(Editor’s note: The following story appears courtesy of Gaylord News, a reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.)
WASHINGTON – Two members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation saw floor action this week on their legislation, and House members cast a significant vote in the on-going battle between Democrats and President Trump over congressional oversight into the Russia Investigation.
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) won Senate approval of his bill to require agencies to come up with 100-word plain language summaries to explain their rules to Americans.
Passed by unanimous consent, Lankford’s bill went to the House.
“Oklahomans do not read hundreds of pages of inside-the-Beltway jargon in the Federal Register before breakfast just to find out whether there’s some new obscure regulation that affects their small business,” he said in explaining S. 395, the Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act.
Over on the House side, a floor vote rejected an amendment by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4) to save a “conscience protections” rule keeping medical personnel and others from being required to participate in procedures that run counter to their personal beliefs such as abortions, sterilizations and assisted suicides.
Cole warned the “poison pill” language will keep the underlying appropriations bill from ever becoming law. Supporters of his effort also argued the rule is not about forcing religious beliefs on others but not forcing medical providers to give up their own beliefs.
Opponents said the Trump administration’s rule would expand existing law that already provide such protections for hospitals and individuals and allow care to be refused for any reason.
They cited women and transgender individuals as examples of those who could be denied critical health care.
Cole’s amendment was rejected in a 192-230 vote with Reps. Kevin Hern (R-OK1), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK2) and Frank Lucas (R-OK3) voting for his amendment and Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK5) voting against it.
House authorizes subpoena enforcement
In the battle between Democrats and Trump on the Russia investigation, the House delivered a party-line 229-191 vote to authorize the House Judiciary Committee to seek enforcement of subpoenas issued to Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
“This Congress is being tested, in this case, not by a foreign adversary but by our own president,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), chairman of the House Rules Committee and sponsor of the resolution.
McGovern accused Trump of unprecedented obstruction and stonewalling, quoting the president’s own words that his administration is fighting all subpoenas to keep people from testifying.
“Never before,” he said, “has a president from either party so flagrantly ignored Congress’ constitutional oversight authority and our nation’s separation of powers.”
Cole, the top Republican on the Rules Committee, accused Democrats of taking unprecedented action by rushing the vote on McGovern’s resolution without exhausting all other options.
Once the matter gets into a court, he warned, it will do so under an untested legal theory that could lead to a “dangerous precedent” that “harms all of us – Republicans and Democrats – in the long run.”
Cole urged the House to slow down and continue working with the administration to reach a resolution and avoid “a knee-jerk lawsuit that may damage the House as an institution.”
He was joined by Hern, Mullin and Lucas in voting against the resolution while Horn supported it.
Migrant children bound for Ft. Sill
Lankford, Cole, Horn and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) weighed in on the administration’s plan to house unaccompanied immigrant children who entered the U.S. at Fort Sill, near Lawton.
Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed confidence after speaking to administration and local base officials that the decision will not have an adverse impact on the military mission at the huge Army post.
Recalling similar action by the Obama administration several years ago, Lankford said he has toured the facility at Fort Sill and described it as a safe environment.
Cole, whose district includes Fort Sill, said he will monitor the situation at the post to ensure the operation goes smoothly.
Horn, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, expressed appreciation for the involvement of the troops at Fort Sill in upholding the highest standards of humane treatment and ensuring the nation’s security.
The lawmakers also spoke of the need for action on immigration.