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Cole’s Closing Remarks in Support of Omnibus Bill

January 15, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) offered the following closing remarks on the House Floor while managing the rule for H.R. 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.

Madam Speaker, in closing, I would again like to thank my friends, Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey on their efforts to bring an important product to this floor—a product which fulfills our constitutional responsibility of appropriating funds for the government for fiscal year 2014. And while this is not the bill I would have drafted or I’m sure that my friend would have drafted, I believe it strikes an appropriate balance between key Republican and Democratic priorities. And I believe it will attract the majority of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, as well as the majority of my friends on my own side of the aisle.

I want to thank my friend in a sense that while we’ve had a contentious debate, we’re actually going to be voting together on the underlying legislation—that might have gotten lost in the debate. And I’ll be voting on this, again with the majority of his colleagues and at the urging of the president of the United States. We ought to recognize while we’ve had some partisan differences here, the legislation itself was crafted in a bipartisan manner; it was brought to this floor. I would agree with my friend – I would have preferred 12 different bills and a lot more time, but we’ve got a limited timeframe here. It was brought in a cooperative manner; both the ranking member and the chairman urging its passage. So, it’s something we ought to take, frankly, some pride in. And I certainly congratulate those who laid their hand in it.

I want to also point out to my friend on the unemployment issue. Here, we probably do disagree, but the Speaker’s made it apparent if there are appropriate pay-fors, he’s willing to consider that. And, without questioning my friends on the other side of the rotunda, so far they just simply haven’t provided that. I think the Speaker’s offer has been out there for quite considerable time before the end of the year, before the benefits ended. It’s also worth noting that this does not affect regular unemployment benefits – those are still there for all Americans. This is a program that has been extended five years. We’re now at a time where the recession is four years in the rear-view mirror and unemployment’s been coming down. If it still needs to be extended for some people, we ought to find a way, in my view, to pay for it. And I think the Speaker’s made it apparent that he would consider any serious proposals in that regard. So far we haven’t had that.

Sometimes, Madam Speaker, the smart vote and the easy vote are the wrong vote. I know some of my friends on the other side might decide to vote no on the underlying legislation. I never quibble with a rule vote – I respect that process—because, from their perspective, there’s a lot to criticize here. And certainly from my side of the aisle, there’s a lot to criticize as well. And we’re going to have some no votes.

But I think there’s not much question that the right vote here is to vote for the underlying legislation – assuming the rule’s adopted, and I think it will be. And I think it’s the right thing for the country. I think it’s the right thing for the process itself to actually get back to regular order; to consider the bills in the matter that I know my friend would like them to be considered in. And to have an open amendment process, which we do on appropriations legislation. This is an essential first step to doing that.

I think that Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey have probably done more in this legislation to restore the process and rebuild upon. They’ve given us a foundation for the next fiscal year that will allow us to do precisely the things that my friend would like to do and that I agree in a normal process ought to be done. So I would obviously urge support for the rule.

But more importantly, after the rule passes – assuming it does – for the underlying legislation so that we can work together in a bipartisan fashion. We can make sure we have no government shutdowns next year. I think that will actually do more to create jobs and restore economic certainty than probably any single thing we could do.

Our appropriations committee working in a bipartisan fashion under the leadership of Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey has done that. I would suggest it’s probably something that all of us should reflect upon and congratulate upon, and then try to spread throughout the institution. If we work the way they worked in putting this bill together and bringing it to the floor on every other piece of legislation, I think the country would be well served, and frankly, all of us would have a great deal to be proud of.

So with that, again, I urge the passage of the rule and the underlying legislation.