Watch CBS News

Transcript: House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Tom Cole on "Face the Nation," April 21, 2024

Cole: "Reservoir of goodwill is enormous" for Johnson
Rep. Tom Cole says "the reservoir of goodwill is enormous" for Speaker amid ouster effort 06:34

The following is a transcript of an interview with House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, that aired on April 21, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Oklahoma Republican Congressman Tom Cole. Good morning.  

REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you were the lead sponsor on Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan bills. And I know this was a big decision for the speaker to hold the vote at all. The Polish Prime Minister tweeted, "Speaker Johnson, thank you. Better late than too late. And I hope it is not too late for Ukraine." How do you measure the cost of inaction over the past six months? 

REP. COLE: Well, first of all, the Senate only passed the bill 65 days ago. And it's not like the Speaker didn't have other things to do. He had to get all the appropriations done.


MARGARET BRENNAN: It was an emergency - they were running out of ammunition.


REP. COLE:  Well, again, this administration waited a while, the Senate took a while, and we had other business underway, but it got done and  got done in a bipartisan way. He showed incredible leadership. And frankly, he gave us a rule that is the structure in which we considered all these different matters where every single member got to vote the way they wanted to on every single issue. That wasn't the case in the Senate. I think actually, when they follow the example we have, you'll see more support for Ukraine than we probably saw in the original vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But to be fair, we're not talking about a policy debate -debate that doesn't have a direct impact on the battlefield. I mean, the Supreme Allied Commander testified before Congress on April 10, Ukrainians are being out shot by the Russian side five to one because of this debate. The delay.

REP. COLE: I'm sorry, democracy is kind of a messy business. And the reality is, it's done. So it moved through. It moved through on a very bipartisan basis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: More Republicans voted against it, than voted for it.

REP. COLE: Well, look, it's about an even split. And quite frankly, if you really want to look at the hardcore Republican opposition, go to the motion to recommit or look at the bill to strip funding from Ukraine. It's about two to one, actually three to one on the motion to recommit. This is politics, there is such a thing as a "vote no, hope yes" crowd in every caucus. I can go down that list and tell you the member just said, Okay, you got the votes, you don't need me. So I think there's –


MARGARET BRENNAN: That would be a fun game. I would take a few names off that list. 


REP. COLE: It's politics. Well, I'm not critical of anybody - the reality is we have overwhelming bipartisan support for each part of this package. It was structured in a way that it allowed members to vote, make the points they wanted to make, and frankly, if they need political cover, do it, but it got done. So I'm, I'm pretty proud of the Speaker.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk to you more on the other side of this break. But just you are in there, acknowledging when you say "vote no, hope yes" that there were Republicans who had to vote no. Because of the political pressure, and the fight within your own party.

REP. COLE: No, they felt they had to. People –


MARGARET BRENNAN: Who wanted it to pass? 

REP. COLE: You think nobody makes political calculations in the United States Senate or in the administration? Welcome to American politics. But the point is, look at the numbers. Look at the overwhelming bipartisan numbers. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to do that - 


REP. COLE:  Over and over 

MARGARET BRENNAN:-- on the other side of this break. Stay here. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We want to continue our conversation now with Oklahoma Republican Congressman Tom Cole. Congressman, before the break, we've been talking about this vote the House had yesterday to prove the $95 billion package. There was a decision here for Speaker Johnson, that was an important one, he basically put his job on the line. As we know, there's this movement among House conservatives led by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene to try to oust him from power, in part because this Ukraine aid bill. Do you think this is a real threat to his leadership? 

REP. COLE: Well, I take anything seriously. But no, I don't. Look, I think it's a relatively small number of Republican members, frankly, just as it was in McCarthy's case, there were only eight people. But the point is I don't think there's unified Democratic support, there was unified Democratic support. To remove the speaker. I think both sides have now seen how dangerous this is how irresponsible it is. And quite frankly, I think it's unlikely that Democrats who supported Ukraine, not as many support Israel, as we would have liked, but they did support Ukraine. I think they're unlikely to remove the speaker with that all though, to be fair, they removed McCarthy after he did what he asked them to do, which was keep the government funded. But again, I don't think that's going to happen this case, but if somebody wants to do it, it's within the rules, and they can take their shot.


But what you're saying there is that Democrats, you trust would protect speaker Johnson from being as they wouldn't vote to do it.


REP. COLE: I don't think you'd lose very many Republicans. We didn't lose very many Republicans with McCarthy. So it doesn't take very many Democrats to either not vote or oppose it. And I don't- frankly, I don't think we'd lose the same number of Republicans that we lost with Kevin McCarthy. I think even people that disagree with the Speaker--


MARGARET BRENNAN: You wouldn't get to eight Republicans, they've gotten to three-- 

REP. COLE: I don't think so--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Marjorie Taylor Greene--


REP. COLE: --look, I- I think a lot of people that like the speaker, that respect the speaker, even when they disagree with him. They know he's honest. He's a straight shooter. They also had a taste of what it's like to go without a Speaker for three weeks. I don't think they want that again, I certainly don't think they want it close to an election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Former Speaker Gingrich said, "The demons that Matt Gaetz unleashed by going after Kevin McCarthy are still out there. You can't govern by shooting yourself in the head every day." How does Speaker Johnson get anything done?

REP. COLE: Well, first of all, he just got a lot done. He's gotten every appropriations bill passed. He's gotten FISA through, he just got this consequential--


MARGARET BRENNAN: But he has to rely on Democratic votes, which he's being faulted for by members of his party.

REP. COLE: --so he's actually been, you know- it's- well, that's fine. I mean, honestly- no.


REP. COLE: Every appropriations bill is bipartisan at the end of the day, they just work that way. So most of these- and something like FISA ought to be bipartisan. I actually think he's, you know, empowered the center and marginalized the extremes on- on each side. Now, is there some risk with that? Sure. But the point is, he's gotten a lot done. I think people admire him. They genuinely like him. They all respect him. Every single Republican voted for him. I don't think that any other person could have done that at the time other than Mike Johnson. So the reservoir of goodwill is enormous. I- I think he's much stronger than the people seem to think. And I think he's demonstrated that by what he's passed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If- first of all, do you think Republicans after November will have the majority, and if so, he could be reelected? 

REP. COLE: I do, because I think we're likely to win the presidency. I think this is pretty simple. I used to do politics for a living, I guess I still do. But the reality is, the person that wins the presidency, you're probably going to take the House. It's close enough that that probably makes a difference. I think we'll win. So I think we will have the House. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, good to have you here--

REP. COLE: Great privilege. Thank you. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- In person, We'll be right back.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.