News flash: It should come as no surprise that Oklahoma’s all-Republican congressional delegation is working furiously against the massive climate and deficit reduction bill announced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
Mostly, they’re upset about proposed changes in tax laws for businesses and high-income individuals and substantial boosts for renewable energy.
U.S. Sen. James Lankford, appearing at a Republican press conference, said, “It doesn’t lower inflation, it doesn’t lower the deficit, it does punish manufacturing — unless, by the way, you’re doing green energy. If you’re doing green energy, you’re protected.”
Lankford accused Democrats of taking “money from 76-year-olds and (giving) it to 26-year-olds,” a reference to a portion of the bill that moves savings realized from negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare to Affordable Care Act subsidies.
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He also complained about what Democrats call “closing loopholes” and Republicans call “higher taxes” for profitable businesses and high-income individuals.
Lankford said he’s been told by industry experts that the bill’s provisions would raise natural gas prices 17%.
First District Congressman Kevin Hern was on Fox Business with dire warnings, and 4th District Congressman Tom Cole said President Joe Biden “continues to deny our nation has reached the point of an economic recession” and called the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act “deceptively named.”
“It is abundantly clear that President Biden and Democrats have no plan or even willingness to address our country’s economic crisis,” Cole said.
Hern said even if the deficit reduction measures actually work, Democrats will just spend the money on something else.
The Congressional Budget Office and several independent analysis have said the bill should, in fact, lower the deficit by around $100 billion over 10 years, and perhaps as much as $300 billion.
The latter figure, however, depends on beefing up tax enforcement, which is another thing the Republicans don’t like about the bill.
Republicans have come up with their own figures, which they say show the bill will feed inflation, cost jobs, raise taxes on everyone and likely not reduce the deficit.
Still other analysts say that while most Americans would see a tax increase of 1% or less, that would be offset by lower prescription drug costs and other benefits.
An analysis by the independent Third Way says Oklahoma would be among the biggest beneficiaries of the bill’s prescription drug provisions. Third Way says a household earning $68,000 a year with employer-based insurance would save about $3,400 a year.
Land run: Third District Congressman Frank Lucas and two other Republican House members asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for more information on foreign land ownership, and particularly agricultural land owned by Chinese interests.
“We are alarmed by the pace at which Chinese companies have been purchasing U.S. agricultural land in recent years,” they wrote in a letter to Vilsack. “Given this trend, we want to ensure the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the reporting tools necessary to provide Americans with the fullest possible picture of all foreign purchases of United States land.”
The USDA is supposed to track foreign land ownership, but the task is a difficult one, according to news reports. The department depends in large measure on state and local reporting of such transactions, but in many cases county clerks and other officials are unaware of an acquiring entity’s true national origin.
According to the USDA, Canadians own by far more U.S. ag land than any other nationality. Chinese ownership is believed to be small but growing.
Cash stream: U.S. Senate candidate and 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin continued his quest to make big bandwidth users such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video pay into what is known as the Universal Service Fund.
The Universal Service Fund subsidizes to low-income and high-delivery cost areas, descriptions that fit much of CD 2.
In 2016, USF programs were expanded to include broadband access. According to Mullin, CD 2 has the least access to reliable broadband of any congressional district in the country.
Streaming services, known as edge providers, are problematic for rural broadband providers because they require a lot of bandwidth but do not pay into the USF.
“Streamers like Netflix account for 75 percent of all traffic on rural broadband networks,” Mullin said in a press release. “While these big streamers earn significant revenue from rural subscribers and put a substantial strain on their networks, they do not pay to cover the cost of their delivery services. This is like sending a letter through the mail without a stamp.”
NATO noodling: Inhofe and Lankford voted for NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, and Inhofe recommended stepped-up coordination with the two ahead of formal approval by the organization as a whole.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded the world that there are still leaders of nations that want to murder their neighbors and steal their land,” said Lankford. “As we face growing challenges in Asia, we cannot spend our time looking over our shoulder at Europe. Adding strong allies in Europe allows our nation to turn our attention to other threats and remain the world leader.”
“Finland spends 2% of its GDP on defense, fields one of Europe’s largest armies, and recently signed a deal to buy 64 F-35 fighter aircraft, which will increase interoperability with the U.S. and numerous other nations flying that aircraft,” said Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the U.S. Armed Services Committee.
“Sweden has plans to reach the 2% benchmark, and this year approved a 40% increase in its defense budget to achieve that mark, while also making key investments that support NATO’s ability to deter Russia, including the U.S.-built Patriot air defense system.”
By comparison, the U.S. spends about 3.3% of its GDP on defense.
Dots and dashes: Inhofe sounded unimpressed by the Biden administration’s elimination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, saying, “The fact that he was killed in Afghanistan … however, reflects the total failure of the Biden administration’s policy towards that country.” … Hern signaled his reservations about a global minimum tax, intended to capture taxes on business profits held in tax havens, but said he wants a 5% charge on money wired out of the country by individuals, and in particular non-citizens. … Inhofe’s and Lankford’s votes helped pass a resolution to block a rule that Lankford said allows regulators to drag out permitting for energy and mineral extraction projects.
— Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World