Enid News and Eagle
By: Robert Barron
August 16, 2012
Certainty. U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says that’s what the American people need.
The American people are looking for certainty from Congress, even as they deal with election-year uncertainty. The 3rd Congressional District representative visited the Enid News & Eagle Thursday for an exclusive interview. The interview covered a wide range of topics.
The national electorate is skeptical because of excessive partisanship and gridlock, Lucas said. Voters need to know which way the wind blows, he said.
Currently, Lucas said the U.S. House is conservative, the president is liberal and there is no leadership in the U.S. Senate, so no one is in charge.
“Harry Reid is not Lyndon Johnson or Bob Dole,” he said. “Was I polite enough?”
President Barack Obama is campaigning in the Corn Belt, which includes several swing states crucial to this year’s election. How does Oklahoma’s congressman feel about Obama stumping in the drought-stricken fields?
“I’m proud he found them,” Lucas said.
Lucas said if GOP challenger Mitt Romney becomes president, Mitch McConnell becomes Senate majority leader with a Republican takeover of that chamber and John Boehner stays as speaker of the House, there will be a serious restriction of the amount of money coming from the federal government.
“If the rest of the economy is convinced the federal government will step back, I think there will be more money for investment and the economy will grow at a faster clip,” Lucas said.
“I believe we can turn it around, we just need help from the voters,” Lucas said.“ It’s up to the voters to send a signal. Nobody is in charge of the process, and the voters need to pick a side.”
Other topics covered in Thursday’s interview included:
• The farm bill. America must have a farm bill, Lucas said, and he is waiting for Congress to come back into session.
Getting the bill done has been difficult this year because of the differing sentiments on the House Agriculture Committee, which he chairs. One group does not believe in spending any money on anything, he said, and another group wants to define what farming is and take control away from farmers.
Lucas said he must work with both of those groups, but has formed a consensus bill, while cutting back on the amount of money contained in each of the farm bill programs. Only about 20 percent of the bill actually funds commodities, the rest goes to food stamps, conservation programs and other areas that have little to do with production of food, he said.
The Senate already has passed its version of the farm bill, and Lucas said the House will file a conference committee report in September. However, the old farm bill expires Sept. 30, and that will affect crop insurance. Current insurance still will be good for crops that already are in the ground.
His constituents, though, are talking about the farm bill and about drought relief for livestock producers, which has not been funded.
The House Agriculture Committee is the least polarized of all House committees, despite the differences of some of the members, Lucas said. He was able to reach a consensus through open debate and the legislative process.
One of the problems Lucas has as chairman of the ag committee is members of his own party who do not want to spend money on agriculture programs. He called the farm bill an investment in the nation’s ability to produce food and fiber. Based on the farm bill of 1933, which established many of the current farm subsidies, the nation has the ability to produce crops, he said.
“We are the food backup, not only for our country, but for most of the rest of the planet,” Lucas said. “We make investments in the country and the farm bill is a good one. Farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalists.”
• Tax cuts. Lucas expects tax cuts approved under President George W. Bush will be continued in some form, although maybe not permanently. Currently, the debate is such high profile neither side will yield anything.
• Health care. Regarding federal health care reform, Lucas said a GOP-majority Congress can retroactively change it if Obama is defeated in November and the Republicans take control of the Senate. He said certain popular provisions, such as requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions and allowing people up to 25-years-old to continue on their parents’ insurance, may be retained.
• The election. Employment will play a large role in how the election goes, Lucas predicted. If national unemployment goes as high as 9 percent, he believes there will be a Republican sweep of the presidency, the House and the Senate. If unemployment stays around 8 percent, the election is a toss-up, he said, but if the unemployment rate drops below 8 percent it could help Obama.
“That’s my gut feel as a fella that has been up and down the road a little bit,” he said.
In states like Michigan, where the unemployment rate is 22 percent, Lucas said he expects voters to wonder when something will happen and they can get a job.
Lucas predicted no action on sequestration before the election. He said federal contract regulations require employers to send workers advance notice if they are planning layoffs. If those companies are going to lay off because their contracts are not honored, those notices will go out before the election.
On Thursday, Romney named Lucas to his “Farmers and Ranchers for Romney” team as supporters of his election.