/  Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H.R. 7120, H.R. 1425, H.R. 51, H.R. 5332 and H.J. Res. 90

Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H.R. 7120, H.R. 1425, H.R. 51, H.R. 5332 and H.J. Res. 90

As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:

Our hearing today covers a wide variety of items ranging from a partisan police reform measure to statehood for the District of Columbia to a CRA resolution on banking regulations. 

Since we last met four weeks ago, the world has once again shifted under our feet, particularly following the reprehensible treatment and tragic death of George Floyd. Indeed, Americans have rightly and universally condemned the horrific and unacceptable incident that took place both under the watch of and at the hands of law enforcement – a clear and despicable violation of the solemn oath police officers take to serve and protect their fellow citizens. 

I want to note that I’ve spoken with numerous members of law enforcement in my district, and like all of us, they could not more strongly condemn what happened to George Floyd and others in similar scattered incidents. And that is because the overwhelming majority of police officers faithfully and bravely discharge their responsibilities each and every day.

Unfortunately, while law enforcement is supposed to be carried out in a dispassionate manner, without regard to color or creed, the death of George Floyd is a sobering reminder that abuses of power clearly exist and must be addressed. As we’ve all grappled with this hard reality, it has rightly led to demands for real change related to how law enforcement acts as they strive to keep our communities safe. Moreover, it’s caused us all to take a closer look at how our society treats people of color generally and African Americans specifically.

Clearly, there is an important national dialogue underway on the issue of police reform. The noble aim of that discussion is to produce a reform package that will enhance the professionalism and transparency of community policing while increasing the confidence and security of every citizen, particularly those living in communities of color.

Today, the majority is bringing forward a bill, H.R. 7120, to reform policing in America. Unfortunately, I cannot support it at this time. I want to remind the majority that everyone in this House, regardless of party, believes that policing reforms are needed. Republicans stood ready to work hand-in-hand with Democrats to pass meaningful and needed legislation. Yet when H.R. 7120 was written and marked up, Republicans were completely shut out of the process.

It comes as no surprise that a partisan process has resulted in a partisan bill. It absolutely did not have to be that way. My friends across the aisle did not even attempt to engage Republicans in a meaningful way and consider our ideas for advancing our shared goal of meaningful reform.

As a result of being shut out of the Democratic majority’s conversations, Republicans have put forward our own proposal, led by Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Pete Stauber. The JUSTICE Act contains a number of critical reforms that – unlike H.R. 7120 – could be signed into law tomorrow. The JUSTICE Act provides funding for body cameras for police officers nationwide, requires de-escalation procedures, bans chokeholds and makes lynching a federal crime.

I’m encouraged that all four Republican members of the Rules Committee – myself, Mr. Woodall, Dr. Burgess and Mrs. Lesko – are all original co-sponsors of this measure. Any time the majority wishes to bring this bill before this committee, we stand ready and willing to work with you in a bipartisan way to quickly move it to through the House and ultimately to the president’s desk. Even in divided government, the country deserves and expects us to work together to produce police reform legislation that upholds the constitutional rights and inherent dignity of every individual.

In addition to H.R. 7120, today’s hearing covers a variety of other items. We are considering H.R. 51, a bill to grant statehood to the District of Columbia. This bill is a well-intentioned but deeply misguided effort that fails to pass constitutional muster, while at the same time ignoring the practical and fiscal implications of turning the seat of the federal government into its own state.

The majority is also bringing forward H.R. 1425, a massively expensive and partisan bill designed to expand the Affordable Care Act.

And contrary to the majority’s claim that remote committee proceedings would allow committees to continue to do their important work, this hodgepodge of various bills includes the text of only eight bills that have been reported out of committee and includes the text of 16 bills which have not even had a markup. Let me make that clear, nearly 70 percent of this bill has not been considered in a markup – even though the Democrats have all the tools to do so at their disposal.

On the substance, H.R. 1425 amounts to yet another Washington power grab at the expense of states. For the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid, like my home state of Oklahoma, it literally reduces Medicaid funding and imposes reporting requirements designed to embarrass those states. Most distressingly, the bill uses the Orwellian euphemism “encouraging expansion” to describe this process. 

When the Affordable Care Act was passed, states were promised that they would have the option, but not be required, to expand Medicaid and would be assisted financially if they chose to do so. Now, the majority is seeking to throw that promise out the window, using only sticks to discourage states that have chosen not to expand. This seems to me to be a mistake and a misuse of federal power and goes against the solemn promises that were made a decade ago.

The bill also includes the text of H.R. 3, a partisan bill the House has previously passed. I’ll repeat what I said the first time the Rules Committee considered that bill: H.R. 3 will stop drug creators and researchers from developing life-saving treatments and will result in delays in getting new cures to the patients who need them most. At a time when we are in the middle of a global pandemic, when our hopes for protecting human life and returning to normalcy rely on drug companies developing vaccines and new treatments for COVID-19, this bill will discourage that process. This seems enormously misguided to me.

Finally, we are also meeting on two bills from the Financial Services Committee. The first, H.J. Res. 90, is a resolution arising under the Congressional Review Act to strike down regulations issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to regulate banks under the Community Reinvestment Act. The regulations issued by the OCC will update the rules of the road for banks and other financial institutions, particularly given the expansion of technology and the move to online banking in recent years. The regulations will in no way prevent the OCC from continuing to regulate the notorious and nefarious practice of “redlining” as has been alleged. I do not believe there is any need for CRA action on these regulations today, and I consequently oppose this resolution.

And finally, we are considering H.R. 5332, the Protecting Your Credit Score Act. I understand that Republicans on the Financial Services Committee have raised significant concerns with this bill, including that it is overly prescriptive, is heavily reliant on using full Social Security numbers for identification, lacks strong cybersecurity protections and increases the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I look forward to hearing their concerns during today’s hearing, and I hope this committee will make amendments in order allowing all members an opportunity to improve this bill – and all the others before us today – before final passage.

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Created: June 24, 2020