SHAWNEE, Okla. — Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation spoke Saturday at a Q&A session at the Oklahoma Press Association Convention at the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort.
Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, Rep. Frank Lucas, Rep. Tom Cole and Rep. Kevin Hern were all present at the session, along with Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn. The delegation discussed the statewide flooding over the past few weeks and fielded questions on a variety of other issues.
In the opening remarks, Hern, R-Tulsa, gave an update on some of the extreme flooding that took place in Tulsa and acknowledged how members of the community rallied together in the aftermath.
“When these tragedies happen, everybody unites to tell us a story, which is really at the heart of journalism,” Hern said.
Related to the record flooding in Oklahoma and other states in the central U.S., the delegation addressed their stances on climate change. Lucas, R-Cheyenne, explained that the recent weather is why he has put energy into the country’s upstream flood-control dam program throughout his career, and that as ranking member in the Science Committee he also focuses on enhancing the gathering of data to predict these weather events.
“Whatever the weather patterns are, you have to address flooding issues,” Lucas said. “We’ve always had those challenges, we always will, on the east side of the Rockies and southern Plains.”
Hern sits on the natural resources committee, where climate change comes up a lot, he said. Hern said he heard on a panel that if the U.S. stopped producing CO2 emissions today, that they would only have less than 20% of an impact on the rest of the world as compared to China or India’s impact.
“We have no control over these other nations,” Hern said. “All we’re going to do is make it so ineffective for us to do business in America and so cost-prohibitive.”
The delegation also addressed the recent $19.1 billion disaster-relief bill that President Trump signed into law earlier this week. Cole said the bill would affect Oklahomans in two ways: it will refill the FEMA disaster relief fund, which provides money to the areas affected by the recent flooding, and reaffirm the commitment that the government will help citizens in a natural disaster.
However, Cole said the fact that the aid to migrants being held at the southern border was not attached to the bill was an “embarrassment to Congress.”
“We’re going to have to do this,” said Cole, R-Moore. “We can debate border security, I think those are legitimate debates to have, that’s not what most of this money is. What most of it is, is taking care of kids that are here.”
The delegation was also asked about their position on tariffs, in general, and specifically related to the crisis at the border.
“The president, who is unorthodox by traditional definitions in style, who operates differently than I or I believe most of my constituents could, he’s the right guy for this battle,” Lucas said. “What’s the biggest disadvantage we’ve had for 30 years? Every outside power… could guess what we were gonna do… nobody knows what Donald Trump’s going to do, not even the Lord.”
Horn, D-Oklahoma City, said she agrees with many of the challenges the other congressmen had about trade with China. However, she is concerned with building relationships with other countries — and that there is a place for tariffs — but the country needs to “come to the table as well.”
“I believed tariffs should be used as more of a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer,” Horn said. “In the upcoming trade agreement, we have to look at all the implications. We have to be able to deal with our biggest trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and to ensure that we are continuing to build those relationships.”
Inhofe brought up Oklahoma’s military bases, and said he has a policy where he tries to visit each of the five major military bases at least once a month. He also mentioned the upcoming replacement of the T-38 trainer by the T-X.
“Frankly, I disagreed with that. I think the T-38 is still good, offers the same training,” Inhofe said.
The delegation also addressed the concern of the president’s Postal Service Task Force reforms, which would partially privatize the service which many rural Oklahomans rely on. Cole said although he does not sit on the committee that would have jurisdiction over those reforms, he does not predict a change in the service between now and the next election.
“While I know the postal service has great challenges, it’s really, really important ... to my little community, my constituents are scattered all over rural Oklahoma,” Lucas said. “Anything that the administration or anybody else comes with has to reflect an enhancement of service, not a degrading of service.”
The delegation said they were optimistic about the country’s future, and all agreed that bipartisan compromise is the way Congress needs to work together.
“This is the last great bastion of democracy, this is the most amazing place in the world,” Lucas said. “We have to continue to work together and press forward.”