It was supposed to be a formality. Just a normal day.
Rodney Davis went to the Capitol expecting Jan. 6 to have a few delays but, ultimately, he expected the House and Senate to affirm that Joseph R. Biden was to be the next President.
That all changed by the afternoon.
An angry mob descended on the Capitol building where Davis and hundreds of his colleagues were confirming the electoral votes, causing even greater psychological damage than physical. The aftermath now shapes the path for the rest of his tenure.
Improving security and restoring peace have renewed importance.
“I’m going to sit through security briefings with the Capitol Police and Sergeant at Arms, along with my colleagues tonight,” Davis said. “And it will be my job, this small town kid from Taylorville, Millikin—Big Blue grad—my job is to make sure that the Capitol is never attacked again. For the entirety, the rest of my time in Congress, I will be advocating for a much more hardened security perimeter around the Capitol campus—not just for me and my colleagues who are serving now, but for future congresses, because we can never again have Americans or foreign adversaries ever attack the Capitol like we saw on Jan. 6.”
Davis is receiving FBI briefings and, as a member of the House Administration Committee, has spent the last week immersed in the process of rebuilding Capitol defenses from the inside out.
“We have oversight over the Capitol Police and the Sergeant-at-Arms—they failed miserably,” Davis said. “It was a failure of epic proportions to prepare; they did not anticipate what they saw. And America saw the result. Actually, the world saw the results of their epic failures. Those individuals are no longer in charge.”
Among these individuals is the now-former police chief of the Capitol Police Steven Sund, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger—who have all resigned from their posts.
Davis, however, supports the individual police officers defending the Capitol for their role in helping during a fast-paced situation that Davis and countless others could only describe as “terrifying.”
“When we were told to evacuate after being told to open up the gas masks that are under each seat on the House floor, we could hear banging on the doors and screaming people who’d come into the Capitol,” Davis said.
Davis and a Capitol police officer then helped carry one of his colleagues, who was undergoing treatment for lung cancer and could not move quickly, down the stairs leading to safety.
“And by the grace of God, there was a wheelchair gal on the first floor and we put him [his colleague] in a wheelchair and we got him to the safe room,” Davis said.
With this in mind, Davis has expressed his appreciation for the Capitol police officers.
“They’re my heroes,” Davis said. “They did everything they could, given the circumstances that they were put in. And one of the proudest moments of my career was going into the Capitol before it was reopened that night, and seeing the brave men and women of the Capitol Police in the Statuary Hall in the Capitol rotunda sitting on the floor—just exhausted. And I got to go tell each and every one of them, ‘Thank you.’ That’s something I’ll never forget to see. And to see my friends that I become friends with in the Capitol police stand up and just give me a hug. They did their job, given the lack of preparation that was afforded them.”
It was the second time Davis credits Capitol Police officers with saving his life, he explained. The first time was four years ago, during a baseball game between members of Congress where a shooting occurred.
That experience shaped his take on Jan. 6.
“Because I was at the baseball shooting almost four years ago, I noticed that I was able to process this crisis a little more slowly than when I processed the baseball one,” Davis said. “While we were in it, I think it allowed me to, you know, to make some decisions that needed to be made when we were supposed to evacuate.”
In the wake of the first news that the mob entered the building, Davis was involved in discussions to bring the National Guard to the Capitol to stop the situation.
“But during that time, you just, you, you do what you think is best to make sure everybody gets from point A to point B safely,” Davis said.
Not only did Davis’s previous experience with a deadly emergency impact the way he processed the January 6 insurrection, but he thinks the two events are related by the same cause: one-sided rhetoric.
“Unfortunately, sometimes I don’t think politicians in Washington understand the impact of their words and energizing people who obviously may be mentally ill, or just so engaged in politics that they view it as their religion—and it was those people who attacked the Capitol last week,” Davis said. “And it was that type of person who attacked me and my friends on the baseball field, three and a half years ago.”
Since then, Davis explains he has been trying to scale down extreme partisan rhetoric. This includes Trump’s accusations of widespread voter fraud and more.
“It’s been disheartening to know that our nation’s capital was attacked by Americans who were told that somehow there was going to be a different outcome than what the outcome was when we fulfill our constitutional duty to approve the electoral college votes that each state sends in,” Davis said. “They created this false sense that just wasn’t true, and it led people who are energized by one side of the political spectrum to come in an organized way, and try to attack our capital and try to kill politicians.”
Davis was one of the 84 Republicans who voted against the motion to throw out Arizona electoral votes and one of the 64 Republicans to vote against throwing out Pennsylvania votes. This pushed him into the minority of Republicans who voted to confirm President-Elect Joe Biden, turning him into one of the mob’s many targets.
He also argues that it’s not just the extreme right-wing rhetoricians’ faults.
“And it’s leaders of both parties,” Davis said, going on to explain how rhetoric impacted the gunman who fired on Davis and other Congressmen four years ago. “And Nancy Pelosi was very fond of saying that Republican policies are killing people when it comes to health care a few years ago. Why do you think our crazed gunman who tried to kill me was screaming ‘Healthcare’ as he fired at us? So words matter, and everybody who’s in elected office has to understand that that’s why. I try to be very careful with my words. But at some point, we’ve got to hold those who aren’t, including both the President and Speaker Pelosi, accountable.”
Davis has been a harsh critic of Speaker Pelosi’s hardline Democratic stance—which is not surprising, as he supports bipartisanship. The Lugar Center & Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy’s Bipartisan Index ranked Davis as being in the top-3% nationwide for being bipartisan.
Keeping this in mind, he opposes the calls to oust the president prior to Jan. 20.
“We’re going to tell the executive branch what to do?” Davis said in response to pressure for Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment. “No, we don’t have them tell us what to do.”
When it comes to impeachment, Davis argues the articles proposed were too hasty to respect the constitution’s original intentions for the clause—and it could result in making the situation worse.
“It will only foment more violence and more opportunities to divide America,” Davis said. “And this is where I think President-elect Biden, he should step in and say, ‘Donald Trump will no longer be president in a matter of days. Why are you going through a purely political process that’s going to further divide the country?’”
Davis will return to Washington D.C. on Jan. 13, where he plans to vote against the articles of impeachment that Democrats in the House have introduced.