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Rogers Urges Working Group to Reject “Dangerous Precedent” Set by Homeland Democrats

Rogers Urges Working Group to Reject “Dangerous Precedent” Set by Homeland Democrats

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), House Homeland Security Committee ranking member, wrote the following letter to the members of the bipartisan Ad Hoc Working Group currently considering guidelines for allowing virtual events. This letter comes after Chairman Thompson’s flagrant violation of House rules, where he scheduled three public events without giving proper public notice, opening the hearing to the public, or including the minority party.

“I have many concerns about changing the House rules to permit virtual committee hearings, markups, and other meetings,” Ranking Members Roger wrote. “First and foremost, I worry about the rights of the minority Members being trampled on by the majority. We have no guarantee that minority Members will be involved or invited to committee events as is required under House and committee rules. Unfortunately, that scenario has already played out.”

Rogers continued, “As you move forward with your important work, I strongly encourage you to reject the actions of Chairman Thompson and the dangerous precedent they set. All Members should have the ability to fully participate in all committee events and the rules of the House and of each respective committee should be fully respected and enforced.”

The full letter is below:

Dear Members of the Ad Hoc Working Group, 

I want to start by thanking you for your diligent work in determining how to safely return the House to a normal operating condition. 

It is my belief that the House should return to legislative session next week, just like the Senate. The important oversight and legislative work of the House is best carried out when Members are in town and can exchange ideas and have debate in person. 

Just last week, the House voted on two measures and the Committee on Small Business met for their “Member Hearing Day.” Additionally, the Committee on Appropriations will hold a subcommittee hearing next week. These are all positive signs that the House can safely meet in person and do the work of the American people during this pandemic. 

I have many concerns about changing the House rules to permit virtual committee hearings, markups, and other meetings. First and foremost, I worry about the rights of the minority Members being trampled on by the majority. We have no guarantee that minority Members will be involved or invited to committee events as is required under House and committee rules. Unfortunately, that scenario has already played out. 

On Wednesday, April 29, 2020, Chairman Bennie Thompson of the Committee on Homeland Security announced three committee events which the Committee’s website indicates are hearings: 

  • A “Live Hearing” entitled “TSA Employee Protections and Benefits in Response to COVID-19” to be held Thursday, April 30, 2020; 
  • An event entitled “A Conversation with Former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate” to be held Friday, May 1, 2020; and 
  • An event entitled “A Conversation with Former White House Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain” to be held Friday, May 1, 2020. 

None of these events were properly publicly noticed in violation of the Rules of the House and the Committee (House Rule XI 2(g)(3) and Committee Rule V A(1)(a), respectively). The minority was informed of these events the day before via a press release. 

None of these events are open to the public in violation of the Rules of the House and the Committee (House Rule XI 2(g)(2)(A) and Committee Rule VI (A)(1), respectively). The only accommodation to the public is a statement on the Committee’s website that the public can “Check back for a live video of this hearing”. 

None of these events afford Minority members the opportunity question witnesses or make a statement of any kind in violation of the Rules of the House and Committee (House Rule XI 2(j)(2)(A), Committee Rule VII (A)-(B), respectively). 

The minority is not being afforded a witness or participant of its choosing at these events, nor is testimony being made publicly available in advance in violation of the Rules of House and Committee (House Rule XI 2(j)(1), Committee Rule VIII (B), House Rule XI 2(g)(5)(A), and Committee Rule VIII (D), respectively). 

Most shocking however, is the announcement by Chairman Thompson that only Representatives Correa, Titus, Demings, Payne and Rose will be participating in these virtual committee events. No Member of the minority was invited, nor does it appear that Members of the majority other than those listed were made aware of these events. Moving forward in virtual settings, allowing committee chairman to select which Members of their committee are allowed to participate in committee events is an unprecedented action that flies in the face of over 200 years of House practice. 

As you move forward with your important work, I strongly encourage you to reject the actions of Chairman Thompson and the dangerous precedent they set. All Members should have the ability to fully participate in all committee events and the rules of the House and of each respective committee should be fully respected and enforced. 

As I said before, the best way to do that is for Members to return to Washington, D.C. We have already demonstrated that the House can carry out its Constitutional duty in our Nation’s capital, while also adhering to health guidelines. Similar to the Senate, we can work with our support agencies and healthcare professionals to conduct in-person committee business while also adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

Respectfully, 
Mike Rogers 
Ranking Member 
Committee on Homeland Security 

CC: Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House 
Bennie Thompson, Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security

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Author: Emily Bondi

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