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Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H.R. 4373, H.R. 4346 and H.R. 4505

As delivered during today’s hearing:

Today’s hearing covers three appropriations bills: State and Foreign Operations; Commerce, Justice, and Science; and Legislative Branch. Collectively these three bills encompass $147 billion in spending, a 13 percent increase from fiscal year 2021.

I have many of the same criticisms of these three bills as I raised in our hearing on H.R. 4502 yesterday. 

First, these bills are marked to the same unrealistic 302(b) allocations as the bills we reviewed yesterday. The proposed spending levels call for an increase in non-defense discretionary spending of 17 percent while calling for an increase in defense spending of just 1 percent. That defense level is below even that requested by President Biden in his proposed budget.  

At a time of global crisis, we cannot afford to return to the chronic underfunding of our military that was a hallmark of the Obama-Biden years. Yet with the majority’s proposed allocation numbers, that is exactly what Democrats are proposing here. By contrast, the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission called for a 3 to 5 percent increase this year just in order to keep pace with current threats around the world. I think that warning is one that the House should take seriously.

Second, each of the bills reported out of the Appropriations Committee removes longstanding bipartisan policies that have been carried in appropriations packages for decades. In turn, these policies have been replaced with liberal and progressive riders that simply cannot pass both chambers and become law.

In H.R. 4373, the State and Foreign Operations bill, the majority has chosen to strip out longstanding bipartisan policies like the Helms Amendment, which prohibits foreign aid from being used for abortions. The majority has modified the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which restricts funding from going to any organization that supports a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization, limiting it so that it would only apply to involuntary sterilization. And it doubles funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which has historically supported those exact policies of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in countries like China. Similarly, in H.R. 4505, the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill, the majority has removed longstanding bipartisan language restricting the Department of Justice from spending taxpayer dollars on abortions. 

What the Democrats are stripping are policies that have been supported on a bipartisan basis in the past, including by this current Democratic majority, since all of these were included in last year’s spending package. In order to reach a final spending deal this year, each of these partisan policy riders must come out, and the bipartisan policies that have historically been included must be restored. There is simply no other way to pass appropriations bills through both chambers of Congress and ultimately into law.

I’ll repeat what I said during yesterday’s hearing: the majority must decide if they are here to make political points or to make law. The bills before us today, along with the ones we considered Monday, suggest that making points is their goal. I do hope they rethink this path and urge them to do so if they ever hope to get appropriations bills for fiscal year 2022 to the president’s desk and enacted into law.

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