|Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee|
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Jim McGovern|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Oklahoma's 4th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2003
|Preceded by||J. C. Watts|
|26th Secretary of State of Oklahoma|
January 9, 1995 – March 16, 1999
|Preceded by||Glo Henley|
|Succeeded by||Mike Hunter|
|Member of the Oklahoma Senate|
from the 45th district
November 1988 – July 1991
|Preceded by||Helen Cole|
|Succeeded by||Helen Cole|
Thomas Jeffery Cole
April 28, 1949
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
|Relations||Helen Cole (mother)|
|Education||Grinnell College (BA)|
Yale University (MA)
University of Oklahoma (PhD)
Thomas Jeffery Cole (born April 28, 1949) is the U.S. representative for Oklahoma's 4th congressional district, serving since 2003. He is a member of the Republican Party and serves as Deputy Minority Whip. The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) from 2006 to 2008, he was, during his tenure, the fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House.
A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Cole is one of four Native Americans in Congress who are enrolled tribal members. The others are Markwayne Mullin, also of Oklahoma (Cherokee), Yvette Herrell of New Mexico (also Cherokee), and Sharice Davids of Kansas (of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin). In 2022, Cole became the longest-serving Native American in the history of Congress.
Early life, education, and academic career
Cole was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of John D. Cole and Helen Te Ata (née Gale), who was the first Native American elected to the Oklahoma Senate. They returned to Oklahoma, where family on both sides lived. His ancestors had been in the territory for five generations, and he was raised in Moore, halfway between Oklahoma City and Norman.
Cole graduated from Grinnell College in 1971 with a B.A. in history. His postgraduate degrees include an M.A. from Yale University (1974) and a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma (1984), both in British history. Cole's Ph.D. thesis was Life and Labor in the Isle of Dogs: The Origins and Evolution of an East London Working-Class Community, 1800–1980. He did research abroad as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow and was a Fulbright Fellow (1977–78) at the University of London. He served as an assistant professor in history and politics in college before entering politics and winning political office.
Early political career
Following his mother, who served as a state representative and senator, Cole was elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 1988, serving until 1991. He chaired the Oklahoma Republican Party for much of the 1980s. He resigned from the state senate mid-term to accept an appointment as Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. From 1995 to 1999, he served as Oklahoma's Secretary of State, appointed by Governor Frank Keating. He assisted with the recovery efforts after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Building on his involvement in national politics, Cole resigned from Keating's administration when asked to become chief of staff to the Republican National Committee. In 2006 he was elected chair of the RNC.
Cole spent two years working as a paid consultant for the United States Chamber of Commerce, but his primary effort in politics was as a political consultant for candidates. Along with partners Sharon Hargrave Caldwell and Deby Snodgrass, his firm (Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates) played a large part in strengthening the Republican Party in Oklahoma. He backed a number of candidates who were elected to office during the Republican Revolution of 1994, when it gained dominance in the state. Among their clients have been Keating, J.C. Watts, Tom Coburn, Frank Lucas, Mary Fallin, Wes Watkins, Steve Largent, Chip Pickering, and Linda Lingle.
U.S. House of Representatives
During his initial campaign for the House of Representatives in 2002, Cole received the endorsement of Watts, the popular outgoing congressman. This helped him win the general election over Democratic nominee and former Oklahoma State Senator Darryl Roberts, with 53.8% of the vote to Roberts's 46.1%. Cole has won at least 63% of the vote in each of his eight reelection campaigns, and he ran unopposed in 2010.
Following the 2006 election cycle, the members of the House Republican Conference elected Cole to the post of NRCC Chairman, placing him in charge of national efforts to assist Republican candidates for Congress.
Cole established a solidly conservative voting record during his nine years in the House. He has consistently voted anti-abortion and for gun rights. He also has pro-business positions, supporting free trade, the military, veterans, and educating other congressmen on American Indian issues. He favors loosening immigration restrictions and imposing stricter limits on campaign funds. In 2012, he sponsored H.R. 5912, which would prohibit public funds from being used for political party conventions. This legislation passed the House in September but awaits action by the Senate. During his tenure, Cole has been a leading voice for strengthening protections for Native American women under the Violence Against Women Act.
In June 2013, after another failure of the United States farm bill in Congress, Cole called the failure inexcusable. His district in Oklahoma includes some of the state's farming communities, and if the Farm Bill passed, it would have saved $40 billion over a ten-year period.
As chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Cole was responsible for introducing the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 4487; 113th Congress). The bill would appropriate $3.3 billion to the legislative branch for FY 2015, about the same amount it received in FY 2014. According to Cole, the bill meets its goals "in both an effective and efficient manner, and has done so in a genuinely bipartisan, inclusive and deliberative fashion."
Cole expressed his intention in 2018 to push his Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act into the spending bill as an omnibus. The bill would "make clear that the National Labor Relations Board has no jurisdiction over businesses owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on tribal land."
2016 House Speakership election
"Anyone who attacks Paul Ryan as being insufficiently conservative is either woefully misinformed or maliciously destructive...Paul Ryan has played a major role in advancing the conservative cause and creating the Republican House majority. His critics are not true conservatives. They are radical populists who neither understand nor accept the institutions, procedures and traditions that are the basis of constitutional governance."
In January 2021, Cole voted against the certification of the Electoral College results in the 2020 presidential election. He subsequently voluntarily gave up an honorary degree from Grinnell College. In May 2021, Cole voted against the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection.
