/  Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on S. Con. Res. 5

Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on S. Con. Res. 5

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing:
 
Today’s hearing is on an emergency item, the Senate budget resolution for fiscal year 2021. This comes on the heels of the House passing its own budget resolution earlier this week. Though I’m gratified to see that there does not appear to be support in the Senate for raising the minimum wage during the pandemic, providing illegal aliens with stimulus checks, shutting off the Keystone pipeline and banning fracking on federal lands, I remain concerned about where this process is going.

As with the House budget passed on Wednesday, this too is best described as a “shell budget” as it is a budget in name only. Instead, it is a procedural mechanism designed to pave the way toward moving a budget reconciliation bill, which will be used for a partisan Democrat-only bill purported to be about COVID-19 but which in reality could be used for any policy they choose.

Mr. Chairman, I have the same concerns about this budget resolution as those I raised earlier this week. Like the House budget, our consideration of this measure comes at a time when the Budget Committee has not yet convened in the 117th Congress. They have taken no testimony, heard from no experts, offered no amendments and have taken no votes to advance a budget measure. Instead, this measure, like the House measure, is being air-dropped into the Rules Committee and from there directly to the floor. Hardly what I would call regular order.

None of those things happened last year – when the fiscal year 2021 budget should have been written and considered by the panel – because it was not a politically convenient tool for Democrats then. But with Democrats now holding a slim majority in both chambers, the budget is their only means to ram through their partisan priorities.

I am concerned about where the budget process will lead us once it moves into the reconciliation stage. By all accounts, the majority intends to use reconciliation to advance a partisan Democrat-only COVID-19 package. But of course, this budget does not provide any specific instructions to do so. Instead, it only offers instructions to committees in both the House and the Senate to raise spending by certain amounts. But the majority could use these instructions for almost any item. It need not be on limited to Covid-19 relief and could include partisan and controversial measures like Medicare for All or the Green New Deal. We have no way of knowing at this time.

But taking my friends in the majority at their word, I am deeply concerned about their rush into drafting a partisan COVID-19 bill. The majority, and President Biden, have claimed to want to work with Republicans on this matter. But we have seen precious little bipartisanship thus far. We are just two weeks into President Biden’s term, and having made no offers to Republicans, the majority is now throwing up its hands and declaring that a partisan bill is the only way forward.

But our recent history in the House belies this path. Five times in the last 10 months, Congress has come together to pass into law COVID-19 relief packages, totaling nearly $4 trillion. Not all of these funds have yet been spent. Far from it, in fact, and Mr. Smith, the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, pointed out as much in his testimony earlier this week.  

We can certainly do better than this process, Mr. Chairman. I hope in the coming weeks the majority will come to its senses and make renewed efforts at working with Republicans. Bipartisan negotiations that lead to bipartisan bills may not always be the easy thing, but they are almost always the best thing for the country. I hope my friends will heed that and act accordingly.

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Created: February 5, 2021