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Ranking Member Cole Floor Remarks on H.R. 4502

As delivered on the House floor during debate on the rule for H.R. 4502:

Today’s rule covers H.R. 4502, a seven-bill appropriations package for fiscal year 2022, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education subcommittee, where I am the Ranking Member. 

Though I have great affection for my good friend Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, and respect all of my colleagues across the aisle, I think this package is deeply misguided, and I will be opposing it.

From the beginning, this package was structured on a flawed premise. The majority chose to use 302(b) allocation numbers – the levels that tell each subcommittee how much money they can spend – that were totally off the mark. The majority chose to mark their bills to spending levels that called for a 17 percent increase in non-defense spending and an inadequate 1 percent increase in defense spending, less even than the amount the president requested in his budget. At a time when our national security is facing repeated threats ranging from the Middle East to Afghanistan to the South China Sea, we can hardly afford to return to the continual underfunding of our military that was a hallmark of the Obama-Biden years.  

What’s worse, these seven bills account for a 21 percent increase over fiscal year 2021. Across the seven titles, the majority is asking to spend more than $100 billion more in fiscal year 2022 than we did just last year. This comes on top of massive spending earlier this year with the majority’s $1.9 trillion COVID spending package, and at a time when Democrats in the House and Senate are looking to spend another $3.5 trillion as part of a new partisan reconciliation bill. This is truly tax-and-spend politics like we have never seen before.

But the problems with this bill aren’t just with the amount of money spent. In drafting this package, the majority has also chosen to strip out longstanding bipartisan policy provisions, and instead has filled this package with partisan, far-left policy that simply cannot pass both chambers and become law.

There is no better illustration of this than in the majority’s shocking decision to remove the Hyde and Weldon amendments. For 45 years, through both Democratic and Republican administrations and Democratic and Republican majorities in the House, the Hyde Amendment has been the law. It is a commitment that no federal tax dollars can be used to fund abortions, except in certain rare instances, and a commitment to protect the conscience rights of the great majority of American taxpayers who are opposed to publicly funding abortions. And since 2006, the Weldon Amendment has protected the conscience rights of health care providers to not participate in abortions if they have a moral objection to the procedure. 

The very same Democratic majority that controls the House today had no apparent issue with the Hyde Amendment just last year, since it was carried on their Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill without any issue. Yet this year the majority has inexplicably chosen not to include these bipartisan provisions, despite receiving support from every Democrat on the Appropriations Committee only last year.

Removing language that has been included in appropriations bills for decades is not only an overreach by the far left, but it also threatens to destabilize and upend the entire appropriations process. Appropriations bills simply cannot pass both chambers and be signed into law without this language.  Eliminating the Hyde and Weldon amendments, given all of their importance to the American people, also eliminates the opportunity for bipartisanship. And without a bipartisan deal approved by both chambers, we cannot reach a successful conclusion to the FY 2022 appropriations process. Removing this language sends us on a collision course for a year-long continuing resolution, or worse, a government shutdown.

Madam Speaker, I filed an amendment to today’s package to restore the Hyde and Weldon Amendments. I did not do so alone. I was joined by every single Republican member in this body. Every single one. All 213 members of the Republican Conference signed on to this important amendment.

And yet, when the Rules Committee met yesterday, I was shocked that my amendment would not be included.  

Madam Speaker, I find it stunning that the majority would not add back in an item that is this important to the American people. But it serves to show how deeply partisan the package before us today actually is. The majority simply prefers to ram through their own partisan policy, rather than provisions that have had bipartisan support for decades. I find that deeply disappointing, Madam Speaker.

But I know that today’s bill will not be the last word.  Whether the majority likes it or not, at the end of the day we will have to reach a bipartisan and bicameral deal on spending for fiscal year 2022. The alternative is too bleak to contemplate. But if the majority fails to compromise and fails to work with Republicans, both here and across the Capitol, then they will have only themselves to blame. And they will bear the responsibility for the consequences. A continuing resolution, or even worse, a government shutdown. 

With that, Madam Speaker, I urge opposition to this rule.

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