Leader McCarthy Delivers 117th Congress Opening Day Floor Speech

“Colleagues, friends, and fellow Americans:

“It is my honor to welcome you to the first day of the 117th Congress.

“We are here with the support of our families and the faith of our neighbors to be their voice in Washington.

“Since Congress first sat in this room, Americans have always found a way to ensure that their needs were top of the mind.

“In fact, when Abraham Lincoln served here, Members of Congress only had small desks on the House floor to store their work.

“One of those desks now sits in the Cannon Office Building Tunnel.

“As Members traveled back and forth to the nation’s capital, they were compelled to carry all of their work with them. There were no filing cabinets, servers in the cloud, or offices. Their desk was their office.

“Members rarely went anywhere without physically bringing their constituents’ concerns with them.

“These small desks are a timeless reminder to every American that the House is made to represent you, the people – and that is a responsibility I welcome and embrace every day.

“Today, however, it is easier than ever to neglect or ignore this responsibility.

“From social media to special interest groups to the culture police, there are endless temptations to distract from why we are here and who is truly important.

“Sadly, the last Congress suffered from this neglect.

“In this chamber two years ago the Speaker spoke of a ‘new dawn’ for the middle class. But for the next two years the Democrat majority was consumed with everything else.

“During some of the most challenging times for our country, Congress was on the sidelines.

“When the need for more pandemic relief was obvious — did we deliver the timely lifeline Americans needed?

“Or did we wait and let politics dictate our actions?

“When unrest spilled out into cities and communities across the country — did we deliver safety Americans want?

“Or did we let calls to defund the police intimidate us from protecting life, liberty, and property?

“When Americans relied on essential workers to keep our country moving — did we serve the People’s House in a way Americans deserved?

“Or did we shrink and reward members who stayed home, skipped work, and still got paid?

“The unfortunate answers to those questions underscore why last Congress was the least productive Congress in nearly 50 years.

“It has been said that a house divided cannot stand. Well, if there is any lesson Americans have learned in the last two years, it’s this: a House distracted cannot govern.

“I wish I could say the majority in this Congress is committed to changing for the common good and focusing on what really matters.

“But already their actions are pointing in the wrong direction.

“Tomorrow, the majority plans to adopt new rules that would silence our constituents’ voices in Congress.

“These rules throw away over 100 years of representation in our nation’s Capital by effectively killing a key opportunity to amend legislation.

“Worse, they would penalize any member who shares news or views that liberals and their allies in the media deem ‘fake.’ They actually make it an ethics violation — which is usually reserved for such unbecoming conduct as bribery and corruption.

“Under these rules, all members are equal, but some are more equal than others.

“As for our constituents, it means freedom of speech is silenced, good ideas are stifled, and dissent punished.

“Why would an American political party use this as their first action in a new Congress?

“Perhaps the Majority feels an urgency to protect their political careers. Given the message the American people sent to Washington, the Democrats’ grip on power is as slim as ever.

“Two months ago today, the American people said enough.

“Enough with politicians who dictate what you can say, where you can eat, and whether you can go to church.

“Enough with politicians who ignore the stay-at-home lockdowns they impose on the rest of us.

“Enough with the arrogance and the hypocrisy.

“Americans are fed up with it and we Republicans are too.

“As the Party of Lincoln, Republicans understand what it means to carry our constituents’ concerns with us at all times.

“We are a growing, working class coalition of proud Americans — more energetic, united, and confident than ever before. We believe in the exceptionalism of this nation and aren’t afraid to say it.

“We have listened to our constituents. We heard how things needed to change. And we made a Commitment to America to restore our way of life, to rebuild the economy, and to renew the American Dream.

“That’s what we campaigned on. That’s what we offered in every district. And if the voices of the people matter, that’s how we plan to govern.

“The response from the American people to this Commitment was resounding.

“Even though we were outspent by special interests in district after district, no Republican incumbent was defeated — none.

“All across the country, voters endorsed common sense, not conflict.

“It was a referendum against a radical agenda to defund the police and punish hard work.

“It was a wake-up call. The question I ask of this Majority: were you listening?

“As we enter the new Congress, I ask every member to step out of your office, go to the Cannon Tunnel, look at that small desk, and ask yourself what is in yours.

“Here is what is in mine:

“As the son of a fireman — I know how our police officers and first responders put everything on the line to keep us safe. I will never, never, never vote to defund them.

“Will you make the same Commitment to America?

“As a former small business owner — I understand how tough things can be, even in the good times. As we battle the coronavirus, our small businesses are battling lockdowns that are destroying livelihoods and making it impossible to beat the odds. I will not hike their taxes.

“Will you make the same Commitment to America?

“As a fourth generation Central Valley Californian — I represent farmers and oil field workers who rise at dawn to work, who pray to God, and raise the next generation of good, decent citizens. I will respect their individuality and their freedom – and I won’t forget them.

“Will you make the same Commitment to America?

“Last year was a nightmare, and the last Congress was a failure.

“Let’s not do this again. No more misplaced priorities. The American people deserve better.

“Americans’ rights are worth fighting for. Their dreams are worth fighting for. Their voices are worth fighting for.

“During the darkest days of the Civil War — when this nation was literally burning with division — Abraham Lincoln advised us to strive ‘to maintain the government and institutions of our fathers, to enjoy them ourselves, and to transmit them to our children and our children’s children forever.’

“He was right then. He is right now. For the sake of the many generations to come, we will succeed now.

“Thank you.”