In 2021, Cole joined a majority of Republican representatives in signing onto an amicus brief to overturn Roe v. Wade. Following the Supreme Court's decision to overrule Roe in June 2022, Cole celebrated the outcome, saying in part "not only is this a monumental win for states’ rights, but also the rights of unborn children."
- Committee on Appropriations (Vice Ranking Member)
- Committee on the Budget
- Committee on Rules (Ranking Member)
|2002||Tom Cole||106,452||53.83%||Darryl Roberts||91,322||46.17%|
|2004||Tom Cole||198,985||77.77%||(no candidate)||Charlene K. Bradshaw||Independent||56,869||22.23%|
|2006||Tom Cole||118,266||64.61%||Hal Spake||64,775||35.39%|
|2008||Tom Cole||180,080||66.02%||Blake Cummings||79,674||29.21%||David E. Joyce||Independent||13,027||4.78%|
|2010*||Tom Cole||32,589||77.26%||(no candidate)||RJ Harris||Republican||9,593||22.74%|
|2012||Tom Cole||176,561||67.89%||Donna Marie Bebo||71,155||27.60%||RJ Harris||Independent||11,725||4.51%|
|2014||Tom Cole||117,721||70.80%||Bert Smith||40,998||24.66%||Dennis B. Johnson||Independent||7,549||4.54%|
|2016||Tom Cole||203,942||69.64%||Christina Owen||76,308||26.08%||Sevier White||Libertarian||12,548||4.28%|
|2018||Tom Cole||149,127||63.07%||Mary Brannon||78,022||33.00%||Ruby Peters||Independent||9,310||3.94%|
|2020||Tom Cole||213,096||67.80%||Mary Brannon||90,459||28.80%||Bob White||Libertarian||10,803||3.40%|
- In 2010, no Democrat or independent candidate filed to run in OK-4. The results printed here are from the Republican primary, where the election was decided.
Cole and his wife, Ellen, have one son, Mason. He is a member of the United Methodist Church and lives in Moore.
Cole has said, "I was raised to think of myself as Native American and, most importantly, as Chickasaw." Cole has said that a great-aunt of his was the Native American storyteller Te Ata. Describing his heritage, he said his "mother Helen Cole was...extraordinarily proud of [their] Native American history and was, frankly, the first Native American woman ever elected to state senate in Oklahoma."
Cole sits on the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents and the National Fulbright Association. Cole is featured in the play Sliver of a Full Moon by Mary Kathryn Nagle for his role in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.
- New Mexico becomes first state to elect all women of color to the House of Representatives
- Press Pool. "Cole becomes longest serving Native American in the House, proud of his record as a champion for Indian Country". indiancountrytoday.com.
- "Cole becomes longest-serving Native American in history". The Oklahoman. April 23, 2022.
- "cole". Freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
- Official Lands GOP Post Keating to Name New Secretary of State
- RNC picks new chief of staff
- "H.R. 5912: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to prohibit the use of public funds for political party conventions". Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- Casteel, Chris (June 21, 2013). "Oklahoma Reps. Tom Cole, Jim Bridenstine Disagree on Farm Bill". NewsOK. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- "H.R. 4487 – All Actions". United States Congress. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- Marcos, Cristina (25 April 2014). "Next week:Appropriations season begins". The Hill. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
- Hess, Hannah (2 April 2014). "Legislative Branch Bill Keeps House Spending in Check". Roll Call. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- Jim East, "Legislation would give home school families access to education tax deduction" Archived 2013-08-28 at archive.today, The Ripon Advance, August 28, 2013. (Retrieved August 28, 2013)
- Wong, Scott. "Five things lawmakers want attached to the $1 trillion funding bill". The Hill. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
- The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index (PDF), The Lugar Center, March 7, 2016, retrieved April 30, 2017
- Steinhauer, Jennifer (12 October 2015). "Latest Unease on Right – Is Ryan Too Far to the Left?". New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
- Blake, Aaron (29 January 2017). "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump's travel ban; here's where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
- "'I'm just furious': Relations in Congress crack after attack". POLITICO. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
- Choi, Joseph (13 January 2021). "GOP lawmaker gives up honorary college degree in wake of Electoral College vote". TheHill. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
- Gorman, Reese (19 May 2021). "Cole votes against bipartisan Jan. 6 Commission". The Norman Transcript. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
- https://www.wicker.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/91b4f962-785b-4a88-b298-908ae76dd297/dobbs-v-jwho-amicus-brief-moc.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- Cole, Tom (11 July 2022). "A Monumental Decision". Congressman Tom Cole's Weekly Column. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
- "House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq War authorization". NBC News.
- https://clerk.house.gov/evs/2021/roll172.xml[bare URL]
- "House passes antitrust bill that hikes M&A fees as larger efforts targeting tech have stalled". CNBC.
- "H.R. 3843: Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2022 -- House Vote #460 -- Sep 29, 2022".
- "Member List". Republican Study Committee. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
- "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- Native American Heritage Month Keynote Address (Speech). Library of Congress. 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- Helen Cole Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine
- "Tom Cole Full Biography". Tom Cole U.S. Congressman. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
- "sliver of a full moon". sliver of a full moon. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
- Congressman Tom Cole official U.S. House website
- Tom Cole for Congress
- Tom Cole at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Biography and Videos – Chickasaw.TV