Tom Cole

03/03/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/03/2021 21:28

Cole Statement on House Passage of H.R. 1280

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) release the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Cole opposed the legislation.

'While an overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers faithfully and bravely discharge their responsibilities, the death of George Floyd and national outcry surrounding his death last year was a sobering reminder that abuses of power clearly exist and reforms are needed,' said Cole. 'And although both parties agree that we must act on this issue, I regret that Democrats have chosen to produce legislation without any input of Republicans.

'Considering that Republicans in both chambers have introduced an alternative bill, spearheaded by Congressman Pete Stauber and Senator Tim Scott, the wise choice would be to sit down and negotiate police reform legislation that upholds constitutional rights and inherent dignity of every individual. Indeed, there are already many areas of common ground reforms that could be supported by both parties and pass with an overwhelming majority of the House. Unfortunately, that is not the path Democrats have decided to take at this time.'

While managing the rule for consideration of H.R. 1280 on the House floor earlier this week, Cole made opening remarks. Transcript is available below.

Today we are also considering H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. As with H.R. 1, this bill will be familiar to our returning members, as the House passed an identical bill last summer.

Unfortunately, while I think this bill is well-intentioned, it too is misguided. The reforms contained in H.R. 1280 will do more harm than good.

I do not doubt the majority's good intentions with this legislation. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act came about following the tragic events of last summer. George Floyd's death demonstrated what so many Americans know only too well: that abuses of power clearly exist and must be grappled with. And while the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers faithfully and bravely carry out their duties and responsibilities each day, all too often, many Americans receive different treatment due to the color of their skin. Americans across the country rightly condemned this horrific and unacceptable act.

Unfortunately, rather than choosing to come together to legislate in a bipartisan manner, the majority chose to take the exact opposite course last summer, and we are once again considering the same flawed and deeply partisan bill we considered then and that the Senate failed to take up. I believe this bill will face the same result should the House pass it again this week.

During the last Congress when the Judiciary Committee met to mark up this bill, the majority completely shut out Republicans from the process. Republicans made good faith attempts to work with Democrats to find common ground on needed reforms, yet every single one of those attempts were rejected. This year, the majority has not even deigned to bring this bill to a markup at the Judiciary Committee, and once again the majority have shut Republicans out of the process.

This is no way to legislate on an issue that is this important, Mr. Speaker. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that reforms are necessary. We all watched the tragedy of George Floyd unfold last summer, and we all watched the resulting protests. And we all agree that action is necessary. But rather than working together in the best interests of the American people, the majority is once again telling Republicans that they can only have a Hobson's Choice: they can take the Democrats' bill, or they can take the Democrats' bill, with no other options.

But I, along with my fellow Republicans, reject that idea. We fully recognize the critical need for reform. My colleagues both in the House and in the Senate have put together our own reform package, the JUSTICE Act, filled with bipartisan reforms that could pass both the House and the Senate and be signed into law quickly. These reforms include critical measures like providing funding for body cameras for police officers, requiring de-escalation procedures and banning chokeholds. My colleague Representative Stauber offered this as an amendment at the Rules Committee earlier today, but once again the majority chose to shut out Republicans and refused to make his amendment in order. This is a sad state of affairs, Mr. Speaker, but the real loser here is the American people. This is an issue we can and should cooperate on.

I urge my colleagues in the majority to rethink the path they are on. On an issue that is this important and this critical to the American people, the very best thing we can do is work together. And with a reduced majority, I think that would actually be good political advice for my friends. We can work on bipartisan reforms together and can produce consensus legislation that has the buy-in of members on both sides. But unfortunately, the majority has once again chosen the opposite path: partisan bills filled with provisions that do not reflect the best interests or consensus of the country.

We can do better than that, Mr. Speaker. The American people deserve better.