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OKC Fox 25: Rep. Cole talks debt ceiling hike, opposition to Democrats' spending plan

October 14, 2021
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OKC Fox 25 - Dan Snyder

OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — The U.S. House on Tuesday is set to take up a Senate-passed bill that would extend the debt limit through early December. It will be the third time the House has voted on raising the debt ceiling, and each time, Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole has voted against it. He, like other Republicans in Congress, say Democrats should go it alone if they plan to spend trillions of dollars.

"They passed a $1.9T Covid relief bill in February when they could've had a compromise bill at about half the size," said Cole. "Every appropriations bill has been a straight-line party vote. Now of course we have this reconciliation bill, in particular that will be a straight-line party vote."

Rep. Cole acknowledged a good chunk of debt that still needs to be paid for came under President Trump's Republican administration, from the 2017 tax cuts to trillions in Covid relief dollars. But the Congressman argues raising the limit is also to make room for major spending packages the Democrats are trying to get through Congress.

"Our argument is if you're going to do all the spending by yourself, then you're going to have to do all the heavy lifting on the debt by yourself as well," said Cole.

That spending comes in two forms: The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill to pay for social safety net programs. Cole says right now, he's opposed to both. On the infrastructure package, which garnered 69 votes in the Senate, Cole says he's concerned that the bill is not fully paid for, and that no one in the House, Democrat or Republican, had any input in its creation.

But the congressman says his biggest concern is that no Oklahoma lawmakers at all had a hand in creating the plan.

"We were dealt out of that game. This bill was negotiated by about 10 or 15 Senators, none of them by the way are on the Public Works Committee. And let me make a bold prediction: Every one of those Senator's states were taken care of," said Rep. Cole. "Whereas we have particular concerns or funds that are important to us, there was no voice advocating for Oklahoma in the United States Senate. I think that's why both our Senators voted no."

On the reconciliation plan, Cole, like all other Republicans in Congress, says he'll vote against it. He points to the increase planned for the corporate tax rate, and the allowance of provisions in the 2017 GOP tax cuts to lapse. Rep. Cole believes that will hurt small businesses.

But the congressman isn't against everything in the plan. Particularly, Rep. Cole said he could support universal pre-K and the Child Tax Credit, if it were capped based on earnings.

"So there are a number of items, if the Democrats had chosen to bring them individually, I think could've become bipartisan," said Cole. "But that's not the path they've chosen, it's sort of an all or nothing. And that dealt the Republicans out from the start."

But right now, Congressman Cole doesn't believe his or his fellow Republican's opposition will stand in the way of the plans being passed.

"I think the bipartisan infrastructure package does come through. That could be passed anytime. Even though I have objections to it, the majority in the Senate has already voted for it. If it was put on the floor in the House, it would pass," said Cole. "I think they will get a reconciliation package, but I think it'll be smaller than the $3.5 trillion. And I think there will be some debate over whether to cut parts of it out, which I hope they do."

As for bipartisanship, which has become increasingly hard to come by in a bitterly-divided Washington, Cole is optimistic there as well. He points to the five Covid relief packages passed with strong bipartisan support in 2020. He says they also passed every appropriations bill with a bipartisan majority last year, and even overrode a Trump veto of the National Defense Authorization Act.

"The Democrats have to bring down domestic spending, bring up defense spending, and frankly restore Pro-Life protections they stripped from the bill. So the appropriations process this year is probably the area we're most likely to work together," said Cole.

Online: OKC Fox 25