July 27, 2023
WASHINGTON - Committee on House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil (WI-01) delivered opening remarks at a joint hearing with the Senate Rules Committee entitled, "Oversight of the Capitol Police Board."
Chairman Steil's Opening Remarks, As Prepared for Delivery:
"Thank you, Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member Fischer, and members of the Senate Rules Committee, for hosting today’s joint hearing here in the upper chamber... or as I like to call it the smaller chamber.
Thank you, Ranking Member Morelle, and all of our Committee on House Administration members, for joining us.
Today’s hearing is historic in several ways.
It is the first time in modern history that the full Capitol Police Board will testify before both authorizing committees.
It is also the first time the Board will testify before both of those Committees in a joint setting.
I’d like to start by recognizing Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson who lost their lives 25 years ago while defending our Capitol.
As we remember their sacrifice, I’d like to thank all members of the Department who work every day to keep Members, staff, visitors, and their fellow officers safe.
We must continue to support our officers and ensure they have access to important resources, like those provided through the Howard Liebengood Center for Wellness, which was recently established within United States Capitol Police.
Supporting our officers also means bringing transparency and accountability to the United States Capitol Police Board.
The voting membership of the United States Capitol Police Board hasn’t changed since 1873.
Now members of the Board – all of you – are new to your positions within the last two years.
This is a unique moment in time. We now have an opportunity to depoliticize Capitol security.
I’m concerned that, historically speaking, security decisions have been influenced more by political considerations than by security needs.
Let me give you some examples.
The Board previously signed off on assembling a fence around the Capitol, despite no actionable intelligence.
On the House side, former Board members allowed selective enforcement of magnetometers just off the House Floor, and the House side remained closed for COVID-19 long after the Senate began loosening its restrictions.
Let me be clear: security should not be political.
As Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, I am committed to depoliticizing Capitol security and establishing greater accountability for the Board.
New Board members have made progress toward increasing transparency and accountability – and I thank you for that.
This includes closing the 2017 GAO Report recommendations, establishing the quarterly Board Fora, and providing greater communication with its congressional oversight entities.
I’m also encouraged that both the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms proactively addressed some of our concerns regarding accountability and transparency in their written testimonies for today’s hearing.
These are steps in the right direction, but there’s still more work to do.
As we work to increase transparency and accountability, the U.S. Capitol Police Office of Inspector General is an important tool in the toolkit.
Congress has directed the Office to make its reports publicly available.
Last week, during a Subcommittee on Oversight hearing, the Office of Inspector General said that the Board is stalling the public release of its reports.
I’m troubled that the office lacks the independence necessary to conduct thorough and trusted analysis of the Department.
Overall, more must be done to ensure greater transparency, accountability, and depoliticization of the Board.
I remain concerned that there’s been certain instances in which politics have seeped into the Board, impacting its decision-making.
We must seize this opportunity to make meaningful reforms to the Board.
The Board should be focused on effective oversight of the U.S. Capitol Police, not the day-to-day management of the Department.
Ultimately, this is about giving the brave men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police the support they need."