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Ranking Member Cole Remarks on H.R. 8987 and the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6833

As delivered during today’s hearing:

Today’s hearing covers two items. The first I’ll discuss is an item that arose on very short notice, H.R. 8987, the Fairness for 9/11 Families Act. This bill would move $3 billion from the CARES Act Small Business loans account to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.

Regardless of how one feels about the topic – and I know everyone in this room has strong feelings about supporting the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks – it is unconscionable for the Majority to play politics by bringing up this bill on such short notice. As we will hear from my Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, Republicans have repeatedly engaged with the Majority on this topic and have been more than willing to work with Democrats to achieve a just result for the victims of 9/11. And yet with no notice and no markup in the Judiciary Committee, and no indication prior to today that this was even a possibility, the Majority is now bringing this bill straight to the Rules Committee and then on to the floor violating the so-called McGovern Rule in the process. 

The Majority is once again making a mockery of regular order. At the last second, we are being asked to review legislation without the chance to consider it in committee, without a CBO score and with nothing more than the Majority’s insistence that it is necessary to pass this specific bill today. And for what? For a cheap political point?

The victims of 9/11 and their loved ones deserve better than a cheap political stunt, Mr. Chairman. My colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, who are more versed than I am on the policy questions, will have more to say on this bill, and I look forward to hearing their testimony. For now,  I will note that this process is shameful and unbecoming of the gravity of the matter.

The second bill is the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6833, which is a continuing resolution funding the government through December 16, 2022.

It is unfortunate that we are only discussing this bill now, two days before government funding expires. Once again, the House is leaving until the last minute something which could and should have been considered earlier. And now, instead of the House and the Senate Democratic majorities negotiating full-year appropriations bills or at even a top-line agreement, we are once again punting with a CR that has been written behind closed doors, with no process and no opportunity for members to make their voices heard.

Given this limited and truncated process, it is no wonder that many of my Republican colleagues have deep reservations about the bill we are considering today. Had the Majority engaged in a more consultative and collaborative process, it might have resulted in a bill with more Republican buy-in in the House. Instead, we are left with a bill that I and most of my Republican colleagues regard as woefully insufficient.

Now, to be clear, there are many things in this bill that I support. I supported the omnibus spending bill we passed into law in March, and today’s bill would extend spending at those levels. I support additional aid for Ukraine, and I support funding for disaster relief. 

But there are far too many things that this bill should do that it does not. It does nothing to provide more funding for additional security infrastructure at the southern border, which is deeply concerning given the depth of the crisis there. The Administration asked for, and this bill includes, $1.8 billion to assist migrants but not a single new dollar to secure the southern border or to hire new border agents. The Administration has fought hard to add new personnel in other areas of government, like hiring 87,000 new IRS employees, but they won’t spend a dime on new agents to protect the southern border. 

The bill fails to address our energy crisis and does nothing to lower gas prices, develop new sources of energy or move energy to markets. Not a single new drilling project or pipeline project will come online as a result of what we are doing today. There are plenty of things we can and should be doing to speed up energy exploration in this country. We see in Europe today the consequences of what happens when the supply of natural gas is artificially restricted, and we need to avoid that same fate.

Most notably, this bill does nothing to address the inflation crisis or the recession that were caused by the Biden Administration’s reckless spending policies. All of these topics could and should have been addressed in this bill today, and that they are not is a disappointing state of affairs and disservice to the American people.

I also think it is long past time for this Majority to get serious about the appropriations process. The Appropriations Committee, where I am privileged to serve as the Vice Ranking Member, reported all 12 bills out of the Committee this summer. Something I think both sides should be proud of. Just six of those bills have come across the House floor, and in the Senate, which I would remind everyone is also controlled by the Democrats, not a single bill has even passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Not a single one, as of today, the day before government funding expires.

To make matters worse, no serious bipartisan and bicameral negotiations have taken place, as will need to happen in order to deliver full-year funding. And in the meantime, what have we been doing here in the House? Passing one messaging bill after another out of the Rules Committee, bill after bill that won’t pass the Senate and won’t become law. To say that we are fiddling while Rome burns is an insult to the Roman Emperor Nero. We need to focus on the serious business of funding the government for the entire fiscal year.

At the end of this process, bipartisan negotiations between the House and Senate will have to take place on a full-year funding deal, and we know that four things will have to happen to reach a deal. 

First, defense spending will have to go up. The number the House passed out of the Appropriations Committee is wholly inadequate to meet America’s defense needs, and we will ultimately have to go up to reach the level the Armed Services Committee and the House approved in the FY 2023 NDAA.

Second, non-defense spending will have to come down. I know my friends on the other side of the aisle have more priorities than they have dollars to spend, and unfortunately, the non-defense appropriations titles were marked up at too high a level. Non-defense spending will have to come down to reach an agreement.

Third, longstanding bipartisan pro-life policy provisions like the Hyde Amendment will have to go back in. These provisions have historically been carried in the annual appropriations measures for decades, only for my friends in the Majority to strip them out of the bills this year. But once again, these bills cannot become law unless these provisions are restored. Republicans will not vote for any deal otherwise.

Finally, the 12 appropriations bills that passed out of the Appropriations Committee this year are rife with poison pills and progressive policy riders, on topics ranging from climate change to labor regulation. We all know those will not be included in any bipartisan agreement. Those will have to come out.

We know the bill before us today will pass the House and be signed into law. But what we do not know is how successful we will be at negotiating a year-long deal if my friends in the Majority don’t get serious about actually negotiating. I fear we are currently on a collision course with a year-long CR, which is bad for the government, bad for the Congress and bad for the American people. 

Whether the Majority likes it or not, they will have to work with Republicans in both the House and the Senate to avoid that fate. I urge my friends to join us at the table, engage in serious negotiations and reach a full-year spending deal without waiting until the last second…again.

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