U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Rules

06/14/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/14/2021 12:04

Press Release - Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on H.R. 256 and H.R. 1187

As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:

Let me start out by saying how pleased I am to be back in the hearing room with you today. As I have mentioned many times over the past year, the House benefits from members personally interacting with one another and developing relationships that can help bridge policy and political differences. Today marks another step in our return to normal that I hope will continue so that the House becomes fully open in the very near future.

Now onto our hearing today covering two items.

The first item I'll discuss is H.R. 256. If enacted, this bill would repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force that allowed the U.S military engagement against Iraq.

When the 2002 AUMF was first passed by Congress and signed into law 19 years ago, it was targeted against the depravity of Saddam Hussein, his vicious regime and its ongoing role as a state sponsor of terrorism and the fear that he secretly possessed weapons of mass destruction. Acting under this authorization, American and allied troops invaded Iraq in 2003 and quickly put an end to his regime.

Unfortunately, that was only the beginning. It took years of hard fighting and heroic efforts by American, allied and Iraqi troops to bring some semblance of order to the country. Even today, American soldiers remain in Iraq, in part to continue the fight against the remnants of al-Qaeda and their successor, the Islamic State, but also in part to continue to support our friends and allies in the Middle East.

But in the 19 years since then, it is apparent that the mission has evolved and changed. As originally drafted, the 2002 AUMF provided clear legal authorities to confront Saddam Hussein and to enforce UN Security Council resolutions. But today, Saddam Hussein is gone, his odious regime is gone and the necessary nature of the American presence in Iraq is very different.

As this committee is aware, I've long been supportive of Congress exercising its authority with respect to war powers. I believe we have a duty and an obligation to continuously re-examine justifications for the use of military force. And when existing authorities are outdated, Congress should exercise its authority to review, revise and, if necessary, repeal authorities that are no longer needed.

For the last two decades, American military troops have been engaged in conflicts around the world, but primarily in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The legal authorities for these conflicts, the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, have not been revised or changed during these times, even as the nature of the conflicts themselves has changed.

I have long been supportive of re-evaluating these measures, consistent with Congress' Article I war powers and with drafting new legal authorities to update those now in use. And over the last several years, but especially over the last week, I have wrestled with this question of how Congress should review and evaluate the 2002 AUMF and whether or not it should remain in force.

I have deep concerns about simply repealing either the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs without having an appropriate authority to replace them. The very best course of action is for Congress and the Administration to work together on developing a new set of appropriate authorities. And with respect to H.R. 256, I believe the Administration must engage with Congress and tell us the appropriate authorities they need and desire to continue to protect the American people and to continue to fight terrorism wherever it may be found.

If the Biden Administration believes the 2002 AUMF is still necessary and can make an appropriate case as to why, that will go a long way toward persuading Congress to keep this authority in place. If the Administration believes a replacement is necessary, it is up to the Administration to ask Congress for what it needs. But if the Biden Administration does not need this authority or refuses to engage with Congress on what it needs or why the 2002 AUMF should remain on the books, then it does not provide members with the necessary information they need to decide if this particular authority should remain intact. Iraq has changed, the original mission has been accomplished and using this authority for whatever the future holds raises serious concerns for me.

Ultimately, it is up to the Administration to engage with Congress, and it is up to Congress to engage in regular order to ensure that an appropriate set of authorizations for the use of military force are in place.

On this measure, Congress cannot do its job and cannot fulfill its constitutional obligations without appropriate input from the commander in chief. However, once we have that perspective, I believe lawmakers can quickly reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement through regular order on a new, targeted AUMF that provides appropriate authority for the current mission. That is our constitutional obligation, and I believe America's soldiers and the American people deserve no less.

Our second item today is H.R. 1187, the Corporate Governance Improvement and Investor Protection Act. This is a collection of five bills, all arising out of the Committee on Financial Services and all of which require public companies to make various disclosures in their public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These new required disclosures each relate to items that are of importance only to social activists, rather than to investors.

Of these five bills, the best I can say of them is that, in my view, they are unnecessary. The current structure of reporting for publicly-traded companies in the United States generally requires them to disclose all information that is material or that would be considered important by a reasonable investor. These items generally include things you would think would be included: how much money the company made, how much revenue it made, how much it cost the company to acquire that revenue and so on. It also includes a disclosure of risk factors and many other items that are actually important for evaluating a public company's health now and into the future.

But what these five bills do is add still more disclosure requirements on top of these. These additional disclosures include items relating to climate change, to executive pay and to an ill-defined group of items clustered together under the term 'Environmental, Social, and Governance,' or ESG.

What each of these have in common is that they are not actually all that important to the everyday investor. They are of great importance to social activists who are seeking to expand their agenda to every corner of American life, including into the corporate boardroom. Expanding the list of required disclosures, as the majority is seeking to do today, will do nothing to help everyday investors and will instead only increase the costs for public companies. That will serve as a disincentive for private companies to go public and will make it even harder for normal Americans to invest in the future.

I understand my Republican colleagues on the Financial Services Committee have additional concerns about these bills, and I look forward to hearing from them.