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Cole calls for all hands on deck – just to hold on

WASHINGTON – Heading into a crucial few days on Capitol Hill that could define the financial prospects of a generation, Rep. Tom Cole called on Indian country to “batten down the hatches ... and hold on to what we have.” The Oklahoma Republican, a Chickasaw citizen, said that almost anything Congress does to address the current crisis in accessible credit will damage the budget for domestic discretionary spending in the next presidential administration.

“Unfortunately for tribes, we’re discretionary expenditures for the most part. ... We’re going to have to fight ferociously to defend those going forward. ... So I say, batten down the hatches and get ready to defend what we have.”

The budget numbers permit no other interpretation, according to a veteran lobbyist on Indian affairs:a $500 billion deficit in the current fiscal year, an ongoing war, hurricane and flood damage from the Gulf Coast up through the Midwest, and a financial crisis that appears likely to cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars – $700 billion is the target sum, and $1 trillion has been discussed by various lawmakers as a more credible figure.
The so-called budget bailout of $700 billion failed in the House of Representatives Sept. 29, but further efforts to pass it were scheduled for Oct. 2 and 3. According to Cole and many other observers, a failed bill would leave an economy so weakened that domestic discretionary spending would be no better off than under terms of the bailout.