Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole To Run For Appropriations Chair

Oklahoma’s Tom Cole hasn’t made it official yet, but the 11-term congressman is quietly taking steps to secure one of the most prestigious and important leadership positions on Capitol Hill: chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

Monday, November 20th 2023, 9:51 pm



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Oklahoma’s Tom Cole hasn’t made it official yet, but the 11-term congressman is quietly taking steps to secure one of the most prestigious and important leadership positions on Capitol Hill: chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

The committee's current chair is Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX). But Rep. Granger is 80 years old and announced three weeks ago she would not run for re-election next year, which is why the question arose as to whether Cole aspires to take her place.

"Absolutely!" Cole replied, without hesitation, during an interview last week.

Cole is the current chair of the House Rules Committee. His name came up several times as a possible candidate for Speaker following Kevin McCarthy’s ouster, only to have him quickly dismiss the notion.

He says there's a good reason he would much prefer being Appropriations chair.

"I think you could have a more direct impact there,” Cole asserted.

First elected to Congress in 2002, Cole has served in some capacity on the Appropriations Committee since 2009.

“I represent a heavily military district, a heavily federal district,” Cole explained, “and the two largest employers — single site employers — in the state for civilian workers, not even counting the military, Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill.

Cole says Oklahoma is a state that has a high degree of interest in the federal government.

"I think I have a pretty good sense, from a state standpoint, of knowing what’s important,” Cole continued, “and, like everybody else, I’ve got my sense of what the national priorities ought to be as well."

As Congresswoman Granger's number two, the committee's vice chair, Cole is the clear heir apparent, but he takes nothing for granted.

"It’s like running for high school class president,” Cole said, “a small group in a pretty small town, and you gotta go around and secure their support one at a time."

A special steering committee will ultimately decide who gets the prized position, but Cole says he's already started making the rounds with his colleagues, some of whom say he’s perfect for the job.

"Tom Cole is one of the most respected statesmen in this institution,” said Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5), “and there are many, many individuals who look at him and recognize his ability to lead, especially on the appropriations process."

"It’s a world I know,” said Cole, “I think I could do a good job at it, and I’m going to take a shot at it."

Cole says even if the GOP were to lose the majority in the House next year, he would still want to be named the top Republican on the committee (ranking member). Since appropriations bills have to be bipartisan to get the 60 votes needed for passage in the Senate, Cole says, the minority can still have a real impact.

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