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Tom Cole: Custodian of America's 'Crown Jewels'

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Cole, the new chairman of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, will be working closely with Miller, the head of the House Administration Committee, to figure out appropriate funding levels for the legislative branch.

“Those were tough things to do, but given the size of our budget deficit, it was extremely important that if Congress was going to ask [for] sacrifices from other people in government, which we certainly did, [Congress] had to show willingness to make those cuts itself,” said Cole, who currently serves as a deputy whip and is a member of the Republican Steering Committee. “They made a lot of really, really tough decisions.”

Whether the GOP has gone as far as it can go in the direction of deficit cutting is “yet to be determined,” Cole said.

“Lord, I hope so,” Wasserman Schultz told CQ Roll Call on Friday. As the panel’s ranking member, she will work closely with Cole to hammer out the details of a fiscal 2014 bill. Both said they look forward to a strong working relationship, despite partisan differences.

Cole emphasized that he will be working closely with House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., to figure out appropriate funding levels.

The legislative branch panel essentially writes the checks for the many functions Miller oversees.

The two go way back, and their political careers have advanced in lockstep. Both served as secretaries of state in their respective home states in 1995, and they were part of the same freshman class in 2003. They are now both part of the GOP’s deputy whip team.

“I just can’t say enough about Tom Cole and how highly I think of him from a professional standpoint,” Miller said, adding that the two are very familiar with each other’s working styles. That bond could help them navigate within the confines of the next continuing resolution, she said.

Miller pinpointed committee budgets when asked about her funding priorities.

“I think there’s a lot of feeling here that these large cuts have hindered the ability, particularly in the committees, for folks to do their oversight work,” she said. “I’m not talking about increases, but we really need to be very sensitive to what’s happened over the last couple of years.”

Once he learns the ropes, Cole could provide much-needed consistency to the constantly changing panel. Not since Wasserman Schultz has the legislative branch appropriations panel had the same chairman for more than two years. Asked if he is here to stay or using the spot as a steppingstone to more prestigious spending panels, Cole said: “When you’re 64, you don’t look too far down the road.”

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