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Cole Opposes Unprecedented Changes to House Operations

May 15, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, released the following statement after he opposed H. Res. 965, a resolution to allow proxy voting and remote committee proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“While the coronavirus crisis has caused unthinkable disruptions and challenges nationwide, this is not the first time in history that Congress has navigated extraordinary circumstances and still preserved the longstanding traditions imagined by our founding fathers and precedents going back more than 230 years. Throughout numerous emergencies and disasters in our nation’s history, the American people have always been able to count on their elected representatives to be their voice. Indeed, even amid such crises as the Civil War and the 1918 influenza pandemic, Congress has still shown up and been physically present for its essential work in Washington.

“Though the COVID-19 pandemic has kept large portions of the U.S. population at home, there are many Americans whose jobs have become critically important to us all. Whether it’s our health care providers risking their own lives on the front lines caring for the ill or the numerous others fulfilling essential roles that require them to leave their houses, we owe them an incredible debt of gratitude. If these Americans can take on the risk and serve selflessly throughout this crisis, if the U.S. Senate can meet in person and if the White House can continue to go to work every day, so too should the People’s House.

“While I understand that there are real concerns about continuing in-person operations amid a pandemic, I don’t think those concerns should lead to fundamentally changing how the House conducts official business, dangerously setting a precedent that we can’t undo later and risking constitutional challenges. Moreover, no matter how difficult it may be to achieve, any change to centuries-old Rules of the House should only be done in a bipartisan way that achieves consensus. I regret that was not the case with the Democrats’ partisan scheme for proxy voting and remote committee work.”

Earlier today, Cole made extensive remarks on the House floor during debate on the resolution. Text of remarks as delivered available here.