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Ranking Member Tom Cole House Floor Remarks on H.R. 1319

As prepared for delivery on the House floor during debate on the rule providing for consideration of H.R. 1319:

Today the House is considering a massive budget reconciliation package that the majority claims to be using for additional coronavirus relief funds. Having already passed five bipartisan relief packages over the last year totaling almost $4 trillion in spending, the majority is now seeking to spend nearly $2 trillion more. But unlike the past five measures, which were bipartisan deals with both Republican and Democratic support, today’s bill is strictly partisan, with only Democratic support and input. And with a glance at the bill, it is easy to see the reason why.

First, the vast majority of this so-called rescue package has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a whole, only 9 percent of this bill actually has anything to do with COVID relief.  The bill fails to focus on providing relief for Americans, ensuring schools are open to educate our children in person and moving to swiftly reopen the economy. Instead, the majority has thrown in completely unrelated items that just so happen to be at the top of their progressive wish list. This includes irresponsible policies like a federal bailout of certain pension funds, providing bloated contributions to state and local governments and arbitrarily raising the minimum wage, which will cost well more than one million people to lose their jobs. And incidentally, the same minimum wage provision is not going to be considered in the Senate and will have to be stripped from the bill.

But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by these misguided provisions given how completely shut out of this process Republicans have been. During the markups across the nine committees that considered this package, Republicans offered 245 amendments to help fix these and other problems. Republicans offered commonsense amendments to reopen schools, to give additional resources to the NIH, to provide funding to make sure all teachers have an opportunity to receive a COVID vaccine, and many more. Yet only two of these amendments were accepted by Democrats in committee markups, and one of those two amendments is actually being stripped out of the bill in the manager’s amendment today. A $1.9 trillion package that is being brought to the floor with next to no Republican input? Simply astonishing.

Madam Speaker, it is clear what we need to do.  Our entire nation is suffering as a result of this pandemic. Every day, more businesses shutter. Every day, children are falling further behind. And every day, people fall deeper and deeper into despair caused in part by isolation. Instead of proceeding with this progressive wish list, we need to take real action to open up the economy. 

And above all else, we need to get children back in school. Prior to the pandemic, children had access to in-person staff and services at schools. But now, with schools remaining closed, we see the results: more students falling behind, more students contemplating suicide, more children falling into despair. For millions of children, the ground lost during the pandemic may never be recovered. We are failing an entire generation of our children, and we need to reverse course and get them back in school.

Madam Speaker, there was and is still an opportunity to put together a bipartisan relief package. There is still time to focus on policies that will reopen the economy and make sure kids can learn in person. But we cannot do it if the majority insists on this bloated package with so many unrelated policies. So long as the majority insists that it is their way or the highway, the will of the American people cannot be achieved. 

I urge my colleagues to reject this rule and reject the underlying bill. 

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