appropriations and defense
Members of the Congress gather at the United States Capitol to vote on an impeachment inquiry resolution, a defense bill and a budget for the 2020 fiscal year. (Photo by Addison Kliewer/Gaylord News)

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma senators set their focus on appropriations and defense this week as the nation’s eyes were on the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, introduced a so-called skinny defense bill Tuesday, which will serve as a back-up plan if a larger defense bill is not agreed on by the end of the year.

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

The skinny version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes noncontroversial amendments and would outline the military’s common defense needs for 2020, according to a GOP aide for Inhofe.

“A skinny bill is not a substitute for a full bill, but it might be a necessary next step if we don’t reach an agreement soon,” said Inhofe in a statement.

The controversy over funding a wall at the southern border has contributed to Congress’s inability to agree on the larger NDAA bill, but the skinny bill would not prohibit President Donald Trump from using Pentagon funding on the border wall.

“We have to get a bill passed by the first of December, or our kids are not going to get paid. They are not going to be able to eat. It just kills our military,” said Inhofe in an interview.

In the past, Inhofe said the NDAA has been a bi-partisan bill, passing in Congress for 58 consecutive years.

“I will keep working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to get this done,” said Inhofe on the Senate floor. “I’m going to say that again because there’s a rumor out there to the contrary—we are still working to get a comprehensive bill done, and we’re going to keep working on it.”

Senate passes first spending package amid budget controversy

The Senate passed its first spending package for the 2020 fiscal year with an 84-9 vote on Thursday, which included four of the 12 spending bills that need to be agreed upon before the Nov. 21 deadline.

If the Senate fails to agree on appropriations by then, the government could go into a shutdown or another continuing resolution.

Both Inhofe and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) voted to pass the spending package. Seven senators did not vote on the bill.

“Funding the federal government should be the top priority of Congress, but passage of the first four of twelve appropriations bills for this fiscal year has come 30 days late,” Lankford said. “While I am pleased that we have moved these first four bills, a lot of work remains as we get closer to yet another funding deadline on November 21.”

The spending package included funding for Commerce, Justice, Science, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, Environment, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.

Earlier this year, Lankford introduced the Prevent Government Shutdown bill that would help prevent future shutdowns. The bill has not been voted on in the Senate.

“Americans want Congress to stay and do our job. They do not want another government shutdown; they want results,” said Lankford in a statement.

Trump-appointed Oklahoma judge attends confirmation hearing

U.S. Magistrate Judge and Oklahoma native Bernard Jones was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday after being nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as the U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma.

During Jones’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the judge was introduced by both Lankford and Inhofe.

“He is someone that’s served as a magistrate judge who has been very, very committed to following the Constitution and state law, both as a state judge and now serving as a federal magistrate, and he has been overwhelmingly recommended by the other judges that serve with him as a magistrate judge there,” said Lankford during his introduction.

Jones attended Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City, and he has served as an associate dean at Oklahoma City University School of Law.

“His experience and commitment to the people of Oklahoma is exactly the kind of jurist we need as a U.S. District Court judge. I am confident he will serve our nation well,” said Inhofe.

House votes on impeachment inquiry resolution

The House voted on a resolution on Thursday that would bring the next steps of the impeachment inquiry to more public hearings.

Representatives from Oklahoma voted along party lines, with all Republican members voting against the resolution and Kendra Horn (D-OK), the only Democratic delegate from Oklahoma, voting in favor of the resolution.

This was the first time a vote was taken surrounding the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.

However, Horn said the voting for the resolution does not mean she supports impeachment.

“When something is happening, we need to ensure that the process is fair and that both majority and minority have the opportunity to have a voice, and that’s what this resolution did today, and that’s what my vote was for,” said Horn.

The resolution passed in the House 232-196.

(Editor’s note: Sarah Beth Guevara contributed to this report.)