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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Cole Supports NAHASDA Reauthorization on House Floor

March 23, 2015
Speech

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) made the following remarks on the House floor in support of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act (NAHASDA) of 2015:

It is very important when we look at this extremely significant piece of legislation to recognize, as my good friend from Wisconsin said, this is a trust obligation of the United States Government. This isn't a housing handout. This isn't some special deal. This is something, an obligation that we assumed in negotiation with tribes over many decades, many different situations. If people are living in Indian Country, particularly on reservations, and don't have adequate housing, the Federal Government has a responsibility to do something about it, something we have recognized since the 1960s, something, as my friend Mr. Pearce said, we institutionalized in 1996.

This has been a good program for a long time. It has been a block grant program, which has empowered tribes. One of the things I love about this legislation is, in a bipartisan sense, we continue to do that. We provide a lot more flexibility for tribes to actually control their own affairs, meet their own needs.

As Ms. Moore suggests, we all wish the sum could be more. $650 million is a lot of money, but spread across a population of almost three million individuals and over 57 million acres, an area of land about the size of Wyoming, it is maybe not as much as we would like, particularly given the severe needs, but it is a good faith effort, and it is appropriate given the difficult financial times we are in.

Again, we have had tremendous support across Indian Country. As both speakers previously mentioned, National Congress of American Indians, particularly the National American Indian Housing Council, has worked hand-in-glove with Members on both sides of the aisle to build this program.

My friends were very fulsome in their praise for various Members, and I wouldn't disagree with anybody they mentioned, but I have got to hold, particularly, Mr. Pearce up not only for his tremendous work on this, Ms. Moore as well, but for their persistence in this. They brought this legislation to the floor in the last Congress, having worked out the difficulties, formed a bipartisan compromise and coalition and, frankly, brought their leaders along with them, I think, educating their respective leaders in the process. We got that through the House last time on a bipartisan basis. The Senate wasn't able to act, and I am very pleased to see that they have come back again this quickly in the session. Hopefully we will have a little bit better response on the other side. I don't think there was any opposition; they just didn't get it done in the press of business toward the end of the year. They are going to have plenty of time to do that.

This is an excellent piece of legislation. As my friends have both suggested, it is an example of how well we can work together when we focus on the problems instead of sometimes the partisan and philosophical divisions that separate us. I reflect, as I am looking here on the floor, that I usually like to think of myself as a rightwing conservative Republican, but I can't get to the right of my friend Mr. Pearce, as hard as I try; and my friend Ms. Moore--we have worked together on TRIO programs, on violence against women, now on this--is certainly well to the left of me on a lot of issues. So anything that can bring the three of us together is pretty inclusive in this body, and you won't have much excuse.

I am particularly pleased to see my friend Mr. Kildee on the floor, who continues a family tradition of working in the forefront of Native American issues.

It is a good piece of legislation. It has been worked on hard by people that really know what they are doing. They brought the body along. So I certainly urge its passage and again want to congratulate, particularly, Mr. Pearce and Ms. Moore for their absolutely stellar work in this case. It would not have happened without their efforts.

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Contact: Sarah Corley (202) 225-6165