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Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on H.R. 4502

As delivered during today’s hearing:

Today’s hearing covers a large appropriations package that incorporates reported bills from seven of the 12 subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. The package totals $770 billion in federal discretionary spending, including over $250 billion coming out of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education subcommittee, where I am privileged to be the Ranking Member.

Today’s package is an excellent illustration of the question I have repeatedly asked the majority during the 117th Congress: Are they here to make political points or to make law? Sadly, this package seems to suggest the former is once again the majority’s goal.

At the end of the day, the appropriations process is one that must be both bipartisan and bicameral. It requires input from both parties in both chambers and requires both parties in both chambers to reach a final agreement. The bills that result from that process are not always the bills I would write, but they ultimately end up reflecting the input of all members of Congress, representing a fair compromise and producing the best results for the American people.

Unfortunately, the package before us today makes no pretense of being bipartisan and sets us off on the wrong foot. Instead, it is truly a partisan package, drafted solely by the majority and reflecting the priorities of the majority. While this is certainly their right, drafting a bill this way destines it to failure in the Senate, which must cooperate in a bipartisan manner, and therefore it has no chance as written of becoming law.

The problems with this bill start with the unrealistic allocation levels. The majority chose to mark these bills to spending levels that reflect only progressive, liberal priorities. These spending levels call for an increase in non-defense discretionary spending of 17 percent, while calling for an increase in defense spending of a meager 1.7 percent, effectively an inflation-adjusted cut. At a time when the United States is facing continual crises ranging from the Middle East to Afghanistan and across to the South China Sea, this is hardly a time to starve our national security of needed funds. Yet in using these unrealistic levels, that is exactly what the majority is doing.

The package before us cuts out bipartisan policy priorities that have been carried in appropriations packages for decades while also adding in liberal and progressive riders that simply cannot pass both chambers and become law.

The most shocking demonstration of the majority’s misstep is the decision to strip out the Hyde Amendment, the longstanding bipartisan commitment that no federal taxpayer dollars can be used to fund abortions, except in limited circumstances, and the commitment to protect the conscience rights of the majority of American taxpayers, who oppose publicly funding abortions. 

In the 45 years since the Hyde Amendment was first enacted, in a Democratic Congress I might add, it has saved more than two million lives nationwide and 47,000 in my home state of Oklahoma. It has been supported by presidents and lawmakers of both parties, including every Democrat on this committee here in the last Congress, when Chairwoman DeLauro included the Hyde Amendment in the Democrats’ FY 2021 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, and, until recently of course, President Biden when he served in the United States Senate and while he was Vice President and even campaigning for president two years ago supported the Hyde Amendment. 

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 the entire appropriations process itself. Appropriations bills simply cannot pass both chambers and be signed into law without the language incorporated in the Hyde and Weldon amendments.  

I have filed an amendment to today’s package, joined by every single Republican in the House as cosponsors, to restore the Hyde and Weldon amendments to this package. I urge the majority to include this amendment so that we can restore these important lifesaving and conscience protections to this package. I also urge the majority to restore all the other bipartisan policy provisions and to remove strictly partisan ones so that we can reach a final deal on spending for the 2022 fiscal year.

If we fail to do that, we will end up with a continuing resolution. And so all of these increases, at whatever level, won’t occur because the Hyde language and the Weldon language will be in a CR. So that’s really the question in front of us – whether or not my friends want a budget that is negotiated between the two sides or they can achieve many of their priorities or do they want to go into the second year of the Biden Administration with the budget from the last year of the Trump Administration. A budget that was negotiated by a Republican president and Republican Senate with a Democratic House.

Right now, you’ve got the presidency, you’ve got the House and you’ve got the Senate. I wouldn’t think a CR is where you want to go, but I can tell you that if that language is not back in the bill, that’s exactly where we’re headed. If we don’t make some adjustments in domestic as opposed to defense spending, I also think that’s exactly where we’re headed. 

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