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Cole Offers Motion to Recommit Disaster Aid Supplemental

February 7, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), Vice Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, made remarks on the House floor during consideration of H.R. 5687, a supplemental appropriations bill for disaster aid. Cole delivered the following remarks while offering the Republican motion to recommit, which is a procedural tool that can be used on the House floor to initiate a vote to send a bill back to the committee of jurisdiction for further review.

Madam Speaker, I rise in reluctant opposition to this bill. Long before I was privileged to come to this House, I was Secretary of State in Oklahoma at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. And I was tasked by the governor to work with my friend and our colleague, Mr. Lucas, to work with the Congress to see that we received timely assistance for a disaster that was clearly not of our own making. And we got that assistance, and I'm forever grateful to this body and the people in it that worked with us at that particular time.

Since I arrived in Congress, I’ve never forgotten the help that we received from the Congress of the United States, so I've routinely voted for almost every supplemental related to disaster relief. I was one of 49 Republicans who voted for Sandy relief, and I have no doubt that our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are in dire need and certainly need help at this particular time.

I was very proud, as I know many members were in the last Congress, to vote for over $40 billion of relief to Puerto Rico. It needed that money. No question about it.

Madam Speaker, we're moving prematurely here. Of that money, at $40 billion, over half or roughly half has yet to be expended. It's available for immediate use right now. We still have $42 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund. That money is available for immediate use right now.

There is an ongoing FEMA investigation to determine the precise needs of Puerto Rico. That has yet to be completed and reported to Congress. We should wait for that disaster relief [report] – not because it may tell us that we need less, it might actually tell us we need more. But we should not act without appropriate information.

So, Madam Speaker, I think the appropriate thing to do is to send this back to the committee and wait for the information to move. If we move now, precipitously, it’s almost certain the United States Senate will not pick up this relief and the president would probably not sign this bill if it got to his desk.

If we wait for the appropriate information and use the available funds that we have right now to help people in Puerto Rico, we have a much better chance of getting our fellow Americans the help they need when they need it and the right amounts and in the right way.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this Congress will respond appropriately to an emergency. I've seen us do it time and time again on a bipartisan basis. I know we'll do it again at the appropriate time. So Congress will respond if necessary.

Frankly, Madam Speaker, I simply move that we recommit the current legislation to the Appropriations Committee, wait on the information and then act in the interests of our fellow Americans.