No more: Oklahomans, and especially Tulsans, may not see press releases like the ones U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe put out during his final days in Congress.
Inhofe, whose resignation from Congress is effective Jan. 3, took great pride in the money he brought back to Oklahoma, particularly as it applied to transportation and the military. His last press releases highlight material benefits to the state, such as improvements to the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System and Tulsa International Airport, research money for the state’s universities and water infrastructure for more than a dozen towns and cities.
Current Sen. James Lankford, who becomes Oklahoma senior senator next month, opposes earmarks. His end-of-the-year list of “wins” features such things as “Fighting for Oklahoma’s all-of-the-above energy strategy” and “Exposing the chaos at the southern border,” all of which may be worthy but don’t fix roads or bridges or maintain the military bases upon which so many of the state’s jobs depend.
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Lankford voted for Inhofe’s defense authorization bill, but against the omnibus appropriations bill to pay for it.
The position of Inhofe’s replacement, 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin, is not clear.
As recently as 2021, Mullin seemed to be all right with earmarks, at least in theory, but he has not asked for any in at least the last two budget years.
First District Congressman Kevin Hern, who has set himself as a budget hardliner, seemed to put himself in the “no” category during an interview with a podcast for The Daily Signal, an arm of the anti-tax Heritage Foundation.
“There are all these pet projects, all the earmarks that are in (large appropriations bills), whether it’s with our senator friends, Republican senator friends, or Republican House friends who are wanting to spend money to take back to their districts,” Hern said.
“That’s what they do when they put these bills together, is to try to entice people to vote for them by giving them special deals, earmarks, pork projects to take back to their home. Some are putting their names on buildings, projects, others are millions and millions of dollars to go to different arts centers in their districts and things like that,” he said.
Hern said there’s been “total disgust” with Senate Republicans who’ve gone along with spending bills the House GOP don’t like.
The Heritage Foundation and The Daily Signal tried to whip up enough Republican opposition to the appropriations bill to force a delay until next month, when the GOP will hold a narrow majority in the House and could possibly cause a stalemate with the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Satan bug: Mullin, who becomes a U.S. senator on Jan. 3, suggested during an interview earlier this month that the COVID-19 virus may have been intentionally developed by the Chinese government as a biological weapon against specific races.
“Say they were to release (COVID-19) on purpose,” Mullin told Newsmax, “just to see the reaction of the rest of the world and what would happen to it. And, also understand the Asian communities have been hit a lot less than the other populations. There’s a concern about that, too. Was this designed for a specific race or certain races would be more susceptible?”
Several analyses indicate Asian-Americans have had lower COVID mortality and hospitalization rates than the population as a whole, but scientists say there is no clear explanation and point to data showing Asian-Americans were also more likely to be vaccinated and observe prevention protocols than other ethnic groups.
Mullin, a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, offered the scenario as a hypothetical while saying intelligence agencies have not been as forthcoming with information as Republicans would like.
“It’s political,” he said.
A July report in the journal Science concluded COVID-19 almost certainly originated in a Wuhan, China, market where live animals were sold, and was probably not developed in that city’s virology laboratory.
Asian-Americans became the target of frequent attacks in 2020 and 2021 after then-President Donald Trump and others attached Asian ethnic names to the pandemic.
Dots and dashes: Lankford made one final, unsuccessful attempt to get Congress to legislatively continue public health emergency rules that make removing immigrants from the U.S. easier. … The House quietly passed Mullin’s bill reauthorizing state Offices of Rural Health. … Now that Congress has ordered the military to stop requiring COVID-19 vaccinations, Lankford has joined a group that wants those who resigned rather than get the injections to be reinstated with back pay. … Former Inhofe chief of staff and U.S. Senate candidate Luke Holland joined the lobbying firm founded by former Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Don Nickles. … Mullin disparaged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for taking paternity leave and a family vacation this month, saying he and his wife didn’t take any time off when their six children were born or adopted. … Hern’s family trust reinvested earnings of up to $15,000 each from ONEOK and Magellan Midstream into stock in those Tulsa-based companies, according to federal ethics filings. … Courtney Trigg of 3rd District Congressman Frank Lucas’ office and Alli Smith of 5th District Congresswoman Stephanie Bice’s office were named two of Congress’ top 30 schedulers and executive assistants.
— Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World
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