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The U.S. Capitol building in D.C. (Morguefile.com)
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(Editor’s note: The following story appears courtesy of Gaylord News, a reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.)

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma’s delegation debated net neutrality this week, as Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4) criticized the Democrat-backed plan, while Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK5) applauded it.

Here’s what the congressional members were up to this week:

House passes Save the Internet Act

The House of Representatives voted 232-190 this week to pass the Save the Internet Act, which would restore the net neutrality rules repealed by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai in 2017.

Horn voted for the bill, while Reps. Cole, Kevin Hern (R-OK1), Frank Lucas (R-OK3) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK2) voted against it.

“Across rural Oklahoma, communities of every size have little to no access to quality broadband internet,” Horn said. “This is hurting their economic competitiveness and making it difficult to grow and thrive. Today, Congress took an important step to ensure our internet remains free and open for consumers and businesses, but we cannot stop here. We need to start taking action to expand broadband infrastructure that prioritizes rural America. These communities have been left behind for too long.”

Cole said he agrees with Democrats about the need to prevent practices like blocking and paid prioritization, but said the current legislation goes too far.

“Both sides agree that there are problems related to the issue of net neutrality. I wish we could solve those problems in a bipartisan manner to ensure the Internet remains open and free for the American people,” Cole said. “Unfortunately, the bill passed in the House today would be more accurately named the ‘Democratic Takeover of the Internet’ because of the ill-fitting and dated regulations it would re-impose.”

Republicans criticize 100 days of Democratic House control

Oklahoma representatives stood among fellow Republicans who gathered on the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday to criticize the first 100 days of Democratic House control.

“In those 100 days, they’ve failed to set a clear platform & failed to do the business of governing,” Hern tweeted.

In a Twitter thread, Hern condemned House Democrats for enabling anti-Semitism, encouraging a rising tide of socialism and ignoring the crisis at the southern border, among other “embarrassing missteps.”

Cole called on Democrats to spend their next 100 days on an agenda that will “actually benefit the American people.”

Meanwhile, Democrats took the 100-day mark to celebrate the successes they’ve had. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD5) said Democrats have passed legislation and introduced bills on the nation’s most pressing challenges.

“This is only the beginning, however, and Democrats will continue to use our House majority to set out an agenda of economic growth, opportunity, justice for all and a stronger and safer America,” Hoyer said.

Senate confirms Patrick Wyrick to federal judgeship

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick to serve as U.S. district judge for the Western District of Oklahoma. Wyrick’s confirmation comes a year after his initial nomination and with vocal support from both Oklahoma senators.

Wyrick, 38, was confirmed with a party-line vote of 53-47 and is among the first of President Trump’s nominees to benefit from a shortened debate time pushed through by Republicans last week.

“Patrick Wyrick will be an excellent choice,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said shortly before the confirmation vote.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said he has no doubt Wyrick is qualified for the position, calling the transition from the state’s Supreme Court to federal court a “lateral move.”

A year ago, Wyrick’s nomination advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee after a May 2018 hearing. According to The Oklahoman, senators during that meeting questioned him about several ethical issues, including his role in a Scott Pruitt controversy, an allegation that he made false statements in a brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and a lawsuit that questioned his residency, among other things.

Lankford said he thinks these accusations seemed “like a Hail Mary pass.”

“I get people don’t like President Trump or they don’t like Scott Pruitt, but you need to allow each person to be evaluated on their own merits and not try to say they’re guilty by association,” Lankford said.

Lucas congratulates scientists on black hole image

Lucas congratulated scientists on capturing the first-ever image of a black hole — a historic achievement that captivated the world this week.

“This discovery is compelling confirmation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and it opens new avenues for research into the nature of space-time,” Lucas, ranking member on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, said in a statement.

The image of the supermassive black hole at the center of Messier 87 was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope project supported by the National Science Foundation.

“This work is at the core of (the National Science Foundation’s) mission of advancing scientific progress,” Lucas said. “I congratulate the team of researchers and staff who made this tremendous discovery possible.”

Oklahoma’s representatives will be back in the Sooner state for the next two weeks while Congress is in recess until April 29. Members are hosting town halls throughout the state during this time.

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Anna Bauman is an OU senior from Kansas City, Missouri, participating in the Gaylord News program in D.C. for the spring 2019 semester. She previously worked at the OU Daily as a news reporter and editor. She has also interned at the Omaha World-Herald and The Oklahoman on their breaking news desks.
Based in Washington D.C., Abby Bitterman covers Oklahoma's congressional delegation for Gaylord News. Having previously worked for the OU Daily, she has covered hate crimes for New21 and business for The Oklahoman. Originally from Chicago, she is a journalism and political science senior at the University of Oklahoma.