U.S. Congressman Tom Cole | E-Newsletter
WEEKLY UPDATE | May 20, 2020 Click here if you have trouble viewing this email
U.S. Congressman Tom Cole
While the coronavirus crisis has caused unthinkable disruptions and challenges nationwide, this is not the first time in history that Congress has navigated extraordinary circumstances and still preserved the longstanding traditions imagined by our Founding Fathers. Throughout numerous emergencies and disasters in our nation’s history, the American people have always been able to count on their elected representatives to be their voice. Indeed, even amid such crises as the Civil War and the 1918 influenza pandemic, members of Congress have still shown up and been physically present for their essential work in Washington.

Although there are appropriate adjustments and precautions that should be taken to continue operations safely, both chambers of Congress are still capable of doing their essential work in person, as our forefathers certainly intended. In fact, the U.S. Senate has now returned three weeks in a row for legislative session, and the U.S. House of Representatives has already held floor votes at a safe social distance and even successfully adapted in-person hearings on many occasions.

Unfortunately, Democrats recently decided to erase more than 230 years of constitutional precedent by pushing through a partisan change to House Rules, allowing proxy voting and remote committee proceedings for the first time in history but at the risk of causing irreparable damage to the People's House. 

Read on for a detailed update on the latest legislative activity since I last checked in with you. 

Democrats Set Dangerous Precedent
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has kept large portions of the U.S. population at home to slow the spread of the disease, there are many Americans whose jobs have become critically important to us all. We are truly indebted to those who have gotten up each day, left their houses and gone out to fulfill several key roles.

Tremendous courage has indeed been on full display by those fighting on the front lines of this crisis. We see it in our doctors, nurses and health care workers, who are risking their own lives every day to treat COVID-19 patients. We see it in those transporting essential supplies and making critical deliveries. We see it in our farmers and ranchers monitoring our food supply, along with workers in food processing facilities, meat packing plants and grocery stores, who are ensuring we have food to eat. We see it also in our military service members, who are still in the field protecting us at home and abroad.

If these Americans can take on the risk and serve selflessly throughout this crisis and if the White House can continue to go to work every day, so too should Congress.

While I understand that there are real concerns about continuing in-person operations amid a pandemic, I don’t think those concerns should fundamentally change how the House conducts official business, excusing members from their usual duties. Moreover, any effort to change centuries-old rules of the House should be clearly bipartisan – no matter how difficult that may be to achieve. I regret that was not the case with the Democrats’ partisan scheme pushed through last week with no Republican votes whatsoever.

After forming a bipartisan working group tasked with considering and arriving at changes to operations that would be acceptable on both sides of the aisle, it is particularly disappointing that Democrats abandoned those negotiations and charged on full speed ahead. As Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, I was directly involved in those bipartisan discussions on behalf of Republicans, alongside Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Administration Committee Ranking Member Rodney Davis; in fact, while discussions were still ongoing, we proposed four strategies for reopening the People’s House that would not only enable lawmakers to safely and fully perform their key functions for the American people but also protect longstanding traditions and precedents of the institution.

Unfortunately, House Democrats opted to make history, but not for better and not in the best interest of the American people. Though they claim their plan to allow proxy voting and remote committee work is only temporary, it’s a risky move that isn’t constitutionally sound. Not to mention, even temporary solutions become the precedents we follow and can’t undo tomorrow. In the days ahead, I fear there will be severe consequences of allowing one single member to cast votes for up to 10 absent colleagues and shifting committee business to take place remotely – including challenges of validity in the courts sooner or later.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the very definition of “congress” is the “act or action of coming together and meeting.” While I appreciate that technology can keep us connected in many ways unimaginable to our forebearers, I don’t think that gives members free reign now to substitute precious traditions for selfish convenience or to abdicate the personal responsibility of casting an in-person vote to another. That is a grave disservice to constituents from every congressional district, who elected and entrusted their representatives to be their voice.  

A Partisan Wish List 
Crafted behind closed doors and without any Republican input whatsoever, the so-called HEROES Act passed in the House last week is mostly a liberal wish list but deceptively packaged by Speaker Pelosi as coronavirus relief and with a price tag of more than $3 trillion. After working across party lines in both chambers to deliver four substantial relief packages to the American people over the last several weeks, I am disappointed that House Democrats chose to abandon that same spirit of bipartisan cooperation and instead waste time considering legislation that will never see the light of the day in the Senate or make it to the president’s desk.

Now is not the time for making political points. More than ever, Americans need to see their elected representatives working together to solve the urgent problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am hopeful that is still possible in the days ahead. Americans deserve better from their government.

In case you missed it, you can watch my floor remarks in opposition to H.R. 6800 here.

A Letter to the Graduating Class of 2020
With graduation season taking place during such an unusual point in time this year, I am thinking very much of the many high school and college seniors celebrating their achievements differently than they expected. Although the coronavirus crisis has canceled and postponed many traditional commencement ceremonies, that should not lessen the sense of great pride and joy felt by this year’s graduates. And I want to extend my deepest congratulations and best wishes, along with the following message:

Dear Graduates, 

Graduating means that you have successfully scaled and overcome a series of challenges, and you have proven you are ready and prepared to advance to the next stage of your life. Every graduate deserves to be honored, and I hope you will take the time to relish all that you have worked toward and accomplished, celebrating with your family and loved ones who are just as proud of all that you’ve achieved and who will continue to cheer you on as the next chapters of your life are written.

