Floor Speech

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


The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Kaine). The Senator from Nevada.

Ms. CORTEZ MASTO. Mr. President, this morning, I have been listening to my colleagues, watching the news, watching our President, and reflecting on this day a year ago and where I was during this incredible insurrection that we now know happened on the Capitol.

I was in my Capitol office here, as we all have an office here in the Capitol. I was getting ready to come to the floor of the Senate and certify that Joe Biden had won the Presidency in a free and fair election. The senior Senator from Minnesota had organized many of us to stand in defense of that free and fair election, and I had been asked to stand in defense of the certified electoral votes in Arizona. And what I had been told, they were going to challenge Nevada. It was a significant moment.

Even before President Biden's victory, people had been spreading lies about the election for political gain, and I had planned to deliver a speech to combat those lies and explain in detail that the 2020 vote count was fair and accurate. So as I left my Capitol office and was walking to the Senate to deliver that speech, it became clear that something unprecedented was happening, because on my way out of my Capitol office, I came across two of my colleagues, one of them here today, Senator Smith, and Senator Murkowski. They were standing outside an open door to a restroom that we share amongst our Capitol offices, and I asked them what was going on.

They said: There is a Capitol Police officer in there. He has got something in his eyes, and he is flushing his eyes out with water.

I leaned in, and I saw the officer at the bathroom sink. I thought to myself and I said aloud to my colleagues: I think he has been pepper- sprayed.

I asked him: Have you been pepper sprayed?

He said: Yes, but don't worry. Everything is fine. I am going to keep you all safe.

With that, he dashed back out the door, up the stairs, and outside to protect all of us and everyone else in this building.

Now, I knew there had been a rally going on near the White House and that there were protests. What I did not know that morning was just how close the protesters were to forcing their way into this Capitol.

Now, everyone knows what happened next. As we sat here, all of the Senators, all of the staff who work with us day in and day out, our partners, the next thing we heard was this Chamber being shut down by the Capitol Police, claiming that the Capitol had been breached. They told us to stay in our seats.

This is the safest place for you to be right now, and we will protect you.

At that moment, we could all hear outside the doors. We didn't know what was going on, because we can't see beyond this room, what was happening outside, but we knew. We could hear the voices, and we could hear what was happening. We also could hear, outside of the one set of double doors that we call the hallway with the Ohio Clock that leads to the Rotunda, a lot of noise. It was at that moment, as the noise was working its way toward the Rotunda, that the Capitol Police officers then told all of us to get up and move quickly. We moved out these opposite doors right here, moved as quickly as we possibly could.

That is when everybody came together, all of the Senators--I don't care if they were Republican or Democrat--our floor staff who was with us, grabbing those electoral votes, and we all started going up and down stairs, through hallways, up and down stairs, through hallways, until we could get to a secure location.

As we were going through the hallways and when we got to the secure location, it was clear why this was happening. We were under attack because insurrectionists had been whipped into a frenzy by the false claim that the election in Nevada and in other States was fraudulent. That is exactly what the speakers said during that rally before the violence began.

We saw the same false claims in Nevada, where extremists tried to challenge our election results in an effort to prevent Joe Biden from becoming President. The former President's campaign and his supporters filed a total of five lawsuits challenging the security of the election system and targeting our secretary of state in Nevada. Every one of those lawsuits was thrown out or failed, every single one of them in Nevada. When the official tally was completed, President Biden won Nevada by 33,596 votes.

The Nevada secretary of state not only certified the election, she also investigated each and every claim of election fraud, and she made clear that her office found no evidence of widespread fraud.

Now, I was the attorney general of the State of Nevada for 8 years, and I can tell you from personal experience, when we find voter fraud, we prosecute it. I also know there was, again, no widespread voter fraud in Nevada in the year 2020.

Let me explain what ``widespread voter fraud'' means because that is now being challenged by some of the former President's supporters. ``Widespread'' means that there was not enough to have changed the results of the election; that it was still a safe and secure election and Joe Biden is our President. In fact, not only Nevada's elections were safe, accessible, and secure, but across the country, they have been proven to be safe, accessible, and secure.

I also want to share with the rest of the country that in my State, in Nevada, we have enacted important protections for protecting voting rights, including automatic voter registration, vote by mail, early voting, and same-day registration. In the 2020 Presidential election, almost half of Nevadans--people from both parties--took advantage of our vote-by-mail laws.

But because the defeated former President and his supporters were upset that he lost the election, some of them publicized the lie that he had won, and that lie, in turn, spurred members of the public to violence that resulted in five deaths and countless injuries.

Now, we all know, after the Capitol Police helped us move to safety, my colleagues and I from both parties talked about what to do. We knew the insurrectionists were trying to stop us from certifying the election, and we knew we had to finish our job, no matter how late it was. We all agreed that we had to go back to the Senate Chamber so that we could show the rest of the country that we would not let our democracy be subverted by violence; that we would honor our Constitution and the peaceful transfer of power in this country.

I want to make this clear. I would have stood up to certify the valid results of the 2020 election no matter who won. This isn't about partisanship; it is about patriotism. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect it against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and nothing and no one will prevent me from doing that sworn duty.

So I walked back to the Senate floor on the evening of January 6 to finish my work. I will remember what I saw for the rest of my life. As I walked back, furniture had been thrown everywhere like matchsticks. Trash and broken glass littered the floor. It was like a war zone.

That night, I stood up and spoke in defense of our democracy as I had planned to do hours before. And at 3:42 a.m., Vice President Pence announced that Joe Biden was the President-elect.

We honored the Democratic transfer of power for the 59th time in American history, but I am here to tell you, there is so much to do to ensure that there will be a 60th time. Our democracy is more fragile than it has been in decades. The same bad actors who fueled the violence in the first place, including the defeated former President and his supporters, continue to spread the Big Lie that the election was stolen, and they are using these false claims to pass legislation threatening our very democracy.

Around the country, more than 400 State laws were introduced to restrict voting last year alone. In Nevada, we expanded vote-by-mail drop box locations, but in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Indiana, new laws make it harder to use those drop boxes. Nevada has same-day voter registration, but Texas just made it harder to register, not easier. In Georgia, it is now even illegal to give food or water to people waiting in long lines to vote. The list goes on and on.

These are partisan laws. They are designed to favor one group of voters over another. That is not democracy. A real democracy honors everyone's right to be heard. It makes sure that everyone gets a vote and that every vote is counted.

Democracy is a remarkable thing--a system where the people get to choose their own leaders. We all need to stand up for it, just as the countless heroes of our history have done, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr.

I will not stop fighting to protect our country and our democracy. I will continue working with my colleagues to pass voting rights legislation. We need to follow Nevada's lead and protect access to the polls. We cannot let anyone silence America's voice in their own government.

I also want to recognize many of the heroes who protected us that day, like the Capitol Police officer I encountered that morning. After the attack was over, I learned that 140 police officers I pass in the halls of Congress every day had broken bones or worse. Four of them later took their own lives. These are brave men and women who put themselves at risk every day to protect not just the people's elected representatives but our dedicated staff and the hardest working people here at the Capitol, from the janitors to the cafeteria workers, to the postal employees. All of these people carry their own memories of January 6, and we need to make sure they never have to go through something like that again.

So many of them are still here at the Capitol, still doing their jobs, like the Capitol Police officer I saw earlier who had been pepper-sprayed. But I will tell you what: They give me hope, and they remind me that all of us have a job to do just like we did on January 6. One year later, it is clear that we all must stand united in defense of our democracy. I hope we can do just that.