Rep. Tom Cole: ‘It’s certainly the summer of our discontent’
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — “It’s certainly the summer of our discontent.”
With Congress now on its annual August recess, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., joined ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast to discuss all things Congress — weighing in on the process, health care, tax reform and President Donald Trump.
“I think it’s a more nuanced picture than I think is generally being reported,” Cole said. “The successes have been what I would call sort of medium successes, whereas the failures like healthcare have been really substantial.”
As for the successes, Cole explained, “There have been major bipartisan accomplishments in the overhaul of the VA, in the human-trafficking legislation, and then frankly, people seem to forget, Democrats and Republicans did produce a trillion dollar-plus spending bill that had major victories for the president.
But, health care “was a huge setback.”
“This is a very different Republican caucus and Congress than [when] I arrived in 2003,” Cole said. Today, “anytime you’re counting on unanimity, you’re running a high risk.”
As Republicans pivot, Cole noted that passing tax reform is a must for the GOP, describing: “If this were football, you would want the Republican Congress playing goal line defense for you, ’cause nobody was going to score on them. But now we have the ball, and so you’ve got to start making first downs.”
So the question is then, who calls the play? Cole blamed the health care push’s failure on Congress, not the administration. “But the president wasn’t out making speeches on it, wasn’t out tweeting about it all that much until odd bursts here or there, maybe close to a vote,” he explained. “So if you’re going to do big things that are controversial over the united opposition of your opponent, you really have to have a major push.”
He’s optimistic that the administration will be much more engaged on tax reform. Trump, however, did not hesitate to point the finger the other way, blaming Congress in a tweet Thursday morning for the health care failure and “a very dangerous low” in U.S.-Russia relations.
When asked if he agreed with the president’s assessment, Cole responded, “Absolutely not.”
“I put the blame where it belongs, and that’s at the doorstep of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, who’s been invading countries, who’s been engaged of destabilizing democracies, has meddled in our own elections,” Cole said. “I think most people would disagree with the president’s assertion about who’s responsible for this. The perplexing thing is that he hasn’t been willing to call them out more.”
And while the president does not blame Putin for the current diplomatic state of affairs, it remains to be seen how he will respond to new bipartisan legislation aimed at preventing him from firing a special counsel without good cause. Said Cole, “I think that the fact that those bills are there, whether they are passed or not, is a message: Allow this investigation to proceed.”
“We don’t see the evidence of collusion or what have you, but between all the congressional investigations and this one, the truth’s going to come out at some point.”
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