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Saturday, May 15, 2021
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The Work Left To Do

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As the end of the year draws nearer, unfinished legislative work remains for lawmakers in both chambers of Congress. In the coming days and weeks, it is critically important that members come together to tackle the pressing work left to do.

First, Congress needs to provide full-year funding – also called appropriations – for the federal government. As you might know, annual appropriations support government programs that touch nearly every aspect of our daily lives as well as various facets of the economy – including national defense, operating national parks, law and immigration enforcement, health care research and a host of other activities. All of these activities should be funded through 12 annual appropriation bills passed by Congress and signed into law by the president before the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Unfortunately, that legislation has not been completed yet for fiscal year 2021. As a result, government operations are temporarily being funded by a short-term “continuing resolution” through December 11. I am encouraged that the Senate Appropriations Committee recently unveiled their version of annual funding legislation. However, it will ultimately require time, bipartisanship and good faith negotiation to ensure both chambers can pass and the president will sign any legislation into law.  

Along with continuing the government’s regular functions and preventing a shutdown, Congress still needs to act on additional coronavirus relief for the American people. Both chambers have already shown it’s possible to deliver relief in a bipartisan manner, as it did four times earlier this year. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has for months intentionally stalled progress on a fifth relief package even though bipartisan agreement exists on many things, such as extending the small business saving Paycheck Protection Program.  

Finally, another critical piece of legislation that awaits completion is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This annual legislation authorizes funding for the U.S. military and other critical defense priorities and ensures our troops and their families have what they need to defend our nation. The enactment of this complex legislation has been passed each year, for 59 years. In the coming weeks, I am hopeful that differences can be sorted out and we can send the NDAA to President Trump to be enacted to support our common defense and ensure protection of U.S. interests around the world.

Before the end of the year and the start of a new Congress, current members on both sides of the aisle and across the Capitol must work together to keep the government funded, act on another coronavirus relief package and authorize funding to support our common defense. I remain committed to finishing that important work, and I urge my colleagues to do the same for the good of all Americans.

Cole Mourns Passing of Ed Apple

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) today mourned the loss of Ed Apple, a devoted and longtime Duncan community leader, who recently passed away.  

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and a great Oklahoman, Ed Apple,” said Cole. “Ed was an amazing man — a Marine fighter pilot, a successful businessman, an impressive civic and political leader and a loving husband and family man. 

“I first met Ed in 1986 when I was Republican State Chairman, and he was running for State Representative. Most people thought a Republican couldn’t win solidly Democratic Duncan in that era. But win he did. When he did, he became the only elected Republican south of Moore in the entire state of Oklahoma.

“Ed went on to have an amazing public career. After eight distinguished years in the state House, he nearly won a congressional seat in 1994. In 1995, newly elected Governor Frank Keating appointed Ed to the Corporation Commission. He went on to be elected in his own right. He was an outstanding public servant.

“I extend my sincerest sympathies to Ed’s loving wife Betty and his wonderful children and grandchildren. Ed will be missed as a leader, a public servant, a friend to all who knew him and a devoted husband, father and grandfather who loved and cherished his family and friends above all else.”

The Need for Additional Relief

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Although there is broad bipartisan agreement in Congress that additional coronavirus relief is needed, I regret that the status of delivering relief hasn’t changed a lot since May. It’s even more disappointing since lawmakers already agree on how to approach several aspects of needed relief. 

As you might remember back in mid-May, the U.S. House of Representatives considered legislation deceptively packaged and promoted by Democrats as coronavirus relief. While there may have been a few worthy provisions, those items were greatly overshadowed by the unrelated-to-coronavirus policies stuffed into the more than $3 trillion package. Sadly, the substance of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s so-called HEROES Act looked more like using a crisis to advance a liberal wish list than a serious desire to help struggling Americans. That was made even more obvious by the fact that the legislation was crafted behind closed doors and without any Republican input whatsoever. Not surprisingly, that bill was never taken up by the Republican-led Senate or signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Since then, there have been scattered conversations between Speaker Pelosi and Trump Administration leaders that, at times, seemed hopeful. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has thus far refused to budge on both the total cost of the next relief package as well as her belief that we have to agree on everything before we can agree on anything. By contrast, the Trump Administration has shown a lot more willingness to negotiate something real. In fact, the president said himself that he would be willing to sign a bill totaling $1.5 trillion, if it didn’t have unrelated policies attached to it. Meanwhile, although many Democrats like to point fingers at the Senate for not bringing up a coronavirus relief bill of any kind, it’s worth noting that it was Senate Democrats who recently blocked consideration of one.   

Considering that both chambers managed to deliver four substantial and bipartisan relief packages to the American people earlier this year, the months long delay and lack of meaningful progress on a fifth makes me wonder if Democrats actually want to reach a deal. If so, last week’s activity in the House certainly didn’t help their cause.

