Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, a fiery liberal Democrat with a clear passion for medical issues, is hoping that her new partner on the House Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations subcommittee will get the once influential panel back on track. Tom Cole, R-Okla., will take the Labor-HHS gavel in the 114th session.
This subcommittee oversees the spending and operations of some of the most highly regarded federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, the Labor-HHS panel has not advanced an annual spending bill as far as a full committee markup, let alone the House floor, since Republicans took control of the chamber in 2011. During that time, DeLauro has served as ranking Democrat to two GOP subcommittee chairmen, Denny Rehberg of Montana and Jack Kingston of Georgia. Both ended their House careers to make failed Senate bids, Rehberg’s in 2012 and Kingston’s in 2014.
“I hope that 2015 will be the year we finally manage to debate a Labor-HHS appropriations bill,” DeLauro told CQ Roll Call.
DeLauro also said that she is looking forward to working with Cole, with whom she has collaborated in the past on legislation regarding the needs of children in foster care who have behavioral needs and disabilities.
While Rehberg and Kingston had to commit time to their Senate races, Cole appears to have no immediate ambition beyond the House. His choice to lead the Labor-HHS panel could auger well for the neglected panel. Cole is a member of the House GOP whip team and an ally of Speaker John A. Boehner. Cole has said that he is looking forward to the chance to “craft legislation,” despite the challenges of “complex and at times even controversial” matters covered by the Labor-HHS bill.
Cole’s soon-to-be counterpart on the House Energy and Commerce Committee also indicated that he expects the Labor-HHS panel to be busy in the 114th session. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is planning to introduce broad legislation affecting the regulation of medical products in the next session. Joe Pitts, the Pennsylvania Republican who leads Energy and Commerce’s health panel, has congratulated Cole on his selection to lead the “critical” Labor-HHS panel.
“I am looking forward to working with him closely on health issues in the coming Congress,” Pitts said. “There’s a lot of work that will require close cooperation between the authorizing and appropriating committees.”