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Congressman Tom McClintock

Why I Oppose the Censure and Fine of Adam Schiff

The Russia collusion hoax is the single dirtiest political trick in the history of American politics. We now know that it was entirely concocted by the Hillary Clinton campaign and ruthlessly used by partisans in the FBI to affect the 2016 election and then to undermine the legitimately elected president of the United States.

Mr. Schiff’s active role in promoting this hoax is disgraceful and damning.

But that is not the question before us. The question before us is whether a member of Congress should be censored and fined for speech, even outlandish speech, during the public policy debate. We have gone much too far down this road and it is time we turned back.

The entire purpose of this Capitol is for the people’s representatives to freely debate the issues that affect the nation’s welfare. Except for the simple rules that promote civility in that debate, no one should be censored for errors of opinion or fact. The sole arbiters of these issues should be the constituents of the representatives, through the votes they cast in an election. The Founders reserved all legislative powers to the Congress because they wanted the issues of the day held up to every conceivable light and for every voice in the nation to be heard through their elected representatives. Unfettered freedom of speech is central to this process.

We need not fear false statements as long as freedom of speech allows them to be contested by the truth. How else are we to separate truth from falsehood but to expose one to the other? How else are we to separate folly from wisdom but to expose one to the other? How else are we to separate malice from the better angels of our nature but to expose one to the other?

There are only two ways to resolve the differences between us. There is reason and there is force. Americans have built a republic of reason and the central organ in that republic is the institution that we are entrusted to preserving. As Thomas Jefferson said long ago, “error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is free to combat it.”

Our oaths of office obligate us to defend this institution and to preserve the freedom to challenge each other in open debate. The elements in this resolution rely on coercion to punish egregious errors of opinion and fact. If we continue down this road, we will destroy this institution and the freedom of debate that is the most important tool we have to guide our way in an uncertain world.

We have already done so on too many occasions, and it needs to stop.

My opposition to this resolution in no way condones so many of Mr. Schiff’s statements and representations in this matter. On the contrary, I condemn them strongly. It is precisely because of the freedom of Congress — and indeed of every American — to debate without fear of persecution or punishment, that his veracity and judgment can be weighed in the balance and found wanting. There is no greater disgrace than that. We can only disgrace ourselves by denying to Mr. Schiff the freedom of speech and debate that protect us from the damage such people as he can do.