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Rep. Cole delivers D.C. update

May 11, 2017
Oklahoma’s 4th District Congressman Tom Cole dropped by the OIPA offices on May 11 for an informal update on activity in Washington, D.C.

Cole shared information and his views on past and future elections, President Donald Trump’s first 100 days, tax reform, immigration and national defense, among other topics.

OIPA President Mike Terry asked about tax reform — particularly the appetite of Congress to go after intangible drilling costs or percentage depletion.

“I’ll tell you what I told Paul Ryan a couple years ago,” Cole replied. “… Nobody sent me from Oklahoma to disassemble the greatest engine of prosperity that my state has. I’m just not going to do that.”

There is a proposal that has been floated to allow businesses to write off all their capital expenses within a year.

“That’s a pretty big deal in your industry, which is capital-intensive,” Cole said. “That would be an interesting kind of trade-off, and I’d want to hear what people in the oil and gas industry here thought of it.”

He said he expects any tax plan to be pretty friendly to oil and natural gas.

“You’re not going to pass anything with Republican votes if you go after the energy industry,” he said.

The largest GOP delegation comes from Texas, and because of the industry’s expansion into states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, there are representatives in new areas who see the jobs created by the industry, and that strengthens the industry’s voice.

“You think about how rough the last 10 years have been. In that time, private initiative in the energy industry has given American workers the biggest raise they’ve had, which is lowering gasoline prices and lowering what it costs to heat and cool a home dramatically. And then you add to that the best security gift we’ve had — we’re now effectively independent of the Middle East. North America is energy independent. … And on top of that, it’s the greatest engine to lower greenhouse gas emissions as well.

“Why in the world would we be punishing this industry? I think quite the opposite. Certainly not with my vote.”

The 2016 presidential campaign was extremely contentious, Cole said. On Election Day morning, every Democrat in America and most Republicans thought Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, he said.

“I think the fact that she didn’t, even though she got three million more votes, was an incredible shock to the system,” Cole said.
Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have actually been incredibly productive, he said.

“Twenty-nine pieces of legislation have been passed into law in the first 100 days,” he said. “No opening administration has done that well since 1949.”

About half of those are de-regulations, some of which are very important to the oil and natural gas industry, he said.

Passing a bi-partisan bill to fund the government was also a success, Cole said.

“The president got more money for defense, he got the largest increase in border security funding in a decade, he got the largest raise for American troops in six years. During the Obama years, for every dime you increased the defense budget, you had to spend more domestically, whether you wanted to or not or whether you needed to or not. He broke that connection, so we raised defense and border security without increasing domestic spending. Republicans won most of the battles as to where the funding would go.”

The health care bill that the House passed will change in the Senate, he said, but it’s something Oklahomans should be for.

He said issues on the agenda as Republicans hold the House, Senate and presidency are tax reform, infrastructure and health care.

“It’s a very ambitious and heavy schedule,” Cole said.

OIPA Executive Vice President of Governmental Affairs Tim Wigley asked if the congressman thought another Supreme Court seat would come open.

“I think Anthony Kennedy will resign,” Cole said. “(New Associate Justice Neil) Gorsuch was a Kennedy protégé, and I’ve been told Kennedy sees this as his legacy.”

Another seat would move the swing vote farther to the right, he said. And within Trump’s first four years, he will probably appoint about one-quarter of the federal judges in America, Cole said.

OIPA Future Leaders Advisory Council member Ty Burnett asked about Russia’s increased activity in the Arctic.

“I worry about that a lot, because I think we are not capable there and they are,” Cole said. “Russia has a fleet of about 50 icebreakers. We just ordered our second.”

Russia’s military forces are ringing the Arctic, he said. Major companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars there, but the U.S. may be moving into an arena in which it is not set to compete militarily.

“But don’t get carried away by the Russians,” he said. They are still a formidable power, a nuclear power, he said, but it’s not the old Soviet Union, and its demographics are negative — their population is shrinking.

“Our long-term peer competitor is China, not Russia, but in the Arctic they could cause us some real problems. My instinct is we’ll develop it over time in concert with some other countries.”

Cole had a word of caution about the 2018 midterm elections.

“Nobody has had a good midterm election since 2002,” he said. “We got clobbered in ’06, the Democrats got clobbered in ’10 and ’14. I think any Republican that tells you we have a safe majority in the House is whistling past the political graveyard.”

He did say the Senate looked safe, because only eight Republicans are among the 33 senators up for re-election.
 
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