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Most Oklahoma lawmakers support massive tax, spending package

WASHINGTON _ Six of the seven Oklahomans in Congress supported $680 billion in tax breaks and $1.1 trillion in spending as lawmakers wrapped up their budget work this week. The House cleared the spending bill overwhelmingly on Friday; the Senate approved the entire package and sent it on to President Barack Obama.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, opposed the spending bill.

Comments from the Oklahoman lawmakers make clear that none of them loved the entire package. But the good outweighed the bad.

Here are their post-vote observations:

Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City: “The omnibus and tax reform combined bill is a stark visual of the broken Senate process. Legislation in a democracy is often a boisterous compromise, but this bill was a complete backroom negotiation. It is full of great policy provisions mixed with half-baked ideas and muddy process. While I voted for the important policies in the bill, I do not support the broken process, or many other aspects that led to the final product.

“This tax reform and omnibus bill includes numerous priorities for Oklahomans and all Americans, such as long-term reforms for the small business tax code, it defunds the Obamacare Independent Payment Advisory Board, and it finally lifts the absurd ban on oil exports.

“This bill also includes victories such as increased support to eliminate the VA disability backlog, a repeal of the ‘country of origin’ labeling for beef and pork products, and increased funding for medical research for diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. The bill includes several program integrity measures for the Social Security Disability Insurance program that I have advocated for several years.

“Just as important to many Oklahomans, this bill prohibits the President from giving away the management of the internet to a foreign body, and he is prohibited from moving terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States. Because of this bill, our military receives a surge in funding for re-supply, training and a pay increase. The bill also includes language to strengthen cyber security from international cyber attackers and slows the flow of drugs into the United States. Thankfully, this bill finally begins to phase out the wind production tax credit, after receiving 23 years of subsidy.

“While many solid policy provisions are included that I have fought for, a multitude of positive issues were obstructed by the President and the horrific process of the closed-door negotiations.

“The President blocked many spending cuts on our out-of-control debt, essential reforms to the EPA, safeguards for middle-class Americans saving for retirement, and a myriad of other regulatory changes that are desperately needed. While there were minor changes to the Visa Waiver Program, real reform of the refugee process was also stopped by the White House at a time when the world has a refugee crisis. While there was a small step to increase budget honesty, Congress still has a long way to go to eliminate the budget gimmicks that distort the final cost to the taxpayer. My office will continue to expose the use of budget tricks in Congress.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa: “It is about time Congress acted to lift the ban on oil exports. Over the past forty years, Oklahoma’s oil producers have been at a disadvantage because they haven’t been able to trade oil like the rest of the world. This has contributed to the thousands of job losses Oklahoma has recently endured, and today’s passage of a bill to lift the ban will help stem that tide while decreasing the price of gasoline at the pump. Today’s bill also provides essential tax relief to families and businesses and provides our troops with the resources they need.

“It is unfortunate Democrats blocked the Senate’s consideration of regular appropriations bills throughout the year and forced us into an end-of-the-year, take-it-or-leave-it deal without any deliberative process. It is my hope that the Senate will return to regular order next year, pass each appropriations bill independently and stop the practice of year end omnibus bills.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore: “Divided government requires compromise, and this bill reflects that reality. Neither side got everything it wanted, but the end product reflects as much common ground as possible and allows lawmakers to restore regular order in the legislative process when we return in January.”

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Choctaw: “For perhaps the first time since 2009, we finally have been able to push back on the president’s harmful policies on national security and our economy. While the spending measure had several things lacking, it had many major wins. Namely, lifting the 40-year ban on oil exports will be a boon for the American economy.

“In Oklahoma alone, we can expect 11,000 new jobs in the energy sector by 2018. This strengthens our economy and reduces our trade deficit.

“Fixing the Visa Waiver Program will go a long way to secure our country against terrorists coming to our shores. On top of that, this bill offers the highest level of funding to secure our borders in the history of the country and adds 1,000 new agents.

“We have given our military certainty by fully funding our troops overseas as well as extending their benefits at home for them and their families. Small businesses will now have certainty on credits for new equipment. We have also severely reigned in overreaching agencies such as the EPA. Lifting these burdens will lead to economic growth for the country.

“While no comprehensive all-in-one bill will be perfect, the FY 2016 Omnibus has major wins that set the conditions to fight back even more next year.”

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa: "I cannot support a bill which funds Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, illegal executive amnesty, onerous EPA and Department of Labor regulations, and the Syrian refugee resettlement program, among other inappropriate government programs. The Omnibus also increases funding for the IRS and quadruples the number of low-wage ‘guest worker’ visas.”

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne: “This spending agreement fully funds our national priorities and contains policies that will help get our economy on track, many of which are aimed at supporting the success of rural America.

“The repeal of the outdated crude oil export ban is a major victory for America’s energy future. Oil and gas businesses, which have been forced to scale back recently, are a major driver of our regional economy. Abolishing this export ban helps to alleviate the economic squeeze that has impacted producers, job growth and our state budget here at home.

“This agreement also keeps the EPA in check by setting the agency’s funding to its lowest levels since 1989 and blocks any efforts to hit livestock producers with new climate change-related fees. Our country will also avoid over a billion dollars of punitive tariffs to our livestock industry through the repeal of COOL.”

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›