Cole will vote against de­fense bill

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Cas­teel Staff writer ccas­[email protected]­la­homan.com

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, whose Ok­la­homa dis­trict in­cludes Tin­ker Air Force Base and Fort Sill, said Wed­nes­day that he will op­pose the na­tional de­fense bill for the first time in his 17 years in Congress be­cause it doesn't in­clude enough money and is be­ing pushed through with­out enough Repub­li­can in­put.

“This is ac­tu­ally a very sad oc­ca­sion I think for the House and cer­tainly is for me per­son­ally,” Cole, R-Moore, said in a speech on the House floor.

“I have never voted against a na­tional de­fense au­tho­riza­tion Cole in my 17 years

in Congress. Most of our mem­bers have never done that for the last 58 years. So it's pretty un­usual for us to be here, and we per­son­ally re­gret that a great deal.”

Cole said later he was re­fer­ring specif­i­cally to Repub­li­can mem­bers, but he noted that the same sen­ti­ment ap­plies to the ma­jor­ity of the House in the past. An­nual de­fense bills are typ­i­cally bi­par­ti­san. Repub­li­cans con­trolled the House for most of Cole's time in Congress; this is the fifth year of Demo­cratic con­trol in Cole's ten­ure.

Repub­li­cans have com­plained that the House bill, at $733 bil­lion, au­tho­rizes $17 bil­lion less than the Se­nate bill, which passed two weeks ago. That bill was shep­herded by U.S. Sen. Jim In­hofe, R-Tulsa, and had strong bi­par­ti­san sup­port. The House bill is backed by the Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity but not the GOP. The White House has threat­ened a veto of the House bill but sup­ports the Se­nate bill.

The House's 2020 de­fense bill cov­ers a mul­ti­tude of mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions and weapons sys­tems. It would fund a 3.1% pay in­crease for troops; au­tho­rize the troop levels sought by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump; take sev­eral steps to rem­edy se­vere prob­lems with pri­va­tized mil­i­tary hous­ing; and pre­vent the ad­min­is­tra­tion from us­ing any De­fense Depart­ment money to build a wall on the south­ern bor­der.

The House be­gan de­bat­ing the de­fense bill on Wed­nes­day and is ex­pected to con­sider hun­dreds of pro­posed amend­ments, in­clud­ing some by U.S. Rep. Ken­dra Horn, D-Ok­la­homa City, and other Ok­la­homa law­mak­ers. Horn is a mem­ber of the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, which pro­duced the de­fense bill, and voted for it in com­mit­tee.

Cole, a for­mer mem­ber of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said there were “lots of good things” in the bill but that he ob­jected to the re­stric­tions on build­ing a wall and the lift­ing of a long­time pro­hi­bi­tion on trans­fer­ring pris­on­ers from Guan­tanamo Bay to U.S. fa­cil­i­ties. He said the lower fund­ing amount than the Se­nate bill would hurt mil­i­tary readi­ness.

U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said, “I un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion on the Repub­li­can side. They lost an elec­tion so they are not get­ting ev­ery­thing they want in terms of pol­icy. Elec­tions have con­se­quences.”

McGovern said Cole and other Repub­li­cans were cherry pick­ing sta­tis­tics to make it ap­pear Democrats weren't giv­ing Repub­li­cans enough in­put. Democrats had al­lowed far more amend­ments than Repub­li­cans did in the last Congress, when the GOP con­trolled the House, McGovern said. On t he de­fense bill, Democrats agreed to hear “the most amend­ments ever, of any bill brought to the floor,” he said.

McGovern said he knew how Repub­li­cans felt be­ing in the mi­nor­ity.

“I know it' s frus­trat­ing not to win one very vote and be able to rig every vote as my friends did when they were in charge,” he said. “But the bot­tom line is in this place, who­ever has the most votes wins.”

Cole said the House is headed to the same type of con­fronta­tion as t he one last month over bor­der se­cu­rity fund­ing. In that case, the Se­nate passed a bi­par­ti­san bill that the White House sup­ported, while the House passed a Demo­cratic bill that was un­der a veto threat.

Ul­ti­mately, the House ac­cepted the Se­nate ver­sion.

“The pres­i­dent sent us a mes­sage that the par­ti­san bill that we are about to pass he will not sign,” Cole said. “So we are headed for a con­fronta­tion again and it's a con­fronta­tion that won't pro­duce a bi­par­ti­san bill. … And I think we know how the story ends.”

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