MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – The questions from the members of the Oklahoma Press Association, at their Mid-Winter Convention in Midwest City, to Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation Saturday, ranged from the economy to terrorism to energy issues.
And it was made clear at the end of the discussion that the newspaper industry “does not want a bail out.”
Present on the congressional panel this year were Sen. Tom Coburn and Reps. Dan Boren, Tom Cole, Mary Fallin and Frank Lucas. Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. John Sullivan were unable to attend.
The congressional panel began with opening remarks about issues that were of particular interest to them.
“Our country faces challenges like we’ve never had before,” Sen. Coburn said, adding that in terms of our debt the “next two years are critical.” If the financial crisis isn’t stabilized in some way by 2012, the implications are potentially devastating for the American economy, particularly when the country is increasingly beholden to China.
“It puts us in a vulnerable position in the future,” Coburn said.
Rep. Lucas hit some topics of interest to him and his constituents.
Serving on the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Lucas said President Obama’s budget slashes manned space exploration. This, he said, was unfortunate.
Rep. Cole called the Obama administration unfriendly two three pillars of the economy by saying they were “anti-carbon based energy,” “anti-ag production” and “an administration not very friendly to the military.”
Cole added that he was impressed with the turnouts his town hall meetings had last summer.
As a member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence, Rep. Dan Boren said that “the things we are able to learn are, frankly, pretty scary.” He added that domestic terrorism threats are of grave concern, as are the “lone wolves” out there.
Rep. Fallin noted how Oklahoma’s congressional delegation was the most conservative in Congress and that if more were like those from the Sooner State, more would get done.
Fallin touched upon security issues and the national debt. She also said she is discouraged to see how the administration is working on making things harder for the oil and natural gas sector, particularly in light of recent decision by the Department of the Interior to scale back drilling on federal lands.
And then there is the record spending despite an ailing economy and declining dollar.
“The president is freezing our spending at record high amounts,” Fallin said.
She called for more trade agreements with foreign countries as well.
And with Fallin stepping down from her seat in Congress as she runs for Oklahoma governor, she said, “I’m proud of our delegation and I’m sad to leave this but I’m glad to come back home.”
During the question and answer period, questions veered towards Obama, the economy and how America will get itself through the current financial crisis.
“In all my life I’ve never seen us in such a precarious position,” Coburn said, referring to the economic crisis. “We’ve never been in such a precarious position.”
Lucas concurred and said that if Obama doesn’t do more to correct the economy, “he won’t be back” for a second term because he would not be re-elected.
Cole said Obama needs to “decided if you’re Chairman of the Board of President of the United States.”
And Boren, a Democrat, said, “I think the president is overexposed. He’s a good communicator, but it’s time for him to get behind his desk and govern.”
Added Boren: “You can’t go to the State of the Union and be confrontational on health care.”
The subject of the war on terrorism and Guantanamo Bay was brought up by a questioner.
“Guantanamo Bay is the perfect place to put enemy combatants,” Coburn said. “It’s not a good idea to put them any place else.”
Saying Obama had a “very liberal agenda,” Fallin said reforms are necessary and that the president needs to sit down with both sides and come to an agreement on the important issues facing America.
As for “Cap and Trade,” and whether it has a chance of being approved and made a law, Lucas replied, “I would say it’s dead.”
Boren agreed, simply replying, “It’s dead.”
“I don’t see how Cap and Trade moves through the Senate between now and the next election cycle and then moves after the next election cycle,” Coburn said. “So, sweet dreams.”
Cole was fairly thoughtful in his answer, saying that Cap and Trade could come back in another form or parts of it passed in another form. He said he is sure liberals that elected Obama are looking at the president and wondering if any of their issues will be advanced.
“If you’re on the left, you’re not a very happy camper,” Cole said.
And in light of the National Tea Party Convention taking place in Nashville, Tenn. This weekend, Norman Transcript editor Andy Rieger asked the congressional panel about the importance of the growing Tea Party movement.
“I like them,” Lucas said. “We agree.”
As for the Tea Party groups forming a political party, not unlike the Reform Party of the early 1990s, Cole replied, “I think we’re looking at a political movement, not a political party.”
Added Cole: “They’ve focused Congress on important problems.”
And Coburn, who has been receptive to the Tea Party message, said, “It’s people who recognize what we used to be like … they’re principle and party-oriented.”
“The people I’ve met, all kinds of people, are mad and concerned about the future of our nation,” Fallin said.
Boren said there are a lot of Tea Party activists in his district in eastern Oklahoma and that “it’s positive” for these folks to be involved in the political process.
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