“Instead of beating the drum for whatever the political message is of the day, we should focus on the things that matter to people.”

By on February 1, 2021 in Featured News, News

Lucas and Bice Discuss Opportunities for Cooperation Despite a Divisive Political Landscape

WASHINGTON, DC — This past Thursday, The Ripon Society hosted a virtual event with U.S. Reps. Frank Lucas (OK-3) and Stephanie Bice (OK-5). The discussion centered on possible legislative priorities in the new Congress, where tensions remain high.

Lucas, a 27-year veteran of Capitol Hill, kicked things off by outlining how he sees the first couple years of the Biden Administration unfolding given the razor-thin Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

“We have a challenging two years, probably a challenging four years coming ahead of us. The distrust level amongst the Members that I serve with, the nature of a dramatic change in philosophy between administrations, and the number of Obama administration people who appear to be reappearing in the new Biden Administration –⁠ all manner of challenges there.

“The question is where will our friends in the bare majority take us? One, two, three attempts at budget reconciliation, slamming and jamming things through? I hope they’ll think about that, because the American people basically called a draw in this election. And from my perspective, that means that if we’re going to do things that really are sustainable and long-term, you have to achieve consensus.”

Lucas then introduced Bice, a freshman Congresswoman and the Republican class president, who defeated Kendra Horn, the Democratic incumbent.

“Stephanie was in her second term as a State Senator when we all pleaded with her to consider running for the United States Congress. And we persuaded her to run in the most amazing, intense primary field, you can imagine. She is thoughtful. She is open-minded. She is business-oriented. She is pragmatic and she won her tough primary. Then she won her general and has sailed along to this day.”

Bice is a fourth generation Oklahoman who studied marketing and international business at Oklahoma State University. She worked for the family business for a number of years, successfully guiding the technology company her father founded through the 2008 financial crisis. She turned to public service in 2014 when she was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate. There, she built a reputation as a pragmatic, results-oriented lawmaker.

“The night that Republicans lost our congressional seat to Democrat Kendra Horn people started asking me, ‘Are you ready to run for Congress?’ I sort of thought they were joking and kind, but they weren’t. They were serious. And after a few months of discernment, we announced in April of 2019 my intent to run for the Republican nomination.

“I’m incredibly thrilled to be nominated and appointed to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. There are 25,000 civilians that work at Tinker Air Force Base just outside my district and many of them live in Oklahoma’s Fifth. I’m also thrilled that I will get to work with my colleague, Frank Lucas, on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee as well.”

The two lawmakers then took a number of questions from the virtual audience, including what needs to be done to restore the public’s faith in America’s election system and why they voted to not certify the presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

“You can’t have the courts or lawsuits rearranging the way elections are being conducted in the process of an election,” Lucas explained. “The bottom line here is we serve as a representative democracy in this Republic. My constituents had grave suspicions. I listened to my colleagues from the states that were being affected and I voted the way I thought was the best combination in the best interest of my people.

“But that said, some of my most conservative folks are talking about –⁠ for the first time –⁠ a national election law. And I keep responding back to them. ‘Okay, you want a national election law? You want to clean all this up? Okay. You’re going to have Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Nadler work out the details. You’re going to have Chuck Schumer work out the Senate side of the equation. You’re going to have the Administration’s input. You didn’t like the last election process, so you’re going to let these people do it?’ No, we need to clean up our own acts in our own states and move forward.”

Bice agreed with her colleague.

“There was a lot of conversation around sticking to the constitution,” the freshman legislator stated. “We only have the ability to certify the votes. Well, the constitution also states very clearly about the time, place, and manner by which elections are held are to be determined by state legislatures. Having the state courts and governors interject themselves into that process is very problematic and it undermines the electoral process and it puts people in a position of being distrusting. And so this was really my reasoning for supporting the challenge.”

Next, they were asked about whether there can be common ground between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to issues of national security. Bice, who was recently tapped to serve on the House Armed Services Committee fielded the question first.

“I think both sides agree that the sexual assault issues that have arisen across the country on bases, with the death of the women in Fort Hood and then other unreported cases, is something that really needs to be highlighted. I think this particular committee will have a lot of bipartisanship and be able to really come together to work on issues.

“Now, one of the things I worry about is military readiness. My concern is that we may see this Administration look at a reduction in military funding and that they are not as focused as I would like them to be on ensuring that our military has all of the resources that they need. That’s something that we may differ on, and I’ll be fighting for our military having every opportunity to be successful.”

Lucas agreed and gave his perspective as the top Republican on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

“Russia has become an oil company with an army under the leadership of Mr. Putin, and the Chinese choose to expand their economic empire around the world and certainly try to dominate the Pacific Ocean. But, off-world where the Russians don’t have the resources, the Chinese are talking seriously about a lunar base and are looking to Mars. There are a number of areas, space for instance, where if we don’t defend and make the initial investments, we will be left behind. And do you really want a totalitarian society to dominate the off-world? That’s the future.

“I worry that the people returning from the Obama Administration to the Biden Administration, who tried to kill the manned portion of the Orion program and the SLS will now attempt to slice this up.”

Finally, the two panelists were asked about the apparent divisions within the House Republican Conference and why fellow Republicans are turning on each other. Lucas points to the evolution of social media as a catalyst.

“There are a number of our colleagues who fund their campaigns on $1,500 contributions who give the most fascinating one minute and five minute speeches, who stir the pot as a revenue raising measure. And that’s hard to overcome. But, the environment here is such that, at some point, the far-wings in both caucuses have to burn themselves out and we have to get back closer to the middle.”

Bice echoed the sentiment, and says that her only priority in Washington is going to work for her constituents, rather than playing partisan politics.

“Instead of beating the drum for whatever the political message is of the day, we should focus on the things that matter to people and talk about our future. That’s how we’ll move forward. We certainly all don’t agree in the Conference. You have some members from very competitive swing districts that are saying to other members of the class, ‘Hey, tone it down a bit. You’re making things more complicated for us.’ And you saw yesterday McCarthy made a comment, which I thought was actually necessary, telling members of the Conference to cut that crap out. Stop throwing your colleagues under the bus publicly. That’s not helping any of us. Hopefully others will take that message to heart.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people. 

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