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

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

As delivered on the House floor:

Today’s rule, Madam Speaker, covers two items. The first I’ll discuss is H.R. 8987, the Fairness for 9/11 Families Act. This bill would shift just under three billion dollars from the CARES Act Small Business loan fund to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund to compensate victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Last night at the Rules Committee, we heard testimony on this bill, which unfortunately is the only hearing this bill will receive this Congress. My Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee testified at length to the efforts they have gone in order to work with the Majority on this matter. But instead of working together in a bipartisan manner, the Majority instead chose to move ahead on this bill with no hearing or markup held in the committee of jurisdiction.

This represents a complete failure of regular order, Madam Speaker, and it results in a lack of process that is unfair to everyone. It is especially unfair to the victims of 9/11, who deserve both a bipartisan process and a bipartisan bill that everyone can support. It did not have to be this way, and it is unfortunate that the Majority decided to treat this issue with less than the gravity it deserves. Despite these procedural failures, however, I intend to support this legislation, but we could have and should have done much better.

Our second bill is the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6833, a continuing resolution funding the government through December 16, 2022. Madam Speaker, it’s unfortunate that Congress has waited until the last minute to take up the serious work of funding the government and keeping it open. It is equally unfortunate that our only option for doing so is a flawed, inadequate bill that does not meet the needs of the American people.

Despite this bill’s flaws, there is much to like in it and much that I support. I voted in favor of the omnibus spending bill back in March, and this bill would maintain those spending levels through the middle of December. I support additional funding for Ukraine as they seek to defend themselves against Vladimir Putin’s unjust and illegal invasion, and I support additional funds for disaster relief.

But just as important as what is included in this bill is what is not included in this bill and should have been.

It is undeniable that we are facing a humanitarian crisis at our southern border, caused in large part by the Biden Administration’s unwillingness to confront what is staring them in the face. The Administration asked for $1.8 billion to assist migrants, which they have received in this legislation, but they did not ask for a single penny to secure the border. The Biden Administration has sought to add workers elsewhere in the government, like 87,000 new employees at the IRS, but they did not ask for money to add any new Border Patrol agents to help address this Biden-made crisis on the southern border. This could and should have been addressed in this bill, but it is not.

Similarly, the bill does nothing to address the high price of energy or provide new sources of energy. We should be doing everything we can to provide secure, reliable and inexpensive energy to the American people. Instead, the president is spending his time chastising energy companies. We should have addressed this issue in this bill, too, but we did not.

Nor does this bill address other crises affecting the American people, including inflation and economic recession, both caused by the reckless and profligate spending policies of the Biden Administration and this Majority. I could go on and on, but the point remains: so much should have been in this bill that is not.

I hope that if my friends in the Majority take anything from today’s discussion, it is this: It's high time for them to get serious about appropriations and about holding bipartisan discussions with Republicans on full-year spending bills.

Consider where we are: the House Appropriations Committee, I'm proud to say, passed all 12 bills out of the committee this summer, yet as of today, only six have passed the floor. It's the Majority's responsibility to bring those bills to the floor. In the Senate, which Democrats also control, the record is even worse: not a single bill has been passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In addition, no serious negotiations have taken place between Republicans and Democrats and between the House and the Senate. These negotiations have been postponed all summer and into fall while the House takes up one political messaging bill after another. 

Madam Speaker, we need to focus on the serious business of funding the government. In order to accomplish that goal and achieve a bipartisan agreement, four conditions will have to be met.

First, defense spending will have to go up to meet the level authorized in the FY 2023 NDAA. The level included in the House Defense Appropriations bill is wholly inadequate to meet America’s defense needs and must go up to reach a final deal.

Second, non-defense discretionary spending will have to go down. The House non-defense appropriations bills were all marked up at a bloated level of spending that cannot be justified. These numbers must come down for an agreement to be had.

Third, longstanding bipartisan pro-life policies that have historically been carried in appropriations bills must be restored. The Majority stripped these out in the Appropriations Committee this year, but they must go back in. I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough, Madam Speaker: No Republicans, and I mean no Republicans, will vote for these bills unless these bipartisan pro-life riders are restored. 

Fourth, the 12 House Appropriations Committee bills include countless poison pills that have to come out. These are liberal policy riders on all matters of topics, ranging from climate change to abortion to labor law. They have to come out to reach a bipartisan deal. And the appropriations bills cannot pass this House and pass the Senate unless there is a bipartisan deal.

Madam Speaker, we can reach a bipartisan, bicameral full-year spending deal if my friends in the Majority get serious about negotiating.  At the end of the day, Republicans must be included in these negotiations. If the Majority continues to dither, we are headed for a year-long continuing resolution. That is a bad outcome for the institution, a bad outcome for the government and a bad outcome for the American people.

When the Majority begins to seriously negotiate on a bipartisan appropriations package, I will certainly be there to help. But neither I, nor many of my colleagues, will participate in kicking the can down the road so my Democratic friends can ignore their responsibility to govern until after the upcoming election.

With that, I urge opposition to this rule.

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Created: September 30, 2022