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Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H.R. 7608

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing:

We’re here today to consider the first set of fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills.  

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, it is always encouraging to see the appropriations process moving forward. However, I am disappointed by the package before us. 

Today’s meeting will provide a rule for debating four of the 12 annual appropriations bills, covering the State and Foreign Operations, Agriculture and Rural Development, Interior and Environment and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs titles.

While I recognize the hard work that went into crafting these bills and the great leadership of both Chairm Lowey and Ranking Member Granger, I continue to have deep reservations about this package, and as such I cannot support it in its current form.

As with any appropriations bill, all members will undoubtedly find something they like in the bill. I acknowledge that the four bills in this package include some items that Republicans will like. But far too many items in these four bills were written to satisfy the concerns of one party – that of the majority. Completing our work on appropriations for this year will require reaching a bipartisan deal that both parties will support, and unfortunately, these bills do not meet that test. 

During markup on these measures in the Appropriations Committee, Republicans raised a number of concerns. The bills are marked to 302(b) allocation numbers that call for a total spending level that is well above the current budget agreement. In particular, the bills include large amounts of emergency designated spending that fall outside the budget process, and thus fall outside of regular order. The use of these budget gimmicks not only violates the funding levels of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement with the Administration reached in the summer of 2019, but such an approach will make it much more difficult to negotiate final bills that can actually become law.

And what’s worse, the bills include harmful partisan policy riders that are simply unacceptable. I myself am deeply concerned about policy riders in this package that would prevent the Trump Administration from implementing the  Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. taxpayer funds from being used by organizations that provide or promote abortion services abroad, other provisions that weaken existing, long standing pro-life protections and provisions that provide funding for the U.N. population fund, an agency which supports coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization around the globe. In addition, this bill blocks the president from utilizing the resources needed to secure our southern border. Partisan riders like these must come out before a bipartisan agreement can be reached.

Mr. Chairman, I’m still hopeful that we can reach a bipartisan appropriations deal for the full year. Certainly, there’s an appetite for such a deal among my fellow Appropriations Committee members on both sides of the aisel. While I cannot support these bills as written, and while I support a full and open amendment process on the floor to give all members an opportunity to be heard, at the end of the day I believe we will get to a final bipartisan deal. I look forward to a future Rules Committee hearing on a bipartisan, bicameral appropriations agreement that will have my full support.


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