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Cole Statement on House Passage of H.R. 1

March 3, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after voting against H.R. 1, which would federalize the nation’s election system and limit the ability of states to conduct their own elections.

“Although titled by Democrats as the ‘For the People Act,’ a better name for H.R. 1 would be the ‘For the Politicians Act’ since its aim is to change campaign finance law and state election systems to preserve and boost their own majority,” said Cole. “This is a blatant and shameful power grab, which would essentially create a welfare program for politicians and candidates on the taxpayer dime.

“Moreover, forcing the 50 separate and unique states to follow the same guidance would have damaging consequences, especially for states like Oklahoma that are already highly successful in conducting free, fair and secure elections. Indeed, this legislation would greatly impede the traditional power of the states to control their own elections.”

While managing the rule for consideration of H.R. 1 on the House floor earlier this week, Cole made the following opening remarks. 

Despite its title, H.R. 1 has nothing at all to do with the people. It is, instead, a bill about preserving the present Democratic majority. It is a bill by Democrats, for Democrats. Though the majority claims this bill is about reforming our political system, the reality is that most changes in this bill, if enacted into law, would be to the benefit of the majority and to the detriment of the minority.

The most egregious of these provisions are those dedicated to changing our national system of campaign finance. Now, in general, I think this is a worthy goal, but the majority’s proposed solution does not make much sense. The majority is proposing to create a new federally-funded campaign ATM using corporate fines, ensuring that certain candidates will receive millions of dollars just for running a campaign. My colleagues in the majority have bemoaned the massive amount of money that has been entering our campaign system over the past few decades, and yet their proposed solution is dump corporate dollars into the system? In what world does this make sense? Even Democrats know what flawed program this is. Which is why today’s rule also includes the provision to allow Members of Congress to opt out of the program. Before this bill was even passed by the House, Democrats were already running from it. They should just keep running and pull this bill from the floor.

Other proposed changes in this bill are just as egregious. Wherever possible, the majority is attempting to impose one-size-fits-all systems from Washington onto the states. It does this with a one-size-fits-all voter registration system, including forcing states to provide same-day voter registration whether they want it or not. And it takes away the power of states to choose how to redistrict, forcing them to adopt Washington-imposed quote “independent redistricting commissions,” something that less than 20 percent of the states who undertake redistricting actually do. These provisions impede the traditional power of the states to control their own elections. As the former Secretary of State and an election official of my home state of Oklahoma, I find these changes to be particularly concerning.

But what’s worse, H.R. 1 also includes severe restrictions on free speech and repeals the Lois Lerner rule – a rule put into place after the IRS began targeting the speech of conservative organizations in determining whether or not they would qualify for tax exempt status. If enacted into law, these provisions would re-weaponize the IRS and limit the abilities of organizations, corporations and individuals to freely exercise this most important right guaranteed under the Constitution. How the majority can claim that this bill is “for the people” when they are blatantly restricting the people’s right to free speech is beyond my understanding.

Mr. Speaker, what the majority is attempting today is egregious. Changing the national campaign finance system to benefit themselves, taking traditional powers away from the states, and restricting the right of free speech are all a part of an unprecedented power grab. I strongly urge the majority to change course and urge my colleagues to reject this terrible bill.