Though we are living through unprecedented times that caused your senior year to take some unexpected turns, I want to challenge you to look on this moment in time as a weigh station – not the final destination – in the tremendous and unique journey of your life. In the days to come, I also want to challenge you to walk boldly ahead with your eyes and mind wide open to the endless opportunities and possibilities that await you.

Indeed, when I think back on the years since I graduated high school and college, I realize that most of my regrets are related to opportunities I didn’t seize, chances I didn’t take and service I didn’t render. Nearly all those mistakes happened because I was either afraid to take the risk, or I chose not to take the time to complete some worthwhile task. So, I urge the graduates, when you confront something, be willing to run the risk and be willing to take the time to see it through all the way to the end.

Finally, whether you plan to pursue more formal education or not, I challenge you to become a lifelong learner. No matter what stage or season in which life finds you, I encourage you to always leave room for personal growth.

With that, I wish you good luck and Godspeed. May your journey be interesting as I am sure it shall. But more importantly, may you find the peace and happiness that each and every one of you deserves, and I hope each and every one of you achieves. Congratulations, Graduating Class of 2020!

Stay Informed 
While social distancing prevents us all from interacting in person, there are several ways I am aiming to keep you informed. I am regularly filming video updates for social media, hosting telephone town halls and participating in virtual meetings reaching Fourth District communities. In addition, I am keeping my website up to date on the latest federal actions taken and resources available in response to the disruptions caused by the spread of this coronavirus. You can also call my office at (405) 329-6500.

If you have additional questions or need assistance with another matter, my staff can help you with that, too. 


Sincerely,
Tom Cole
Member of Congress



CONNECT








VIRTUAL TOWN HALL WITH KFOR
In case you missed it, KFOR aired statewide a virtual town hall with all but two members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation. I was glad to participate in this special event and weigh in on the ongoing federal response to COVID-19.

Watch the discussion HERE.
  
JOIN A TELEPHONE TOWN HALL 
In the coming weeks, I will be hosting more telephone town halls. If you would like to participate in a future conversation, please stay tuned for dates and dial-in information or sign up to be called HERE. 
 
FRIDAY DEADLINE FOR ART CONTEST
The annual Congressional Art Competition for high school students is still taking place, and my office is accepting entries until THIS Friday, May 22, 2020.

While all three of my district offices and the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce remain drop-off points for artwork, please provide advance notice and schedule time to ensure someone is there to assist you at a safe social distance.


To schedule a drop-off time and place, please call my office: (405) 329-6500

  
OK-04 NEWS
The OU Board of Regents made an exceptionally good choice in permanently naming Joe Harroz as President of the University of Oklahoma. Throughout this past year of transition, he has shown tremendous leadership and vision. I am confident he will continue to help the university make great strides into the future.
Read more

 
OK-04 RESOURCES
I will regularly be updating my website with new information and resources here: cole.house.gov/coronavirus
 
TAKE THE CENSUS
Do you know why your household's participation in the 2020 Census matters? An accurate population count helps paint a more complete picture of the current and changing needs in all of our communities and across the state. If you haven't already participated, there are three easy ways to do so!

Get started HERE.
 
MEDIA CENTER 
Click around below to read or see more
Fox 25: One-on-one with Rep. Cole: New House stimulus package "dead on arrival"
(May 13, 2020)
In case you missed it, I joined Dan Snyder last week for an interview about the latest congressional news, including the hyper-partisan and so-called HEROES Act, deceptively packaged as coronavirus relief and written solely by Democrats.  
Watch here


Chickasaw Nation Construction Project Selected by Indian Health Service for Partnership to Expand Health Care Access in Central Oklahoma
(May 8, 2020)
This joint endeavor to establish an Indian Health Service-run outpatient facility in Newcastle will not only expand access to care, but it will greatly improve the health and well-being of Indian Country for years to come.
Read more
 
Bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act Introduced
Considering that Oklahoma has the fourth largest shortage of doctors in the nation and a shortage of nurses well above the national average, there is clearly a need for solutions to strengthen our health care workforce and increase the capacity for delivering critical care. I was proud to recently join my colleagues in introducing a vital solution through the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act.
Read more
Washington, DC Office
2207 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6165
Fax: (202) 225-3512
Ada Office
100 E. 13th Street, Suite 213
Ada, OK 74820
Phone: (580) 436-5375
Fax: (580) 436-5451
Lawton Office
711 SW D Avenue, Suite 201
Lawton, OK 73501
Phone: (580) 357-2131
Fax: (580) 357-7477
Norman Office
2424 Springer Drive, Suite 201
Norman, OK 73069
Phone: (405) 329-6500
Fax: (405) 321-7369
UPDATE SUBSCRIPTION OPTIONS | PRIVACY POLICY | CONTACT