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Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Rule Debate on the Senate Amendments to H.R. 925

As prepared for delivery on the House floor:

Well, Mr. Speaker, we’re here today to consider a rule that provides for consideration of a single item, the Senate Amendments to H.R. 925, the majority’s second attempt to pass a partisan wish list under the guise of a coronavirus relief bill.

There are two quotes that sum up how I feel about today’s rule. The first, widely misattributed to Albert Einstein, is that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The second, accurately attributed to Yogi Berra, is that today’s action feels like “déjà vu all over again.” 

Today, the House Majority is bringing up, again, a partisan coronavirus relief package, just as they did in May. Like in May, today’s bill was written with only Democratic input. Like in May, today’s bill has a massive price tag, this time at $2.4 trillion. As in May, today’s bill contains a plethora of provisions that are completely unrelated to coronavirus relief. Indeed, just like in May, today’s bill is more akin to a Democratic policy wish list than to an actual relief bill.

And just as in May, we all know what the end result will be: the Senate will not pass this bill, and the president will not sign it into law.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. For whatever reason, the majority is refusing to truly negotiate on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill that would provide real relief for millions of Americans. I grant them, discussions have taken place, but when the majority continues to insist that it’s their way or no way and refuses to meet Republicans halfway, one begins to understand how we got to this point.

I would remind both this chamber and the American people that it has been the Democrats who have blocked a second coronavirus relief bill. Just last week, House Democrats blocked Republicans from bringing up a simple bill to extend the Paycheck Protection Program. In the Senate, Democrats blocked the majority from bringing up a clean extension of PPP, and later, Democrats blocked a Republican-led coronavirus relief bill from being considered. Not because they disagreed with anything in the bill, but because they just thought other things should be in the bill. All of these are bills that the president would have signed into law! At a time when so many Americans are truly suffering, why the House Majority insists on blocking these measures and bringing up their own partisan wish list instead does not make sense to me.

But what makes even less sense is the egregious process they followed in considering this bill. The process – if you can even call it that – violated House Rules and any notion of fairness. The bill was introduced on Monday night, after being drafted in secret in Speaker Pelosi’s office without any Republican input whatsoever. No committee held a hearing on it and no committee marked it up, thus violating the McGovern Rule, which requires any bill coming before the Rules Committee to have a hearing and markup in the committees of jurisdiction. The bill is 2,152 pages long, and I highly doubt that most members have had time to read, review and digest it in that short amount of time. I will say this though, it does set a record. It spends a billion dollars a page. That’s pretty remarkable spending. When your process is that bad, no wonder the output is as bad as the bill we are considering today.

The majority claims that today’s bill is a scaled-down version of the HEROES Act, the bill we considered back in May. And if the majority’s funding calculations on the amount of money we are spending in this bill are accurate, that may be technically correct. But it still has the exact same policies and problems as the HEROES Act.

This bill includes massive spending, even in areas where we appropriated funds as part of the CARES Act in March and haven’t fully spent them yet. Funding for Democratic policy priorities at the expense of bipartisan ones. Inclusion of provisions that are completely unrelated to coronavirus relief, like a complicated and controversial multiemployer pension bill, a provision repealing an existing provision of law requiring the auction of t-band spectrum, massive student loan forgiveness and mandating national vote by mail. Some of these may deserve consideration, but what they are doing in a bill that is supposed to be about providing relief to Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic is beyond me.

Mr. Speaker, in any bill of this size it is inevitable that all members will find at least one provision they like.  But it is the package as a whole that is offensive and objectionable. Drafted without Republican input, and with nothing but Democratic ideas and extraneous policy priorities, it is doomed to the same result as happened the last time the majority tried this.

With their actions today, we will not move the ball forward. We will not draw closer to a final deal that actually helps Americans. And what they will do is continue to pass on the chance to work together, as a bipartisan institution, to provide real help to the American people. Just like in May, the majority is putting up a partisan bill when what we need a bipartisan deal. They are doing the same thing, again, and expecting a different result. 

It is indeed, Mr. Speaker, déjà vu all over again.

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