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Cole Supports Republican Budget on House Floor

April 8, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) offered the following remarks on the House floor during debate and consideration of H. Con. Res. 96, Establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2015 and setting forth appropriate budgetary level for fiscal years 2016 through 2024. This legislation was offered by Chairman Paul Ryan and the House Budget Committee: 

I want to urge support for the rule and the underlying legislation. I’ll be the first to tell you that this budget is not a perfect budget. No budget is actually perfect, but it’s a good budget. 

There are a couple issues that do concern me that I addressed [with] Mr. Ryan last night. I’m a little worried that we haven’t dealt with the wildfire issue to my satisfaction, which disrupts the appropriating process within interior. But he assured me that he recognized that was a problem—we need to work on it. 

I’m actually going to vote for Mr. Woodall’s budget when I have the opportunity to do that. It’s the most conservative approach on the floor, and I appreciate that. But I think we ought to stop and remember: without Paul Ryan, we wouldn’t have the choices in front of us today. The United States Senate has chosen not to have a budget once again this year, something that it frequently does. And with all due respect to my friends who do have a budget—and I’m pleased that they do—in 2010 when they were actually in the majority, they didn’t present a budget to this body either. It’s Paul Ryan who has forced us to confront the fiscal crisis that’s facing the country and has actually put something on the table to deal with it. 

Now you don’t have to agree with everything in it. But it has a lot of virtues to it. The first virtue is it actually focuses on the number one driver of the debt, and that’s our unsustainable entitlement programs. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years in this body on a bipartisan basis in reducing discretionary spending. We’re actually spending $165 billion less in the discretionary accounts than we were in 2008 when George W. Bush was President of the United States. I don’t agree with all those reductions, I suspect my friends on the other side don’t either, but that’s a tangible contribution to reducing the deficit and moving us toward balance. 

What we haven’t dealt with—what the president has largely refused to deal with, and what I suspect my friends in their budget will not deal with, but Paul Ryan has—are the real drivers of the debt: Medicare, Medicaid in particular. And there’s an offer in there to sit down and deal seriously with Social Security as well. Until we do those things, and Paul Ryan has started us on a path to do them, we’ll never bring the budget into balance.

Now, one of the other things I like about Mr. Ryan’s budget is, it really does balance within 10 years and makes a lot of tough choices. My friend Mr. Woodall actually gets there a little bit faster because he makes even tougher choices, but it balances.  

My friends on the other side of the aisle and the Administration haven’t presented a budget that balances in 10 years, or 20 years, or 30 years or 40 or 50 or just draw the lines right on out to infinity. I don’t think that’s what the American people sent us here to do. But until somebody actually has the courage to do what Mr. Ryan has done, what Mr. Woodall has done, that’s the situation the country is going to be in. 

The other thing I like about the Ryan Budget, in particular, is that it actually incorporates in it the agreement that he arrived at with Senator Murray in the other body. Now there was a lot of criticism about that because it probably wasn’t what I would have negotiated if I’d gotten my way, or probably Mr. Woodall. But it was a real agreement—only a two year agreement, but a real agreement. And against a lot of criticism, Mr. Ryan incorporated, “Okay, if that’s going to be the settled law of the land, then that’s going to be a part of our budget.” He put it in there, and I’m proud of him for doing that. 

Finally, again it reduces, not spending, but the growth of spending. We’re going to hear a lot of talk about slashes and not investments. If you actually look at the Ryan Budget, federal spending still grows. It grows by about 3.5 percent a year. The difference is the democratic alternative, or, excuse me, the current course is like 5.2 percent. That’s not a great deal of difference. We could really restrain our deficit in the short-term and ultimately bring ourselves to balance. Not by slashing everything, but by simply making some of the simple, common sense reforms that my friend Mr. Ryan, to great criticism, has advanced and put on this floor year, after year, after year.

So I want to urge the adoption of this rule, which is a terrific rule, because despite some complaints the reality is my friend, Mr. Woodall, and the Rules Committee have put a variety of choices before this body. We’re going to have a budget from the Progressive Caucus; it’s very different than I would like, but it’s going to get its opportunity. We’re going to have a budget from the Congressional Black Caucus; again, different than I would choose, but it certainly deserves to be heard and examined. We have Mr. Woodall’s budget. 

So we’re going to have several choices before we get to Mr. Ryan’s budget, any one of whom might win, might actually persuade people. But at the end of the day, we’re going to have multiple choices because of this rule, and so it deserves to be dealt with because it does indeed open the process. At the end of the day, I suspect Mr. Ryan’s budget will be the one that passes. Again, I am very proud to do that, and I urge its passage.