/  Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on the Senate Amendments to H.R. 925

Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on the Senate Amendments to H.R. 925

As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:

Today’s hearing is on the Senate Amendments to H.R. 925, the second partisan coronavirus package the majority has asked us to consider. Not to be content with the $3.4 trillion package the House passed in May, the majority has now asked us to consider a separate $2.4 trillion stimulus bill.

Since this bill, like H.R. 6800 in May, was drafted with only Democratic input, it will undoubtedly share the same fate of that bill. It will not pass the Senate, it will not be signed into law, and as such is yet another pointless messaging exercise from a Congress full of pointless messaging exercises. Speaker Pelosi herself called this bill a “rhetorical argument” just this past Sunday.

At a time when so many Americans are truly suffering, I confess that I do not understand why the majority has not been willing to meet Republicans in the middle to pass a bipartisan bill. There’s an appetite on both sides for action, and there are things that both sides can agree on, like extending the Paycheck Protection Program, providing more funds for testing and surveillance and additional money to assist in the opening of schools.

Yet it has been Democrats in both houses of Congress who have continually blocked bipartisan action. Democrats in the House have blocked Republicans from bringing up bills to extend the PPP program, and Democrats in the Senate have repeatedly blocked Republicans from bringing up both a clean extension of PPP and a separate Republican-led coronavirus relief package. And all the while, the majority in the House is insisting on their way or the highway, holding out for progressive Democratic policy.

Instead, I urge my Democratic colleagues to work with Republicans on what we can agree on. The president has indicated a willingness to sign a $1.5 trillion relief measure. Certainly, that outcome is better for the American people than nothing. And nothing is exactly where we're headed.

We can do better than this, Mr. Chairman. The House needs to do better than this rhetorical argument as the speaker deemed it. If the majority chooses to, it can work out a bipartisan package that gives real relief to the millions of Americans who are suffering from the effects of this pandemic. But until the majority chooses that path, this will be nothing more than fiddling while Rome burns.

On the substance of the bill, I am confident that most members have not had time to read the whole text. The majority released the text of the bill on Monday evening, and since the bill is 2,152 pages long, and equals eight inches of paper, 36 hours to absorb it is simply not enough time. It is worth noting though that the bill is about a billion dollars per page. A monumental spending bill. But assuming the summary of the bill I have read is accurate, which itself is nearly 90 pages long, what we are seeing is the same kind of Democratic wish list that we saw in the original HEROES Act back in May.

Massive government spending, even when all the funds appropriated by the bipartisan CARES Act in March have not been spent yet. Provisions that are unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, like a complicated and controversial multiemployer pension reform bill, repealing a provision of law requiring the auction of t-band spectrum, massive student loan forgiveness and mandating national vote by mail. Some of these may be policy ideas worthy of debate, but what they are doing in a bill that is about providing relief to Americans affected by coronavirus is beyond me.

In any bill of this size, every member will undoubtedly be able to find things that he or she supports. But it is the package as a whole that is so offensive.

Rather than choosing to truly work with Republicans to craft a package that can become law, the majority is again choosing to go it alone – on a road to nowhere.

While we waste time on the majority’s wish list, the American people are going to continue to suffer. The majority can end that today. They can change course, negotiate a real package and work together to pass it into law. Until they do, I fear this cycle will go on and on.

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Created: September 30, 2020