Early start: Josh Brecheen doesn’t begin his new job as 2nd District congressman until Jan. 3, but he’s already trying to influence what’s left of the current session.
Brecheen and 14 other in-coming members signed a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking him to hold up the omnibus budget bill until next year, when a narrow Republican House majority takes over in the 118th Congress.
How much attention the top Republican in the United States Senate will pay to a bunch of not-quite freshmen House members is a good question. Some Republican already-members are lobbying for such a delay, though, with the hope of whittling down the $1.7 trillion in spending already approved by the current slim Democratic House majority and agreed to by Senate negotiators.
Company’s comin’: U.S. Sen. James Lankford kept up his drumbeat against the Biden Department of Homeland Security, declaring it completely unprepared for the onslaught of illegal immigration expected when so-called Title 42 restrictions are lifted this week.
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“When the news broke that Title 42 was going to end, DHS admitted that they had no plan to stop the surge,” Lankford said after a meeting with DHS officials. “Now, in the 11th hour, as illegal border crossers line the border, the administration is scrambling to close gaps in the border wall and figure out a plan to process illegal crossers faster into the country.
“But, there is no plan to secure the border and fix the broken asylum process, which has encouraged the flood of illegal border crossers for the last two years,” he said.
Some experts, though, say Title 42 is partly responsible for the rising number of illegal border crossings.
Ostensibly imposed as a public health measure during COVID-19, Title 42 allows U.S. officials to summarily remove illegal crossers. That, ironically, has led to multiple crossings by the same individuals, observers say.
Nevertheless, increased border pressure is expected, especially from Central and South America. A district court order ending Title 42 measures has been appealed by the Biden administration.
An overwhelmed immigration system, it may be worth noting, is not a problem unique to the United States. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the number of migrants and their share of the world’s population is increasing steadily and will soon reach 300 million.
The U.S. receives about 18% of the world’s migrants but ranks fairly low in its proportion of foreign-born population.
Frenemies: First District Congressman Kevin Hern joined in conservatives’ criticism of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s use of nine-passenger government-operated jets for official business.
“Rules for thee, but not for me — it’s the mantra of the left,” Hern said in a press release. “They want middle- and working-class Americans to feel bad for putting gas in their cars to get to work, but they’ll still fly private. The hypocrisy is infuriating for millions of Americans struggling to heat their homes as a result of Biden’s war on energy.”
Hern declared Buttigieg winner of the congressman’s facetiously named “Friend of Fossil Fuel” award.
Fox News and the New York Post reported that Buttigieg has used the government planes at least 18 times, including for a trip on which he stopped in Tulsa earlier this year. They noted that Trump administration officials Tom Price and Elaine Chao were loudly criticized for similar travel arrangements.
Chao also used government planes on at least seven occasions, but Price flew on private charters. According to government officials in 2017, use of government planes by administration officials has been common for many years.
Conservatives, though, say Buttigieg’s use of the small jets is worse — or at least more hypocritical — because such aircraft produce more greenhouse gases per passenger than commercial flights.
NDAA: The annual defense authorization bill typically has less direct impact on the Tulsa area than other areas of the state, but it usually includes some important provisions for the region, and this year’s is no different.
Among them is guaranteed funding for the new downtown Tulsa Veterans Affairs hospital; changes to Tricare allowing easier access to in-network pharmacies; and efforts to provide more partnership and research opportunities for the state’s major universities, especially in the areas of unmanned aircraft and cybersecurity.
Also part of the defense bill this year are the water resources development authorizations that are usually in a standalone measure. This includes the rebuilding of the Tulsa levee system; Tulsa Ports expansion; and McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System maintenance.
Dots and Dashes: Lankford was among Republicans demanding the Pentagon reverse its policy of paying for service members’ and dependents’ travel for out-of-state abortions. … U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe was the only member of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation to vote for the one-week continuing resolution that kept the federal government fully funded through this week. … Lankford was among eight Republican senators asking the FBI to end its investigation into the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh at the hands of Israeli Defense Forces. … Hern tweeted that “Biden’s now aiding both sides of the war” after the Biden administration traded Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for American basketball player Brittney Griner. … Lankford advocated for energy-permitting reform but later voted against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s reform proposal. … Tulsan Andrew Hartzler was among those present at the White House for the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act. … Lankford belonged to a bipartisan group asking the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reconsider a long-standing limit on brain scans of Medicare patients for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. … The Hill reported that 2nd District Congressman and soon-to-be Sen. Markwayne Mullin was a sponsor of the legislation to schedule a binding referendum that could lead to statehood or independence for Puerto Rico but then voted against it without explanation. … Lankford wants to know why the State Department did not include India, Nigeria and Afghanistan on its list of “countries of particular concern” regarding religious freedom.
— Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World