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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Congress Keeps America Open for Business, Finally

May 8, 2017
Weekly Columns
In what has become an all too familiar exercise, last week Congress passed a Consolidated Appropriations bill, sometimes known as an Omnibus, at the 11th hour thereby narrowly averting a government shutdown. This legislation extended funding for the remainder of the 2017 Fiscal Year. It is work that should have, and could have, been completed last December. And Congress’ procrastination means we are now nearly five months late in beginning to budget and plan for the 2018 Fiscal Year which technically begins on October 1, 2017.
 
The good news is that the legislation that was passed was bipartisan, bicameral, and included some important priorities that will make America stronger, more secure, better educated and healthier.
 
In 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act. This legislation triggered automatic budget cuts that disproportionately impacted our nation’s military - causing massive cuts and forcing the Pentagon to severely reduce man power and equipment to some of the lowest levels since World War II. The legislation we passed last week will start the restoration of the military capabilities the United States needs to confront the challenges we face around the world. With the $25 billion increase in military spending, machinery systems in our military like the Air Force’s KC-46A and the Army’s Paladin PIM, which are key programs for Oklahoma’s military installations, will now function and produce at a level that is consistent with the demand.
 
The bill Congress passed last week will also provide $1.5 billion for stronger border security measures. That also includes $1.1 billion of President Trump’s request for border security.
 
As chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, I’m proud of the provisions we were able to bring forth in the final legislation. For the second year in a row, we were able to secure an additional $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a critical institution for medical research and innovation. An addition to the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received $7.3 billion in total, which is a $22 million increase from the previous year. The CDC is the tip of the spear and our nation’s first line of defense for disease prevention and biodefense.
 
Additionally, the subcommittee secured increases in funding for fundamental education programs. Programs like TRIO and GEAR UP, which support students who are often the first in their families to attend college, received funding of $950 million and $339 million respectively. 
 
While I am disappointed in the way we finally performed our most fundamental  responsibility of funding the government that keeps us safe, protects our borders, helps educate our youth, and constantly seeks cures for the devastating diseases that plague our nation, I am proud of the product we finally produced.
 
Moving forward, I hope that my colleagues and I can continue to engage in the good faith, bi-partisan cooperation that finally emerged last week. There is so much more that unites us as Americans than divide us. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we can get to the work the American people elected us to do, and rightfully expect us to do.