By Van Mitchell
Special to The Sun
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, had a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Oklahoma Sports Museum where he discussed a variety of national topics including his work on a federal farm bill that was defeated last month in Congress.
Lucas, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said he is working with his fellow Congressional counterparts on a new farm bill, which he hopes will be finalized and approved this fall.
Lucas said the last farm bill failed for a variety reasons that included the addition of 103 amendments. He said the bill would have cut $40 billion in mandatory spending.
Lucas said 80 percent of the farm bill spending is nutritional, which includes food stamps and school lunch programs.
“Unfortunately on this last bill we weren’t able to get our work done,” Lucas said. “We are working on this one, which will be done this fall. The real challenge is on the nutritional side where we had 103 amendments including drug testing for welfare recipients and denying convicted felons from qualifying for food stamp assistance.”
Lucas said part of the House leadership wants to remove the nutritional side of the farm bill and deal with it separately and take rest of the programs under one umbrella bill.
Lucas, who represents Oklahoma’s Third District, also touched on the recent National Security Agency listening scandal involving former NSA contractor Eric Snowden who is wanted for allegedly leaking government intelligence information.
Lucas said he has had several conversations with Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, on the matter and says that Coburn believes the program is a necessity for national security reasons.
“He tells me the NSA is doing what they need to be doing,” Lucas said.
Lucas said there is an ongoing effort in Congress to overhaul the nation’s tax code.
“I have been told they are looking at taking the present code and stripping out every exemption and deductions and going back to the bare bones,” he said. “They want to put all of those aside and make everyone justify why they should have them back in the code.”
Lucas also touched on the recent comprehensive immigration bill passed in the U.S. Senate that included language to provide a path to citizenship for some illegal aliens.
Lucas said the House likely won’t hear the Senate bill and his legislative body will have to come up with a compromise bill that both chambers can pass.
“Don’t hold your breath on this Senate bill coming out of the House,” Lucas said.
Lucas briefed the audience about U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. He said American troops were scheduled to start being withdrawn from the country but President Obama is working with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about a long-term security presence.
Lucas said he questions the loyalty of Karzai and his administration toward the United States.
“I have only met Hamid Karzai,” he said. “He is very nice and very charming but in all fairness I’m still not sure whose side he is on. We will see what happens.”