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One-on-one with Tom Cole

Apr 17, 2024
Rep. Tom Cole

Cole in 2023. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

New House Appropriations Chair Tom Cole sees Republicans looking for environment and energy budget cuts across the board this fiscal year.

Why it matters: EPA already got a 10% cut in the fiscal 2024 minibus. House Republicans will likely be demanding all the non-defense cuts they can get in negotiations this year with the Senate.

Axios caught up with Cole in the Speaker's Lobby. Their conversation has been edited for clarity …

What are your priorities for the energy-water and Interior-environment bills?

I'm working with my cardinals on that. Energy and Water Chair Chuck Fleischmann is as good as it gets.

  • My main interest tends to be on the defense side of it in terms of maintaining the nuclear stockpile, which I know Chuck will certainly look after very, very well.
  • Beyond that, look, I'm an all-the-above energy guy, but it needs to make economic sense. And we're a big oil and gas state where I'm from, obviously.… But we're a big wind state.
  • So I have no problem with renewables at all, as long as they make sense.

Do you see a constrained environment again this year on the Interior-environment title?

Yeah, I do. I mean, there's not a lot of room for growth under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, so we're going to do what we can.

  • The top three priorities will be defense, will be veterans and certainly will be homeland. Other than that, I expect everybody else is probably getting a haircut, at least in the initial bills.
  • But the most important thing for us right now is to get the vehicle moving and out of committee.
  • Our biggest problem is time.… I've got a bigger majority on my committee than [Majority Whip] Tom Emmer does on the floor. So he's got a whole set of challenges beyond what I'm dealing with.

In general, do you think bringing back earmarks has worked? You've got lots of people voting against the bill even though they got money.

I do. That's not the only purpose for them. We haven't used them as carrots or sticks at this point, and I don't know that they ought to be used that way.

  • If I have to bargain with somebody's money, it's not going to be somebody who voted for the bill, when there's people available that didn't.
  • You just have to recognize that. And that doesn't mean I'm out to punish you, but if I have to make tough decisions, again, the people who cast the tough vote are sort of first in line for consideration.
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