Instead of bringing up measures with clear support in both chambers, Speaker Pelosi opted to revisit the same misguided approach on display in May by bringing up a supposedly revamped and lighter version of the HEROES Act. Unfortunately, HEROES 2.0 still included many of the same radical and unrelated provisions that couldn’t pass on their own merit. Moreover, Republicans were entirely left out in crafting the legislation again. In fact, it was such a nonstarter that it passed by only seven votes, and 18 Democrats even voted against it this time. 

The time wasted last week on a partisan bill is particularly disappointing when so many areas of bipartisan agreement already exist. Indeed, there are plenty of items that could pass both chambers separately and immediately – including a simple extension of the Paycheck Protection Program for struggling small businesses and their workers, aid to help schools reopen, additional unemployment aid and a second round of stimulus rebate checks.

As discussions continue between Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week, I remain hopeful for a breakthrough and that a bipartisan deal can still be reached – one that both chambers of Congress will pass and the president will sign. Indeed, it’s important for the American people that we do find agreement, and I remain ready to support such a measure.

Cole Opposes Speaker Pelosi’s HEROES Act 2.0

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), Vice Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement after he voted against the Senate Amendments to H.R. 925, a coronavirus “relief” bill written solely by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats. 

“Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since May, when Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats also peddled legislation focused more on securing radical policy items than delivering needed coronavirus relief. Crafted behind closed doors and without any Republican input whatsoever, again, their partisan ‘HEROES Act 2.0’ is also destined for nowhere. It will not pass the Republican-led Senate, and it will not be signed into law by President Trump. That is an unfair result for the American people, who are struggling and desperately need additional relief. They have for months. 

“The endless stalling and ongoing refusal of Speaker Pelosi to seriously negotiate something real with the Trump Administration is particularly disappointing when so many areas of bipartisan agreement already exist. Indeed, there are plenty of items that could pass both chambers separately and immediately, including a simple extension of the Paycheck Protection Program for struggling small businesses and their workers. Though Speaker Pelosi thinks we have to agree on everything before we can agree on anything, the fact is that we could be getting relief out the door right now. While we work out our difference on other matters, that’s exactly what we should be doing.”

During rule debate for the legislation on the House floor yesterday, Cole made remarks in opposition. Transcript is available here and video here

Cole Remembers September 11, 2001

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Norman, OK – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) remembered the tragedy of September 11, 2001, when planes were hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the World Trade Centers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and in a field near Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania.

“It is hard to believe nineteen years have passed since the despicable terrorist attacks that senselessly claimed precious lives and sought to shatter our sense of safety and security,” said Cole. “Our nation will forever mourn the Americans whose lives were prematurely and viciously taken on September 11, 2001, and we will always remember the numerous heroes who arose in the aftermath of the crisis.

“Though our nation was shaken and heartbroken, we were not destroyed and we were not intimidated. Indeed, Americans quickly proved the power of our strength, resilience and resolve. We showed the world that, even on one of our darkest days, we will always unite and always prevail. Certainly, it is that same American spirit that will help see us through this coronavirus crisis as well.”

Vaccines Save Lives

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The month of August marks National Immunization Awareness Month, which is a very timely subject considering the unprecedented circumstances we are facing in the world right now. For decades, communities around the globe have relied on vaccinations and immunizations to protect us from dangerous, deadly diseases. This month, it is important to remember that vaccines not only protect you, they also protect at-risk individuals around you and ultimately save lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines and immunizations prove to be one of the most cost-effective, life-saving treatments for diseases. In fact, as reported by the Adult Vaccine Access Coalition (AVAC), the United States each year spends an astonishing $26.5 billion treating four major vaccine preventable diseases: influenza, pneumococcal, shingles and pertussis. Before the coronavirus pandemic, AVAC also noted that, over 20 years, vaccines would prevent 732,000 deaths and 21 million hospitalizations.

As the former Chairman and current Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I have always supported incremental funding increases for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Gradual base increases go toward support of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, which facilitates increasing vaccination rates for over a dozen vaccine-preventable diseases, as well as vaccinations for at-risk populations. It also strengthens state public health infrastructure and increases disease surveillance efforts.

To slow the spread of coronavirus, the development of a vaccine to treat COVID-19 is crucial, and I am proud this is being taken seriously in our country. This spring, the NIH formed a public-private partnership called Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) to coordinate and prioritize research efforts into the most promising therapeutics and vaccines. Moreover, HHS has invested more than $7 billion into facilitating research and development for more than five vaccine candidates by leading pharmaceutical companies.

In mid-May, President Trump initiated Operation Warp Speed, a partnership with HHS, the Department of Defense and private pharmaceutical companies to ensure the United States is the first nation in the world to develop and deploy a coronavirus vaccine. This operation seeks to quickly produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines nationwide by January 2021. It’s worth noting that Operation Warp Speed has resulted in the pre-purchase of hundreds of millions of doses should vaccine candidates prove successful.

Throughout the course of history, vaccines have proven to prevent diseases and serious illnesses, and the coronavirus pandemic proves no different. Although this process doesn’t happen overnight, we have certainly made the investments and have the resources to develop and administer a coronavirus vaccine once discovered. However, this pandemic also reaffirms the importance of investing in pandemic programs to ensure we can develop, test and stockpile immunizations for the next generation.

