Anniversary of January 6

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 6, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MARKEY. Mr. President, first, I want to thank Senator Booker for his powerful, powerful statement. The whole country has to hear what he said.

I want to thank Senator Kaine for your powerful words as well. It is just so important that people of your stature speak to our country on what we should be aspiring to do. Thank you for your leadership.

Thank you to Senator Klobuchar for organizing this incredibly important moment on the first anniversary of the insurrection against the Capitol.

One year ago, my colleagues and I started the day in this Chamber, ready to ratify the electoral college votes and declare Joe Biden the next President of the United States. Instead, Members of Congress were forced to take shelter under their desks and under Gallery benches, place gas masks over their heads, and pray that they would make it home to their families that day. Our staffs, journalists, Capitol workers wondered if they would live through the day, and their views of their workplace changed forever.

Instead of a day celebrating the workings of our democracy, our Nation was met with anti-democratic, White supremacist forces storming their way inside this building, violently attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election. It was an insurrection.

One year ago, the people's Houses changed, but even though the ratification process, which recognizes the will of the American people, was interrupted, it was not defeated. On the night of January 6, 2021, as Members of Congress returned to the Chamber to ratify the results of the election of 2020, our democracy prevailed.

We thank the Capitol Police. We thank them for what they did that day. Some lost their lives. Some were injured. Some still suffer from the traumatic impact of what they had to do in order to protect these Chambers, in order to protect the electoral college votes that were in the well of this Chamber. The whole country owes a debt of obligation to those police officers and what they did to stand here and to protect all of us--the staff, the Members, the Parliamentarians--but to, more importantly, protect democracy because we were able to return here after 8 p.m. that night in order to cast those votes. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those police officers who sacrificed so much on that day.

Tragically, former President Donald Trump's Big Lie has turned into the Big Threat to our democracy. The insurrectionists were unsuccessful in overturning election results, but the death, injury, and breach of national security they caused must be held to account.

I want to thank the House of Representatives' Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack for their commitment to that ongoing mission as well as the hard-working men and women of the Department of Justice who have already brought charges against more than 725 individuals for their involvement in the insurrection.

Donald Trump does lie, but the video, texts, and messages from January 6 do not lie. We all saw what happened that day, and anyone who orchestrated, abetted, or participated in the January 6 attack must be held accountable. That includes those at the very highest level of our government. It means, as Attorney General Merrick Garland said yesterday, ``follow[ing] the facts wherever they [may] lead.'' If the facts lead to Donald Trump's criminal responsibility for the insurrection, then he should face the same consequences as anyone else, even if it means the only place he will be in 2024 is in jail.

Even as we now reflect on this day 1 year later, we must understand that investigation and prosecution alone will not prevent another attack on our democracy. This problem is larger than any one person or candidate or election cycle. We cannot forget the role that online platforms played during the lead-up to the insurrection. Make no mistake, social media platforms have become hotbeds of disinformation, hate speech, and dangerous conspiracy theories. Today, the seeds of offline harms are planted, grown, and spread online.

In the days before insurrectionists attacked the building, social media platforms, black boxes, algorithms promoted election misinformation and political groups that spread Trump's Big Lie. We need to open the hood to the online systems that are pushing toxic content to the public and feeding dangerous social movements online.

But the January 6 mob was fueled not only by the Big Lie but by the global rise of authoritarian and nationalist movements that reject the basic principles of American democracy of quality, freedom, and the peaceful transfer of power. The attack on the Capitol revealed the growing fragility in our democratic processes and institutions and a systemic weakness caused by years of falsehoods and policies meant to undermine our right to vote in free and fair elections. It is unbearable to think that a big part of America no longer believes in any kind of democracy. They no longer believe in the rules that we all live by and the pursuit of goodness and fairness and progress.

Donald Trump is gone from the White House, but we know that the hate and division that defined his corrupt tenure has been with us since our founding. So many were willing to believe lies about the legitimacy of President Biden's victory because they had lost faith in the integrity of our democratic system. Some were even willing to engage in horrific violence because they believed elections could be stolen. The architects of the January 6 authoritarians, White nationalists, and those who stand to benefit from the continued undermining of our democracy want us to feel this way.

