Davis Delivers Opening Statement During Capitol Police Board Hearing
Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) delivered this opening statement during today's hearing on reforming the Capitol Police Board.
CLICK HERE to watch the ongoing hearing.
Text of Davis’s opening remarks:
First before I get started, I just want to note that the hearing I was hoping to have today—the entire voting membership of the Capitol Police Board in front of an oversight committee—has not happened in 76 years. It would have been a step toward the board, as a whole, demonstrating they are serious about accountability and transparency. Instead, we got another reminder of why the board must be reformed in order to have accountability and transparency from the entity charged with the protection of Members, staff, visitors, and the Capitol itself.
I believe the absence of the Senate Sergeant at Arms today demonstrates the underlying issue with the Capitol Police Board: lack of oversight. The board doesn’t make security decisions just for the House or just for the Senate side of the Capitol, but, together, the board’s decisions impact the entire Capitol complex, and when they are voting, they’re not acting in their roles as Sergeant at Arms for the Senate or for the House or as Architect of the Capitol, but as a member of the Capitol Police Board. It's incredibly disappointing that the Senate Sergeant at Arms, who is appointed and controlled by Leader Chuck Schumer, has refused to appear before this committee when former members of the board all testified before the Senate just a few months ago. This only further highlights the need for change.
During our hearings with the United States Capitol Police Inspector General, there was a reoccurring question about who oversees the board and I firmly believe that question was answered—it’s this committee’s job to oversee the Capitol Police Board on behalf of the House. That being said, I believe the board’s structure is flawed and needs reformed.
As I’ve said before, we can gather all of the recommended changes to the USCP that we want, but the reality is they have very little authority to execute many of these changes without approval from the board. So if we want to overhaul security on Capitol Hill, then we need to look at who is making those security decisions, not just the department who is charged with executing.
A 2017 GAO report, which I submitted for the record a few weeks ago during this committee’s first security-related hearing since January 6th, found that the Capitol Police Board has an unusual amount of power compared to other police boards. The board establishes regulations for training of the U.S. Capitol Police personnel, determines when an officer can be terminated, approves officers in emergency situations, designs, installs and maintains the capital security systems and much more. That same GAO report, published four years ago, recommended a number of significant reforms to the Capitol Police Board to improve the functionality of the board and to increase transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of the GAO’s recommendations have been ignored up until this point.
Over the course of two hearings, we heard the Inspector General of the United States Capitol Police, Michael Bolton, make recommendation after recommendation for how the department could improve after January 6th, which I appreciated, but because of how the law is written, many of those recommendations would require approval from the Capitol Police Board. So at the same time the IG is making these recommendations, he’s also testifying that he does not have purview over the Capitol Police Board and he does not know who does. After further research, Mr. Bolton testified that he does not believe there is any oversight of the Capitol Police Board, which as I said, is responsible for nearly every security decision being made on the Hill today. I agree with many of Mr. Bolton’s recommendations, but I want to see them actually implemented, which is why today’s hearing is so important.
Following that hearing, which revealed there is essentially no oversight of the board, the Inspector General for the Architect of the Capitol testified before our committee that one of the voting members of the Capitol Police Board – the Architect in charge of the Capitol grounds – wasn’t even consulted about the security planning leading up to January 6th. In fact, he testified that the Architects’ concerns are frequently ignored.
So we have a board with incredible power over security decisions with no oversight, who is largely ignoring one of its three voting members. And we have a GAO report from four years ago noting significant issues with the board’s decision making process and recommending significant changes, but it’s been ignored. This seems like a recipe for disaster and in fact, it was on January 6th.
The board’s structure does not allow for quick, emergency decisions and it does not allow for any accountability.
While I’m disappointed to not be hearing from the full board today, I’m looking forward to hearing from the House Sergeant at Arms General Walker and the Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton, as well as our other expert witnesses about ways we can work to improve the functionality, accountability, and transparency of the board and the United States Capitol Police Department.
Thank you Chairperson Lofgren and I yield back.