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Ranking Member Cole Hearings Remarks on H.R. 2062, S.J. Res. 13, S.J. Res. 14, S.J. Res. 15, H.R. 239 and H.R. 1443

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing:

Today’s hearing covers four items. The first I’ll discuss is H.R. 2062, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. This bill will be familiar to our returning members since we considered it just last year. As the committee will recall, this bill changes the burden of proof in age discrimination cases arising under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It is intended to overturn a Supreme Court case called Gross v. FBL Financial Services and allows the plaintiffs in age discrimination cases to recover if they can show that any practice by an employer for which age was a motivating factor is covered by the act.
 
While I think every member of the House would agree that age discrimination is abhorrent, the data fails to make the case that age discrimination is as pervasive as Democrats claim. Age discrimination is already against the law and the legislation before us today would only contribute to the filing of frivolous claims, making it take even longer for justice to be served in the cases of actual age discrimination.
 
Our remaining three items are all resolutions arising under the Congressional Review Act. In each case, the majority is seeking to use the CRA to overturn Trump-era regulations. And in each case, passage of the resolution and a signature by the president will mean that each of these agencies will be barred from ever issuing a substantially similar regulation in the future.
 
The first of these three, S.J. Res. 13, overturns the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s rule on conciliation. Conciliation is a procedure, required by law, under which the EEOC works with a complaining employee and their employer in an attempt to resolve the dispute without resorting to litigation. Prior to issuing this regulation, the EEOC had not updated their conciliation procedures since 1977.
 
As with much of what the majority has done over the last two years, the only true beneficiary of this resolution is trial lawyers. Conciliation is a useful mechanism that helps people resolve disputes outside of litigation. If we discourage conciliation – as will be the case if this CRA passes – the end result will be greater and greater levels of litigation. That is not always helpful to either the employee or the employer, but it will be helpful to trial lawyers, who would stand to collect greater legal fees if this joint resolution became law.
 
The second joint resolution, S.J. Res. 14, overturns an Environmental Protection Agency regulation concerning methane emissions from oil and natural gas producers. This particular item would be devastating for my district and my home state of Oklahoma should it be signed into law.
 
In 2020, the EPA issued a “New Source Performance Standards” regulation that rolled back onerous Obama-era regulations on emissions from oil and natural gas production sites, including methane. This regulation streamlined existing regulatory authorities, reduced duplicative regulations and reduced burdens and compliance costs for oil and natural gas producers.
 
The clear effect of the 2020 regulation is to improve America’s energy independence and to increase economic growth, particularly in America’s heartland. For my home state of Oklahoma, increased oil and natural gas production over the past two decades has been a clear boon for the state, both for economic growth and for greater employment. Repealing this regulation, as the majority is now proposing to do, would snap back the onerous Obama-era regulations into place. This means greater costs for oil and natural gas producers, which means fewer sites are developed and fewer people will be employed.
 
All that is very bad news for Oklahoma and for Oklahomans, but it’s also bad news for Americans as well because it makes us less energy independent and frankly increases the cost of energy in heating and cooling homes for every American.
 
Our final item, S.J. Res. 15, repeals an Office of the Comptroller of Currency regulation that clarifies which bank is considered the “true lender.” When a national bank partners with a third party, the OCC regulation at issue clarifies that the lender that is named in the loan agreement, or that funds the loan, is considered the “true lender.” The regulation is intended to provide additional clarity in the market and to ensure that consumers can identify who they are doing business with when taking out a loan.
 
Repealing this regulation seems to be contradictory to the goal the majority is purportedly attempting to achieve. By keeping this regulation in place, we would ensure that consumers could identify with whom they are doing business, and we could ensure that financial regulators including the OCC could maintain robust supervision over the financial system.
 
But by repealing this, we run the risk of adding uncertainty and lack of clarity back into the financial system. This is never a good thing for consumers and will limit their ability to know with whom and under what circumstances they are doing business. In their zeal to overturn regulations issued by the Trump Administration, it seems to me that the majority is now throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and we would be better served to reject S.J. Res. 15 and allow this regulation to stand.

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