For years, the dangerous coalition has worked to limit access to the ballot box, undermine fair voting districts, and continuously spread disinformation about voter fraud. In the wake of their attack on the Capitol, they now have accelerated their efforts. In 2021 alone, 19 States have passed 34 laws restricting the access to voting, continuing the assault on our electoral system. These efforts have eroded Americans' faith that they can actually choose their own elected Representatives, sabotage public truth in electoral outcomes, and disenfranchise countless voters, especially communities of color, indigenous people, the poor, young Americans, and individuals with disabilities.

The Big Lie is that the election was stolen from Donald Trump in 2020. It was not. The Big Truth is that Donald Trump and his allies have put in place a process to steal the election of 2022 and 2024. That is the Big Truth of what is going on in this country, right now. And the way they are going to accomplish that Big Truth is by having State after State in the United States pass laws which restrict the access to vote for Black and Brown and indigenous, and poor and disabled Americans. That is the Big Truth about what is going on in our country right now--a systematic plan to steal the election of 2022, to steal the Presidency in 2024.

And the Republican Party has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump on the issue of voter suppression, on the issue of making it impossible for this body, for the U.S. Congress, to pass laws which protect the rights of every American to vote.

But we do have a chance, right now, on the Senate floor, to stand up to this anti-democratic movement and to banish these discriminatory policies and put them in the political dust bin of history.

The Senate can and must take action to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, and we must abolish the filibuster, if just for this issue, to protect the right to vote for every person in our country.

With these bills, if we modify the filibuster, American voices will no longer be drowned out by special interests, by redistricting that keeps Black and Brown communities marginalized, and by voting laws that are reminiscent of poll taxes and literacy tests that were used for centuries to stop Black voters, minority voters from participating in our democracy.

We need expanded early and mail-in voting. We need automatic and same-day voter registration. We need to make election day a national holiday. We need to get rid of hours-long voting lines. We need to ban partisan gerrymandering. We need to get dark money out of our elections. We need to end the discriminatory voting laws that restrict access to the ballot box on the basis of race and age and income and more.

We now have the opportunity to make sure that every voice is heard in our democracy: the 85-year-old Black woman in Georgia who has waited hours to cast her ballot without even a bottle of water; the newly naturalized family in Arizona who took the bus 45 minutes to the closest voting location, energized by the chance to fully participate in American democracy; the mother of four in Massachusetts who works two jobs just to make ends meet and desperately needs that mail-in ballot. These are the voices that the ugly mob of hate and violence and division that attacked the Capitol on January 6 do not want to be heard in American politics, in 2022, in the United States of America.

But will we stand up? We have to ensure that at our moment in American history, there is enough evidence to convict us of having stood up for democracy, of having fought for all of those who will otherwise be disenfranchised this year, 2022, in the United States of America. Otherwise, we will have been found wanting in preserving the foundations of our democracy, that we will have fixed this broken system of government that is being dismantled by Republicans across this country, State after State, with Republicans here in Washington unwilling to cast a single vote--not one Republican willing to stand up and say: We must pass laws to protect against what is happening in State after State to suppress the votes of Black and Brown and disabled and poor and indigenous Americans.

With the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, we will not only guarantee that all Americans can exercise their vote--their right to vote in free and fair elections--we can also counter the distrust and the disenfranchisement that the insurrectionists exploited on January 6. These reforms can restore Americans' faith in the peaceful transfer of power and prevent another attempt at insurrection by ensuring we have a government that is truly of, by, and for the American people.

One year after the attack on the Capitol, we understand how fragile our democracy is and that the fight to protect it requires vigilance and clear-eyed determination. The very least we can offer the American people--all American people--on this day is our commitment to protect their right to vote.

Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who helped draft the original Voting Rights Act in 1965, once said:

A right is not what someone gives you; it's what no one can take from you.

Let us pass this historic legislation so that no one can take the fundamental right to vote away from those who rightfully have it today.

The job of building and protecting a healthy and strong democracy is the sacred duty of this institution. The fate of the United States depends on us doing our jobs. May this day, January 6, always remind us that we must never give up that fight. And, here, in 2022, let us win this fight on the floor of the U.S. Senate to protect the right to vote for every American, regardless of the State they live in, regardless of their color, their religion, their country of origin. That is our historic responsibility.

God help the Senate if it does not respond to this historic challenge.

I yield back.