July 31, 2020

Democrats Call on EPW Chairman Barrasso to Hold Oversight Hearings on Abuse of Authority to Protect Federal Property

“As the Senate committee with jurisdiction over public buildings … EPW has an important role in seeking answers about the decision-making process that led to [law enforcement] actions in Portland.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and all Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, are calling on EPW leadership to hold oversight hearings on the Trump administrations use and potential abuse of federal regulations designed to protect government buildings in Portland and other cities across the country.

“The scenes that our nation is witnessing in Portland, in which federal law enforcement agents have been deployed to arrest and detain protesters, are deeply disturbing. They show a federal government engaged in a disproportionate response to residents exercising their First Amendment rights,” the senators wrote in a letter to Chairman John Barrasso and Ranking Member Tom Carper.

“These actions are of direct interest to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, as the administration has predicated its actions on Section 1315 of Title 40 of the U.S. Code., regarding the law enforcement authority of Homeland Security for the protection of federal property. As the Senate committee with jurisdiction over public buildings and responsibility for oversight of the General Services Administration, EPW has an important role in seeking answers about the decision-making process that led to its actions in Portland, execution of such ‘protection actions,’ and how the administration may seek to replicate this activity in other cities.”

Senators signing the letter include Cardin, Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

The full letter follows and is available at this link.

 

The Honorable John Barrasso

Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

410 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510 

 

The Honorable Thomas R. Carper

Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

456 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper,

 

We write to you with grave concerns about the Trump Administration’s treatment of protesters in Portland, Oregon and other cities around the country. The scenes that our nation is witnessing in Portland, in which federal law enforcement agents have been deployed to arrest and detain protesters, are deeply disturbing. They show a federal government engaged in a disproportionate response to residents exercising their First Amendment rights.

These actions are of direct interest to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, as the administration has predicated its actions on Section 1315 of Title 40 of the U.S. Code., regarding the law enforcement authority of Homeland Security for the protection of federal property. As the Senate committee with jurisdiction over public buildings and responsibility for oversight of the General Services Administration, EPW has an important role in seeking answers about the decision-making process that led to its actions in Portland, execution of such “protection actions,” and how the administration may seek to replicate this activity in other cities.

It is unfathomable that any administration would deploy federal law enforcement personnel to arrest and detain protesters on the scale we have seen in Portland based on a tenuous claim of protecting public buildings—both on and off federal proprieties. Legitimate protection of federal property should not be misused to abuse the civil rights of Americans and sow division and fear among our citizens.

We urge you to exercise our committee’s oversight role and get to the root of how these law enforcement officers are being used and whether or not they are working within the law. We are requesting an EPW oversight hearing to allow members to hear from the relevant agencies, including the General Services Administration and Homeland Security, about their use of 40 U.S.C. Sec. 1315 in Portland and elsewhere.

We appreciate your urgent attention to this matter, and we look forward to your prompt response.

 

Sincerely,

 

Benjamin L. Cardin

Jeffrey A. Merkley

Bernard Sanders

Sheldon Whitehouse

Kirsten Gillibrand

Cory A. Booker

Edward J. Markey

Tammy Duckworth

Chris Van Hollen

 

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