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Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on S. Con. Res. 14, H.R. 4 and the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3684

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing:

Our hearing today covers three items. I will address the first two jointly, which are the infrastructure bill coming out of the Senate and the majority’s proposed budget and reconciliation instructions for fiscal year 2022.

As to the first matter, although I think we can all agree that our colleagues in the Senate should be applauded for the bipartisan efforts that produced the infrastructure bill before us, Republicans in the House continue to have concerns about the product. House Republicans had no input into the process that produced this bill, and many of the provisions in this package are troublesome, most notably the fact that the bill is not fully paid-for and will increase the deficit. A fully bipartisan and bicameral process ultimately would produce a better bill in my opinion.

Furthermore, I am greatly disappointed that the House majority has chosen to link the infrastructure bill to a wildly unnecessary, profligate and wasteful Democrat-only budget resolution. 

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 that the majority is presenting today isn’t really a budget at all. Rather, it is the first step down the road toward producing a $3.5 trillion reconciliation spending bill filled with higher taxes and progressive spending priorities. What’s worse, the Speaker has also made it clear that she intends to hold the infrastructure bill hostage until the reconciliation bill passes. 

We are told that we cannot consider the infrastructure bill until the House also passes this reckless spending package with its harmful tax increases and many liberal provisions. Instead, according to press reports, today’s rule will allow for future consideration of the infrastructure bill at some later date once the reconciliation bill is ready to be voted on. That’s truly a sad state of affairs.

In linking these two bills together, the majority is truly trying to have its cake and eat it too.  This type of hostage-taking makes a mockery of the whole legislative process. It is ultimately unfair not only to the members of this body, but to the American people. I would urge the majority to rethink their plans and allow the process to play out naturally, without taking one bill as hostage to the majority’s worst impulses.

The third bill for today is H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have as citizens of our great republic. Given the importance of this right, it is disappointing that the majority has once again chosen to bring up a partisan bill that appears to be nothing more than another attempt to federalize all elections.

As a former Secretary of State of Oklahoma, I am very familiar with how important it is for states to oversee and operate their own elections, as they have done historically. The bill before us includes provisions that would force all states – not just those subject to the coverage formula – to subject certain election procedures to review by the federal government. This is an unprecedented power grab by Washington that would completely change the character of elections as we know it.

I am also deeply concerned with the proposed coverage formula included in this bill, which runs the risk of being overinclusive and forcing more and more states into preclearance procedures required by the Voting Rights Act. 

Given how important the right to vote is to all Americans, it is disappointing that the majority has chosen to take a partisan approach. I believe that a bipartisan bill to reform the Voting Rights Act and to address the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County versus Holder would pass with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. But instead, the majority is once again insisting on their way or the highway. 

Mr. Chairman, this Congress is turning out to be one of the most unproductive Congresses in modern history because the Democratic leadership is unwilling to work with Republicans, or even their own rank-and-file members, to pass legislation for the good of the American people. The Speaker’s heavy hand over the legislative process has shut down all ideas, Democrat and Republican alike, except the ones that she deigns worthy of consideration.

Mr. Chairman, members have had enough, which is why I think you are in the position you are in today. You have heard me say many times that the majority needs to decide if they are here to make political points or here to make law. I fear that with today’s hearing, the majority is once again showing where their priorities are. 


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