virtual town halls

U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-District 2) held virtual town halls March 22 using Facebook Live and a telephone conference call, respectively.

It was Lankford’s second virtual town hall since the term began and Mullin’s first, though Mullin has announced 26 public town halls in his Congressional Second District in the coming weeks.

Lankford’s virtual town hall covered a gamut of topics, while Mullin’s focused strictly on the (as-of-then not-yet-failed) House Republicans’ American Health Care Act — which was abandoned Friday.

Health care

Mullin’s hour-long telephone town hall was entirely about the now-dead repeal-and-replace Obamacare legislation, though it was less regimented than Lankford’s town hall last month. Listeners could press a key combination to be put in a queue to ask questions. Unlike Lankford’s previous telephone town hall, the questioner was never muted, thus allowing a persistent questioner to keep questioning Mullin until the lawmaker insisted he needed to move on.

Many of his callers were concerned about the AHCA’s potential cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Mullin supported the AHCA’s restricting of Medicaid to working people only. He said that “able-bodied” single individuals were “gaming the system” and caused a huge explosion in the cost of Medicaid.

Harold from Adair wanted to know why 28 Republican representatives did not like the AHCA. Mullin predicted poorly: “The media made an assumption on that, but we know that couldn’t happen — that’s not why President Trump called them fake news, right?”

Lankford echoed the feeling of one user who wanted a full repeal of Obamacare, but he warned presciently that the House did not have the votes to do it.

One user said that Congress has better health care than the average American citizen, but Lankford said that was not true, and that he and his staff were on Obamacare.


Many Facebook users had questions for Lankford relating to President Donald Trump’s recently announced “skinny” budget. On Meals on Wheels, Lankford said he supported the program. When asked about the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, he said it was the most expensive military equipment ever but did not denounce it outright.



Lankford’s virtual town hall draws criticism, questions
by Richard White

Asked about which budget cuts he was for, he said (as he usually does) that he wants to eliminate waste and duplicative programs in the government. He made it clear that the president’s budget historically has never passed without modifications — indicating he thought changes would be made.

One Facebook user asked Lankford why all of the programs in which he wants to eliminate waste are programs that benefit the poor. Unfazed, Lankford said that is where there are frequently duplicative programs. If they were eliminated, that would allow more money to be used to support the needy, he said.

Town halls

The subject of town halls was brought up a few times. On his first ever “Facebook town hall,” one user commented, “Hey this is not working well.”

Lankford replied, “Sorry, other people seem to like it.”

Someone else told Lankford that he was “cherry-picking questions,” to which Lankford defended himself, saying there were thousands of questions and it was impossible to read them all.

When Lankford was asked when his next physical town hall would be, he said that he would be back in Oklahoma for Easter, and he would “try” to schedule one.

After Lankford read a question asking if he would encourage Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) to hold a town hall, he was interrupted by his staff reading him another question. It was not clear if it was disorganization or a deliberate attempt to move along.

Asked why he was not present at the recent Indivisible Oklahoma town hall in Midwest City, Lankford said he could not make it owing to a trip to Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.


One Facebook user asked Lankford whether he supported school vouchers. Lankford said that is a state issue and not something he would be concerned with at the U.S. Senate. But he opined that the federal government should not treat all states the same when it comes to education. He said that despite Oklahoma’s education problems, it has an excellent career-tech program that people come from all over the world to see.

Speaking on his vote to confirm Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, he reiterated from his telephone town hall that he did not think her lack of experience with public schools disqualified her. Lankford said her job is not to be a national school board director but to work with individual state programs.


Lankford was asked whether foreigners should be able to compete with Americans for their jobs, to which he replied in the negative. He said the system (presumably the H1b visa program) is not working well, but sometimes foreigners should be able to get jobs that cannot or will not be filled locally.

One user asked, “Can you build a wall?” Tempering expectations, Lankford said that a wall like Trump has described would be a very big wall, and that Trump probably does not want to build a 2,000-mile wall. He said Border Patrol and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement do not want a 2,000-mile wall. He mocked the idea of a contiguous wall, saying that a wall could not be built in the middle of the Rio Grande, where much of the border is located.

Lankford did mention that he was concerned about a security threat south of the U.S. border, though. He told his Facebook audience that he had received reports that non-Spanish speaking individuals had been detained moving through Central America. He did not elaborate further.


Lankford was asked who his favorite Democrat was and if he could talk about an example of recent bipartisanship. Lankford said that just that day he had been to a breakfast with both parties represented and had sat in a bipartisan meeting about postal reform.

He said that he has lots of Democrat friends, like Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), the latter of which briefly appeared on his Facebook Live town hall earlier.

Duck-horse conflict

In a moment of levity, a user asked: “Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?” (The question is a well-known internet meme, recently posed to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch). Lankford showed his tactical chops by answering that he would rather fight one horse-sized duck because it would move slowly on land due to its oversized web feet.