Have you ever seen a guy who spends so much time partying that it gets in the way of his job? It seems Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, who happens to be in charge of getting Republicans elected to Congress, is one of those guys.
Rep. Cole represents the Fourth Congressional District which includes the booming city of Norman. Growth in the university town is so strong, and water wells so full of arsenic, that the city has been sucking up more than their share of water from Lake Thunderbird; a resource shared with nearby Midwest City and Del City. The Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District manages the lake for the three cities and wants to evaluate an idea to pump water into the lake from McGee Creek Reservoir in southeast Oklahoma. Rep. Cole sought federal money to match local funding to finance further study. Cole explains his bill, H.R. 1337, to the House:
I introduced H.R. 1337 both at the behest of the Conservancy District and in the same spirit that Congress previously funded the building of Lake Thunderbird and the appraisal investigation: to facilitate the long-term vitality and well-being of the citizens served by the Conservancy District and, as an extension, the vitality and well-being of Oklahoma as a whole. It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that the Conservancy District provides waters for more than 175,000 residents, meaning that no fewer than one out of every four of my constituents stands to benefit from this study.
Sounds pretty good. So why did it get voted down 211-208?
“Basically we were the victims of a tit-for-tat,” Cole said via telephone Thursday from his Washington, D.C., office. “It was Republicans vs. Democrats on the House floor.”
Cole, R-Moore, said his bill was voted down immediately after a controversial bill authored by a Democratic congressman was defeated.
Those damn Democrats and their partisan politics! So what was the “tat” that caused the “tit”?
The proposal was simple, the kind Congress approves with barely audible voice votes every day: Give 25 miles of Connecticut’s Eightmile River special federal status so it can get more money to protect water quality and different species.
But the bill to make that happen was defeated in the House on July 11, thanks to a fierce Republican effort aimed at hurting vulnerable rookie Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, its chief sponsor…. The Republicans didn’t want Courtney to take credit for passing a major bill because it could help his re-election chances.
So why pick on Cole?
Republicans – led by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the House Republican congressional campaign – were concerned and launched a campaign to discredit the bill.
And remember Cole’s water bill? Well, it happened to be up for consideration the same day.
Democratic leaders put out the word: Vote against Cole’s bill. Punish him.
Cole, suddenly realizing what he had wrought, called Courtney and apologized.
He became aware he had offended not only Courtney but a lot of Republicans – including Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4th District.
Shays and Courtney quickly sent a letter to colleagues reminding them that the measure was backed by Connecticut’s Republican governor, M. Jodi Rell, as well as the Bush administration and the National Park Service.
Cole later explained that when he spoke against Courtney on the floor, he was not fully prepared.
Cole ultimately voted for Courtney’s bill, but it was too late.
Cole discounted his argument against the river legislation, saying “I wasn’t there to argue my personal beliefs.” In other words, Tom was just bullshitting to Congress for partisan purposes. And he reaped what he sowed. And Oklahomans that elect a person that places Party over constituents reap what we sow too.