of 9/11, it is time to set aside partisan politics and come together as Americans in common pursuit of truth and justice.

As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, the Capitol of the United States has always been a glorious beacon of democracy for the American people and for the world.

This legislation is about something larger even than the commission, vital as the commission is. This legislation is about our democracy, about ensuring that the Capitol dome remains a symbol of freedom and about preserving America's role as an emblem of resilience, determination, and hope to the world.

Indeed, creating this commission sends a resounding message to terrorists both at home and abroad: The commitment of the United States Congress to the Constitution and to the American people is unshakeable.

In establishing the truth of January 6, this commission will protect our temple of democracy and our democracy itself. It will ensure that such an attack shall never happen again.

Can we just not wait, Mr. Speaker, for a time very soon when children come here to learn, where the press can cover in a more open way, and where the American people can come into the people's House?

That is what this Chamber has been called, the people's House. They come to witness the debate that affects their lives. And whatever our disagreement about policy, they are assured that we are unified in our commitment in honoring our Constitution and respecting the institution in which we serve.

Mr. Speaker, I urge a strong bipartisan vote for H.R. 3233 to establish the national commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol complex. I do so with the greatest appreciation and respect to Chairman Bennie Thompson and to Ranking Member Katko, and I hope, again, that the spirit of bipartisanship that they engendered in bringing this legislation to the floor will only grow as we go forward with the commission and with its recommendations.