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Cole Manages Rule for Omnibus Spending Bill

December 11, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) managed the rule on the House floor for H.R. 83, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2015, and delivered the following opening remarks:

Mr. Speaker, yesterday  the Rules Committee met and reported a rule for consideration of Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The resolution makes in order a motion offered by the chair of the Committee on Appropriations that the House concur in the Senate amendment to H.R. 83 with an amendment consisting of the text of the FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The rule provides 80 minutes of debate, 60 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking member of the Committee on Appropriations and 20 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. In addition, the rule provides the chair of the Committee on Appropriations the authority to insert any explanatory information. Finally, the rule provides same day authority through December 12, as is customary at the end of the session.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present to this House the culmination of the Appropriations Committee’s work for fiscal year 2015. In this legislation, 11 of the 12 appropriations bills are fully conferenced and fully funded through the end of the fiscal year; however, the Homeland Security bill is funded under a temporary continuing resolution until February 27, 2015.

Mr. Speaker, I carried the initial rule for consideration of the first two appropriations bills considered in the House back on April 30, 2014. And I believe the record of the House and the House Appropriations Committee has been good. We considered 7 out of the 12 appropriations bills on the floor, under an open process, considered 11 of 12 appropriations bills in Committee. Contrast that to the Senate, which was unable to consider even a single appropriations bill on the floor. 

So I am proud Mr. Speaker of the work we have been able to accomplish. The omnibus legislation abides by all the terms set in the Ryan-Murray budget agreement, providing a top line funding level of $1.013 trillion. But at the same time, this legislation contains important policy provisions that prevent government from reaching into the lives of ordinary citizens, like preventing the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating farm ponds and irrigation ditches to regulating the lead content in ammunition or fishing tackle. It maintains historic pro-life provisions, and includes new ones, like requiring Obamacare plans to disclose whether they provide abortion services, and countless others.

At the same time, this omnibus enacts important common sense priorities on the direction of this government. It cuts funding for the IRS by over $345 million. Indeed, the IRS has been cut by more than $1.2 billion since 2010. It prohibits the IRS from targeting groups for scrutiny based on their political beliefs. It cuts EPA funding for the fifth consecutive year, bringing staffing to the lowest level since 1989. It implements a government-wide prohibition on the painting of portraits. It makes common sense decisions, like prohibiting funding for inappropriate videos or conferences that shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers in times of surplus—much less in times of deficit.

But this legislation doesn’t just cut funding from programs. It takes those cuts and reallocates them to programs that are truly in need. For example, it provides $30 billion for the National Institutes of Health, an increase over FY 14, enhancing funding for Alzheimer’s, cancer, and brain research. It funds the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act, a bill I authored with Gregg Harper and Eric Cantor, at $12.6 million, shifting these dollars from funding political conventions to research into pediatric diseases. It increases the healthcare and educational funding to some of our poorest and most needy constituents, Native Americans. And it provides funding to deal with crises like those associated with the outbreak of Ebola or the militant activity of ISIL.

I could go on and on with all the good things included in this bill; however, I am sure others will speak on those. I believe it is important to take stock in where we have come over the last four years. We have taken an annual budget deficit of $1.4 trillion and lowered it to $486 billion. Still too high but one of the most rapid, if not the most rapid decline, of deficits in American history. 

We have prevented additional burdens and regulations from being foist upon the American people. Our work is certainly not done; however, one must remember that appropriations and appropriating is a process. The bureaucratic welfare state built by decades of Democratic control cannot be dismantled in a single blow; however, it can be reduced piece by piece. This legislation does just that.

Some of my friends will raise objections to the process, where we are left with a frustrating choice between passage of a large, omnibus bill to fund all of government or a government shutdown. To my friends, I say that I agree with you, as do my fellow members of the Appropriations Committee. There are some things in this bill I disagree with and some certainly that I agree with. But I do agree that under regular order those with a different point of view should be able to make their case to the entire House. The House has led by example in this regard. We considered 7 different appropriations bills on this floor, in an open amendment process which passed with bipartisan majorities. And the House would have considered even more appropriations bills had the Senate been willing to consider even a single appropriations bill on the floor. In fact, the last time the Senate passed an individual appropriations bill was November 1st, 2011, more than three years ago. 

Mr. Speaker, this isn’t the way to govern. I hope that in the next Congress the House will have a partner in the Senate which is willing to consider individual appropriations bills, in an open process, so that we do not have to consider large, omnibus packages without the opportunity for amendment. I believe we will, and believe we will end up with a better product because of it.

I am encouraged by the work of my friend Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Nita Lowey and look forward to working with them and a new Senate next year to build upon the work we have done this year. I urge support for the rule and the underlying legislation.