Tom Cole: 'We should have been better prepared'

Indian Country Today

It's a 'sad thing that 230 odd years of American history teaches you that we've (Congress) never lived up to our trust obligations'

Congressman Tom Cole, Chickasaw, a Republican from Oklahoma, warned nearly three years ago that this administration would be more likely to have to deal with a pandemic than a terrorist attack. He urged the administration to continue funding for infectious disease programs. 

Now that the novel coronavirus has become a global pandemic, he's voting for federal relief to help Americans get through this health crisis. Here are a few of his comments:

“My biggest frustration is, we should have been better prepared than we are now.”

“In the last five years, and this has been due to bipartisan work in Congress, we've increased the spending at the National Institute of Health by 39 percent, the strategic stockpile by 34, the Center for Disease Control by 24 percent in five years.”

“We also set up the infectious disease rapid response fund, which enabled us to start deploying money immediately as opposed to waiting for Congress to act. All those were good things. But even with that, you know, this pandemic managed to grind to a halt the largest economy in the world in a period of about 12 weeks. We're still suffering from that. So it just reinforces that we needed to do more in retrospect than we did.”

“We did quite a bit but it just frankly wasn't enough.”

“We need to reinvest in the public health care system in the United States; it's simply not robust enough to deal with something like this.”

“We know we're likely to have a second wave of a COVID-19. And you just never know what the biosphere is going to throw at you, so to speak. You just know something's coming.”

“Well, I always tell people, would you rather fight Ebola in West Africa or West Dallas? We’ve seen from Coronavirus how rapidly disease can move across the globe”

“I believe in the biblical injunction ‘to those who much is given, much as expected.’ We've been given much as a country, we need to play our role globally in dealing with pandemics.”

“100,000 deaths are hard to call a conspiracy.”

“Compare that, we’ve been in wars overseas, wars on terror since 9/11. We've lost 7,000 Americans in those situations. Those are terrible numbers. That's 7,000, though. In about 20 years.”

“We’ve lost 100,000 people in less than three months inside the United States”

“So this is no conspiracy. This a dangerous virus, more infectious than anything we've probably seen in a 100 years since the great influenza in 1918 to 1920.”

“These things can evolve very rapidly. And how anybody could call it a conspiracy, I think you almost have to be deliberately misinformed.”

“That’s actually the largest transfer of wealth from the federal government to tribal governments in American history.”

“It doesn't mean it's enough where it makes up for what's happened in the past, it certainly doesn't, but we were very successful in a bipartisan way and bicameral way.”

“We did a better job this time. It's a sad thing that 230 odd years of American history teaches you that we've never lived up to our trust obligations.”

“That's a fight you have to fight every day.”

“A lot of people work very hard to make that happen. A lot of people deserve credit, native and nonnative alike. But, we ought to recognize we did well this time.”

“We've never had this amount of money made available to Indian country at one time in the past. So that's gotta create some conflict. I think we'll work through it. I think it will go smoother the next time.”

“The paycheck protection program, which by the way, was a fight to make sure that the tribe with small casinos, people under 500 employees could also apply for that. That took us several weeks to get done, but we finally won the fight.”

“I certainly support the president and I will campaign for him, but I don't think it's an accident we got this $8 billion.”

“This was a bipartisan effort. I think Indian issues are always bipartisan. They don't fall along Republican, Democrat or Liberal Conservative minds. They're really about, do you believe in the trust responsibility and do you respect tribal sovereignty?”

“I just finished a book by a guy named Richard… He died recently. He was the number one student of Congress. And I just started a book by Jonathan Karl called the ‘Front Row at the Trump Show.’ He's a ABC reporter down there, a pretty smart guy and one that I think has good insight into politics.”

Also in the newscast, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye gives the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.

The anchor of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.

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