Cole Statement on Honoring John Lewis at U.S. Capitol

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) issued the following statement after he paid tribute to Congressman John Lewis, who recently passed away and is lying in state at the U.S. Capitol.  

“Today, I joined my fellow members of Congress in paying my respects to our beloved colleague, John Lewis, upon his final trip to the U.S. Capitol. It was a very moving ceremony that rightly recognized John’s many years of distinguished service and his significant contributions to our country, including his unmatched leadership role in the continual struggle for civil rights. I will always have the utmost admiration for John Lewis, and I am exceedingly grateful that I had the opportunity to serve with him for many years and call him my friend. While the nation mourns and pays tribute on this very sad day, we should also find great comfort as we remember the incredible legacy he leaves behind. Indeed, that legacy will live on for generations to come.”

Resilience Amid Crisis​

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This year, Independence Day comes at a time of great crisis and unrest for our country. But while the events of our day are troubling, remember that our nation was first born out of and found its footing in crisis. Throughout our great history spanning nearly 245 years, Americans have continually overcome even the most difficult challenges. That’s because Americans always rise to the occasion, proving our nation’s great strength. Certainly, that enduring strength and unbeatable resilience is alive as we navigate this season of crisis as well.

While the battle against coronavirus is far from over, it is encouraging to see the economy beginning to bounce back and Americans safely getting back to work. Moreover, rapid progress continues in development of effective therapeutics and discovery of a vaccine. And though any life lost to COVID-19 is too many, the declining death rate should lend hope that we’re getting better at treating the disease – as scientists and researchers race to find a life-saving vaccine.

In addition to the coronavirus crisis, the nation is also facing a difficult reckoning related to racial injustice following the tragic death of George Floyd. This has rightly spurred on an important dialogue and caused an outcry for change echoing far and wide. While there are differences in opinion on the needed solutions, it’s worth recognizing the goal is the same – and that is to make our communities safer for all, regardless of color or creed. While I am disappointed that we haven’t made much bipartisan progress on this issue yet, I am encouraged that serious legislative proposals have been put forward in both chambers of Congress. Moreover, President Trump issued an executive order to encourage meaningful policing reforms.

As we confront the difficulties and seek to reconcile divisions before us, remember that there is far more that unites us than divides us. On the Fourth of July, as we celebrate our precious freedoms secured at a great price, may we also remember the lasting legacy of our inherited American strength. For even amid the direst circumstances, we still live in the greatest and most resilient nation on earth.

Tom Cole Wins Oklahoma’s Fourth District Republican Primary

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Moore, OK – Tom Cole released the following statement upon winning the June 30th primary election:

“I thank the Republican voters of the Fourth District for once again nominating me to represent them as their candidate for Congress in the November general election. It is an honor and a privilege to represent the Fourth District of Oklahoma and fight for our shared values and interests in the House of Representatives. I look forward to making my case for re-election to the entire electorate in the fall campaign.

“I am proud of my record of significant accomplishments in Congress. Working in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion, I have helped to deliver the largest pay raise to our men and women in uniform in a decade, expand missions at Fort Sill and Tinker Air Force Base, deliver much needed assistance to families and businesses during the Coronavirus crisis and save an estimated 50 million jobs through the Paycheck Protection Program. I have also been a leader in securing funds for biomedical research to find cures and treatments for deadly diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and pandemic flu. And I have established a reputation for being a strong advocate for the interests of veterans, federal workers, agriculture, energy and Native American nations and tribal governments. 

“I look forward to keeping in touch with the constituents I am privileged to represent in the coming months, discussing my record of results and my plans for tackling the important work that lies ahead.”

Cole Announces Congressional App Challenge for OK-04

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Moore, OK – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) today encouraged middle school and high school students in the Fourth District of Oklahoma to participate in this year’s Congressional App Challenge. This annual competition is designed to promote innovation, engagement and excellence in computer science through student development of an application (“app”).

“The Congressional App Challenge is a fantastic way for students to explore and sharpen their coding and computer-based skills, which could prepare them for potential careers in STEM fields. As this unique challenge gets underway, I look forward to seeing the ideas and creativity of Fourth District students.”

While participating students are encouraged to register online by September 10, the final deadline for entries is 12:00 p.m. on October 19, 2020. Fourth District entries will be judged and selected by a local panel of relevant experts.

The submissions portal is now open and students can register to participate at www.congressionalappchallenge.us. Questions can be directed toStudentSupport@CongressionalAppChallenge.us or by calling Cole’s office at 405-329-6500.

Background on the Congressional App Challenge

Launched by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015, this national contest invites students to create an application (“app”) for desktop/PC, web, tablet, mobile, raspberry Pi or other devices using any programming language – such as C, C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby or “block code.” The competition is open to all students who meet the eligibility requirements, regardless of their coding experience. Winning apps from congressional districts across the country are eligible for display in the U.S. Capitol and featured on the House of Representatives’ website at House.gov

More information is available at www.congressionalappchallenge.us.