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Tom Cole

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Tom Cole
Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded byJim McGovern
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2003
Preceded byJ. C. Watts
26th Secretary of State of Oklahoma
In office
January 9, 1995 – March 16, 1999
GovernorFrank Keating
Preceded byGlo Henley
Succeeded byMike Hunter
Member of the Oklahoma Senate
from the 45th district
In office
November 1988 – July 1991
Preceded byHelen Cole
Succeeded byHelen Cole
Personal details
Thomas Jeffery Cole

(1949-04-28) April 28, 1949 (age 73)
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
NationalityUnited States
Chickasaw Nation
Political partyRepublican
Ellen Decker
(m. 1971)
RelationsHelen Cole (mother)
EducationGrinnell College (BA)
Yale University (MA)
University of Oklahoma (PhD)
WebsiteHouse website

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[1] 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.[2][3]

Early life, education, and academic career[edit]

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.[3][4] 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.[citation needed]

Early political career[edit]

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.[5][6] 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[edit]

Cole shaking hands with President Donald Trump in February 2020


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.[7] During his tenure, Cole has been a leading voice for strengthening protections for Native American women under the Violence Against Women Act.[3]

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.[8]

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).[9] The bill would appropriate $3.3 billion to the legislative branch for FY 2015, about the same amount it received in FY 2014.[10] 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."[11]

In 2013, Cole introduced the Home School Equity Act for Tax Relief. The bill would allow some homeschool parents to take tax credits for purchasing classroom materials.[12]

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."[13]

The Lugar Center ranked Cole the 91st most bipartisan member of the House during the 114th United States Congress.[14]

2016 House Speakership election[edit]

In the contest for House Speaker that followed the resignation of John Boehner Cole supported the claims of Paul Ryan:

"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."[15]

Political positions[edit]

Cole supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to impose a temporary ban on entry to the U.S. to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.[16]

In January 2021, Cole voted against the certification of the Electoral College results in the 2020 presidential election.[17] He subsequently voluntarily gave up an honorary degree from Grinnell College.[18] In May 2021, Cole voted against the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection.[19]

In 2021, Cole joined a majority of Republican representatives in signing onto an amicus brief to overturn Roe v. Wade.[20] 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."[21]


In June 2021, Cole was one of 49 House Republicans to vote to repeal the AUMF against Iraq.[22][23]

Big Tech[edit]

In 2022, Cole was one of 39 Republicans to vote for the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2022, an antitrust package that would crack down on corporations for anti-competitive behavior.[24][25]

Committee memberships[edit]

Caucus Membership[edit]

Electoral history[edit]

Oklahoma's 4th congressional district: Results 2002–2020[27]
Year Republican Votes Pct Democrat Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
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.

Personal life[edit]

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."[28] Cole has said that a great-aunt of his was the Native American storyteller Te Ata.[28] Describing his heritage, he said his "mother Helen Cole[29] was...extraordinarily proud of [their] Native American history and was, frankly, the first Native American woman ever elected to state senate in Oklahoma."[28]

Cole sits on the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents and the National Fulbright Association.[30] 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.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New Mexico becomes first state to elect all women of color to the House of Representatives
  2. ^ Press Pool. "Cole becomes longest serving Native American in the House, proud of his record as a champion for Indian Country".
  3. ^ a b c "Cole becomes longest-serving Native American in history". The Oklahoman. April 23, 2022.
  4. ^ "cole". Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  5. ^ Official Lands GOP Post Keating to Name New Secretary of State
  6. ^ RNC picks new chief of staff
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ Casteel, Chris (June 21, 2013). "Oklahoma Reps. Tom Cole, Jim Bridenstine Disagree on Farm Bill". NewsOK. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  9. ^ "H.R. 4487 – All Actions". United States Congress. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  10. ^ Marcos, Cristina (25 April 2014). "Next week:Appropriations season begins". The Hill. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  11. ^ Hess, Hannah (2 April 2014). "Legislative Branch Bill Keeps House Spending in Check". Roll Call. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  12. ^ Jim East, "Legislation would give home school families access to education tax deduction" Archived 2013-08-28 at, The Ripon Advance, August 28, 2013. (Retrieved August 28, 2013)
  13. ^ Wong, Scott. "Five things lawmakers want attached to the $1 trillion funding bill". The Hill. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  14. ^ The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index (PDF), The Lugar Center, March 7, 2016, retrieved April 30, 2017
  15. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (12 October 2015). "Latest Unease on Right – Is Ryan Too Far to the Left?". New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "'I'm just furious': Relations in Congress crack after attack". POLITICO. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  18. ^ Choi, Joseph (13 January 2021). "GOP lawmaker gives up honorary college degree in wake of Electoral College vote". TheHill. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  19. ^ Gorman, Reese (19 May 2021). "Cole votes against bipartisan Jan. 6 Commission". The Norman Transcript. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  20. ^[bare URL PDF]
  21. ^ Cole, Tom (11 July 2022). "A Monumental Decision". Congressman Tom Cole's Weekly Column. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  22. ^ "House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq War authorization". NBC News.
  23. ^[bare URL]
  24. ^ "House passes antitrust bill that hikes M&A fees as larger efforts targeting tech have stalled". CNBC.
  25. ^ "H.R. 3843: Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2022 -- House Vote #460 -- Sep 29, 2022".
  26. ^ "Member List". Republican Study Committee. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  27. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  28. ^ a b c Native American Heritage Month Keynote Address (Speech). Library of Congress. 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  29. ^ Helen Cole Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "Tom Cole Full Biography". Tom Cole U.S. Congressman. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  31. ^ "sliver of a full moon". sliver of a full moon. Retrieved 2016-12-12.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Secretary of State of Oklahoma
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 4th congressional district

Preceded by Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee
Party political offices
Preceded by Chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by