/  Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on H.R. 7666, H.R. 5585, H.R. 4176 and the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3967

Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on H.R. 7666, H.R. 5585, H.R. 4176 and the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3967

As delivered during today's hearing:

Today’s hearing covers four items. 

Thankfully, the first two items I’ll discuss are largely bipartisan and both arise out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. H.R. 7666, the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022, is a package of mental health bills and H.R. 5585, the Advanced Research Project Agency–Health Act, would authorize the new federal healthcare research agency commonly known as ARPA-H.

Both of these bills were the subject of bipartisan negotiations in the Energy and Commerce Committee, and I’m pleased that Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers were able to come to an agreement. As we all know only too well, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns took an existing national mental health crisis and made it exponentially worse. I’m very pleased the House is taking action to address this mental health crisis and believe the bills included in H.R. 7666 will make important strides toward that goal by reauthorizing and updating existing programs to meet current needs and to limit duplication. 

Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also demonstrated the need for an agency to take on high-risk, high-reward projects that could lead to future breakthroughs in health research. I am especially pleased that the resulting bill is fiscally responsible and will ensure proper oversight of ARPA-H as it implements this new research arm.

The third bill I’ll discuss is also largely bipartisan. We are considering the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3967, the Honoring our PACT Act. This measure will be familiar to the committee, as the House initially passed this bill in March. It is back before us today with amendments passed in the Senate. 

I am encouraged that the House is moving forward on helping toxic-exposed veterans get the assistance they need. It has been a long road getting to this point, but today’s legislation is proof that Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate can accomplish our shared goals when we set partisan politics aside. While today’s bill is not perfect, I believe it is the right thing to do in order to ensure that our nation’s toxic exposed veterans get all the care they are entitled to.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses from the Veterans Affairs Committee about this important piece of legislation.

Finally, the last bill for today’s hearing is unfortunately a partisan one. H.R. 4176 requires any federal agency that conducts surveys of the American people to ask for deeply private information about sexual orientation and gender identity using questionable methods and with concerning implications for the privacy of minors. 

Though it is not explicitly stated in the bill, this measure is aimed squarely at forcing the Census Bureau to ask about these topics during the decennial census and the annual American Community Survey. Under current law, if the Census Bureau identifies a federal data need, it already has the authority to add questions to these surveys. 

Given how poorly the federal government has done in the past at protecting private information of American citizens, I am frankly astonished that the Majority thinks having the government ask Americans for even more private information, presumably to be stored in a hackable database, is a good idea. Particularly when the legislation fails to ensure that the data being collected will even be accurate. I’m also astonished that the Majority thinks now is a good time to use valuable floor time to push yet another divisive, woke messaging bill. 

The American people are currently facing an awful economic crisis. Inflation is at historic levels, leading to skyrocketing gas prices and increasing prices for food and other essential goods. This is stretching the paychecks of working Americans to the breaking point. Indeed, we are even hearing stories of people forced to leave jobs because they can no longer afford to buy gas to go to work. 

This crisis is impacting every single American, but it is especially hurting hardworking Americans who live from paycheck to paycheck. And the crisis is directly attributable to the policies embraced by the Biden Administration and the present House Majority, beginning with President Biden’s overwhelming war on fossil fuels and continuing with the out-of-control spending the Majority has done on a partisan basis.

Madam Chair, given the painful extent of this inflationary crisis, Americans would be much better served by the House turning its attention there. But instead, the Majority is pushing yet another progressive messaging bill with no defined purpose or use, and which will not solve the most important issues facing Americans. This is hardly the best use of our time. 

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Created: June 21, 2022