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Cole's Floor Speech on Economic Stimulus Package

January 27, 2009

WASHINGTON – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) made the following remarks on the House floor while calling for serious procedural changes to H.R. 1, the proposed economic stimulus package.

"Mr. COLE: Madam Speaker, I thank my good friend and distinguished ranking member of the Rules Committee from California for yielding.

I rise in opposition to this rule and to the underlying legislation. Let me say at the outset, I respect the Rules Committee and the very important function that it carries out as a former member, but it is preeminently, as it should be, the Speaker's committee. In this case I believe the Speaker has presented us with legislation in a format that is unlikely to receive significant minority support and participation, and, frankly, that is unfortunate, Madam Speaker, because I think it is avoidable.

There is much in the current situation that, frankly, the two parties in this body agree on. We agree that we are in a serious recession. We agree that dramatic Federal response is required to deal with job loss and the mounting economic challenges we face. We agree that tax cuts are an important part of that solution. We have some disagreement over which ones and how much, but clearly it is an area we can find common ground on.

We agree that infrastructure is important to moving us forward, although I regret there is very little of this bill, frankly, that deals with infrastructure. Less than 10 percent in total actually goes to infrastructure spending. I think that is something we could find common ground on and enlarge. We disagree, quite obviously, over a whole range of other spending issues which constitute over half the bill.

In our opinion, the spending is simply too much. There are too many new programs that have not been authorized and gone through the appropriate committee process. There is unsustainable spending in this program, things like Pell Grants and IDEA money that is good, but frankly will ramp up and then immediately crash down. Or we will set ourselves up for a future tax increase, which I don't think anybody, certainly on my side of the aisle, is anxious to do. So there are areas of agreement and disagreement.

Madam Speaker, it is not too late to find common ground. We could defeat this rule and ask the Rules Committee to send us back three items that we could consider sequentially and separately. We could root out the bad programs. We could find common ground. We could find common ground on tax cuts. We can find common ground on infrastructure.

We could then have our disagreements over the spending portion of the bill. We could vote on each of these items separately. They could later be merged and sent on as a separate bill. In that process we would find significant bipartisan participation and agreement. But, unfortunately, the rule under which we are likely to bring the legislation to the floor is going to make that impossible and give us the old partisan debates that the country would like to see us move past.

So I would ask my colleagues to reject this rule and ask my capable friends on the Rules Committee in both parties to go back and to give us the type of process and the type of bill that will yield a bipartisan outcome, a bipartisan victory. That is what the country wants, that is what America needs, that is what the President has asked us to do. That is what we are capable of doing if we will address this matter in the appropriate manner.
So I urge the rejection of this rule and the beginning of a bipartisan process where we can find so much common ground."