OKLA. CITY —
Why Congressman James Lankford voted in December to approve the federal budget became an issue at an Oklahoma City town hall meeting Tuesday evening.
Lankford has been adamant during his two terms in office that the $17 trillion federal debt and the $680 billion deficit are not sustainable. He has supported a balanced budget amendment which the White House rejects.
“The entire government is out of control and not on my side,” a woman said. “…And then I look at Sen. Cruz who can stand up with fire and backbone and say, ‘my God this has to stop.’”
Cruz was an architect of the 2013 government shutdown by insisting the federal government defund the Affordable Care Act. Lankford, R-Edmond, and other House Republicans fought in 2013 to delay the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment for one year and to defund the health care law.
Congress passed the Ryan-Murphey budget deal in December with Representatives Lankford, Tom Cole and Frank Lucas voting in favor of the bill, while Congressmen Markwayne Mullin and Jim Bridenstine opposed the measure. President Barack Obama said the bill contains more than $20 billion in deficit reduction.
Passage of the bill prevented another government shutdown in January.
“That was not an easy decision. There’s plenty of good and bad in that,” Lankford said. “At the end of the day, my conservative principles are if it’s going to do a major slash on defense, and I’m going to hand to the president the ability to do another major cut in defense — it would be the third one in four years — I don’t want to hand that to him. That was my option.”
Lankford said he is tenaciously conservative, but realizes the opposition the House faces in the White House and Senate. Yelling at press conferences does no good, he said.
“I cannot just sit and yell for a year and say I’m angry,” Lankford said. “I’ve got to find some way to make progress.”
Lankford said his conservative principles may only move the nation forward a foot, but that is better than standing still. Lankford, who announced his intention to run for the Senate this week, said he will remain calm because he believes he can win the argument.
“I’m a Christian and I love to be able to tell people about my relationship with Jesus Christ,” Lankford said. “But, I’ve never been able to shout someone into heaven.”
The federal government had not been doing the 12 appropriations bills for every section of the government for several years. This has resulted in continuing resolutions, which takes a previous budget and changes the date. In January, Congress passed an appropriations bill after the budget was passed in December.
Lankford said he did not support January’s appropriations bill because it spends $18 billion more than what Congress had agreed on in December.
A continuing resolution is a bad way to do business because it repeats the same expenditures from the year before. If the military wants to purchase a certain number of machine guns one year, the continuing resolution will mandate the military to purchase the same equipment again whether they need machine guns or not. The CR keeps the military from updating the items they need.
“It’s awful strategic work,” Lankford said.
Three years ago, the federal government was overspending $1.4 trillion in deficit. Progress has been made to reduce the deficit to $680 billion, he said.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Lankford said. “If anyone thinks we’re going to solve the budget issues in one year, with some vote that’s going to happen that’s going to solve all the budget years, you’re mistaken about how bad the budget situation is.”
Lankford said he encourages job growth to create more tax revenue without having to raise taxes.
December’s budget agreement protects defense, but keeps the same deficit reductions for the next eight years, Lankford said.
“If that did not occur in December, the conversation at Tinker Air Force Base would be how long civilian employees would be on furlough at Tinker this month.”
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