The Attack on the U.S. Capitol and the Threat to Our Democracy
Remarks on the Senate Floor
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Mr. President. Colleagues, it’s been a terrible day for everybody here and for our country. One of the things I was thinking about today is something I often think about when I’m on this floor, which is, that the Founders of this country, the people that wrote our Constitution, actually knew our history better than we know our history.
And I was thinking about that history today as we saw the mob riot in Washington, D.C., thinking about what the Founders were thinking about when they wrote our Constitution, which was, what happened to the Roman Republic when armed gangs — doing the work for politicians — prevented Rome from casting their ballots for consuls, for praetors, for senators. These were the offices in Rome, and these armed gangs ran through the streets of Rome, keeping elections from being started, keeping elections from ever being called. And in the end, because of that, the Roman Republic fell and a dictator took its place. And that was the end of the Roman Republic or any republic for that matter until this beautiful Constitution was written, in the United States of America.
So it is my fervent hope that the way that we respond to this today, my dear colleagues, is that we give the biggest bipartisan vote we can in support of our democracy, and in support of our Constitution, and in rejection for what we saw today and what the Roman Republic saw in its own time.
There’s a tendency around this place, I think, to always believe that we’re the first people to confront something when that’s seldom the case, and to underappreciate what the effect of our actions will be. We need to deeply appreciate in this moment our obligation to the Constitution, our obligation to the democracy, our obligation to the republic.
There are people in this chamber that have twisted the words — twisted the words of a statute written in the 19th century that was meant to actually settle our electoral disputes, to leave them with the states. As the senator from Utah was saying, to give us a ministerial role, except in very rare circumstances. That’s what that law is about, that the senator of Texas was talking about today. And that’s the law that’s leading us to be asked to overturn the judgments of 60 courts in America, many of them courts in Arizona, some of whom have, have howled the President’s lawyers out of the courtrooms because there’s no evidence of fraud.
And by the way, the fact that 37 percent or 39 percent of Americans think there’s no evidence of fraud — or they think there’s evidence of fraud — does not mean there is fraud.
If you turned a blind eye to a conspiracy theory, you can’t now come to the floor of the Senate and say you’re ignoring the people who believe the election was stolen. Go out there and tell them the truth, which is that every single member of this Senate knows this election wasn’t stolen, and that we, just as in the Roman republic, have the responsibility to protect the independence of the judiciary from politicians who will stop at nothing to hold onto power. There’s nothing new about that either. That’s been true since the first republic was founded.
So now we find ourselves in a position just days after many senators here swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Every single member of the House of Representatives swore the same oath as well. And I think we’ve got a solemn obligation and responsibility, here, to prove, once again, that this country is a nation of laws, and not of men.
And the only result that we can reach together, is one that rejects the claim that the senator from Texas and the other members of the House and Senate who seek to overturn the decisions made by the states, by the voters in the states, and by the courts.
If we follow what they have proposed, we will be the ones that will have disenfranchised every single person who cast a vote in this election, whether they voted for the president, or they didn’t.
I urge you to reject this, and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve with every single one of you.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Remarks as delivered on the Senate floor on January 6, 2021.