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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Cole: “This is not a fair, open or transparent process”

October 31, 2019
Speech

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, made remarks on the House floor during the debate of H. Res. 660. During the vote this afternoon, Cole opposed the impeachment process resolution.  

Cole's remarks as delivered on the House floor are available below:

This is a sad day for us – for me personally, for the Rules Committee and for the institution as a whole. Today’s resolution sets forth a process for impeaching the president of the United States. It is not a fair process, it is not an open process, it is not a transparent process, but instead a limited, closed process with a pre-ordained outcome.

Impeachment of the president is one of the most consequential acts the House of Representatives can do, and it should only be done after the fullest consideration. And yet over the last month, without a vote, and with only the speaker’s say-so, committees have been engaged in a closed impeachment inquiry on what amounts to nothing more than a partisan fishing expedition.

At least today the majority is admitting what we knew all along: that the House was not following an appropriate process for impeachment. But I do not think the process we are setting forward in this resolution is a fair one, either. It is not fair to the president of the United States, it is not fair to the House of Representatives and it is not fair to the American people.

The process laid out in the resolution before us is different from the process used for both President Nixon in 1974 and President Clinton in 1998. Today’s resolution provides fewer due process protections and fewer protections for minority rights than what we have seen in previous impeachment efforts.

At our markup yesterday, Republicans tried to change that. We tried to offer constructive amendments that would make the process more fair, that would give rights to the minority, that would give rights to the accused and that would ensure due process for everyone. Republicans offered 17 amendments, and not one – not one, Madam Speaker – was accepted. Not one!

We offered amendments that would align the subpoena powers in this resolution with the subpoena powers used for President Clinton. Unlike in the Clinton inquiry, today’s resolution does not provide for a co-equal subpoena power. Instead, it grants the minority the right to subpoena witnesses and materials only with the concurrence of the chair and with no such limitation on the rights of the chair to issue subpoenas. We offered amendments that would change that, but the majority rejected each of them in turn. 

We offered an amendment that would allow all members the right to fully access committee records. This is common sense – if you’re doing something as serious as impeaching the president, then members should have the right to see what records the committee produced so that they will know what they’re voting on. Yet the majority rejected that.

We offered an amendment that would require the chairman of the Rules Committee to promulgate procedures to allow for the participation of the president and his counsel in proceedings of the Intelligence Committee, Oversight Committee or Foreign Affairs Committee. This right was granted to President Clinton in 1998, yet it is not present here. And yet the majority again rejected this amendment.

I think the differences are clear. Today’s resolution fails to give the minority the same rights as were present during the Clinton impeachment, and it fails to offer the same due process protections that were given to Presidents Nixon and Clinton. And in the latter case, I note that those were the rights a Republican House gave to a Democratic president. Today’s resolution shows a Democratic House failing to give those same protections to a Republican president.

Madam Speaker, the unfairness is clear. This is not a fair process, nor was it ever intended to be. It was pre-ordained from the beginning. 

Without due process and without a fair process that respects minority rights, I do not believe the American people will regard this process as legitimate. A legitimate process is one that offers protections for everyone involved. And without those protections, this will be seen as just another partisan exercise, one the majority has been pushing since the first day of the 116th Congress.

We can do better than that, Madam Speaker. The Rules Committee should have done better than this. But since the Rules Committee didn’t, then the House must. 

And with that Madam Speaker, I urge opposition to this measure, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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