Lankford Sounds the Alarm on Massive Debt Spending, Progressive Policies Proposed in President Biden’s Joint Address
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s Q&A on YouTube.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today raised his concerns on the Senate floor with some of the spending and policy proposals President Biden offered in his address to a joint session of Congress last night. Lankford shared his praise for his friend and colleague Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) who delivered the Republican response. Lankford offered his immediate reaction to the speech and response last night on Facebook Live.
Lankford was clear in his remarks on the Senate floor today that he will not waiver in his support of the Second Amendment, protection of life, and tackling our massive national debt, but that he welcomed the opportunity to work together on areas where there is common ground.
Lankford has already raised concerns about President Biden’s lack of action to secure our southern border, over the Biden Administration becoming the most pro-abortion Administration ever with his push for progressive Democrat pro-abortion policies and his nomination of Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, and over President Biden’s assault on traditional energy on day one of his presidency.
I’ve had the privilege to represent the great state of Oklahoma and the people of Oklahoma, to be able to sit in multiple presidential addresses in the House of Representatives chamber. That Joint Address that happened last night I didn’t have the privilege to actually get a chance to sit in on as clearly anyone who watched the speech saw there were 200 people in the room designed for 1,600 people. With the spacing and all the things that were happening there, in some ways it seemed normal and some ways it seemed ridiculous with 200 vaccinated people all spaced out, but that’s a different story for a different moment.
For that speech last night as I listened, I thought about the other speeches that I’ve listened to as well. Many of these speeches are similar. The President comes and casts a vision. They say these are things they want to be able to do. They talk through different programs, talk through different tax issues, talk through where we are as a country, and cast a vision. I get all those things.
Last night and every night when one of those speeches occur, there’s usually something unique or different about the speech, it’s a little different direction from where they want to go. Not all those programs will get implemented, as I have people already contacting my office panicked in some ways saying, ‘Are all those things going to be done?’ I can smile at them and say, ‘No, all those things won’t be done,’ because it never is. It’s a vision that’s cast by the President that they have to convince the American people and Congress to be able to engage with as well.
But last night was epic in the sense of spending. I was even surprised at the amount that we’re talking about at this point. And it seems to be so flippant and normal at this point. When you do the math of what just happened with the American Rescue Plan that was just under $2 trillion of spending. Last night there was one of the proposals also about $2 trillion and another one about $2.5 trillion. Take those together, just over $6 trillion in proposed government debt just in those three recommended.
What people aren’t adding to is starting in June, in July, it’s appropriations time, and our best understanding that we haven’t received the budget from the White House yet, is that proposal will be about $4.5 trillion. So added together what has happened in the first 100 days and the next 100 days that we already see coming is a proposal to spend $11 trillion. Eleven trillion. That far exceeds what was even spent during the pandemic time period when we all determined this is a rainy day that we definitely need to be able to help stabilize our economy—$11 trillion.
Size of government, the number of times that I heard if there’s a problem, government here in Washington, DC, can solve it was epic. Now, initially at the beginning of the speech, there was a lot of talk about COVID as well there should be. Our nation is coming through this. But I was surprised how little conversation there was about the vaccines and the process, Operation Warp Speed, and the partnership between government and private industry that was done last year to be able to bring all these vaccines to place. You see, all the vaccines were developed and ordered last year. All the needles and the alcohol wipes and the materials, the PPE that would be needed were all ordered last year. This year was just a matter of getting shots in arms, which I’m incredibly grateful we’ve had so many Americans that have stepped up, driven up, come and put their arm out there and said, ‘I want to be a part of the solution for getting rid of COVID in our country.’
Everyone knew that as we got shots in arms, we would see the numbers come down, at least we hoped and we did. The numbers are coming down and the economy is coming back up. That’s the other thing that everyone predicted as well is as soon as some of the shutdowns happened, we would begin to see the economy begin to rise again and thankfully we are.
But it was interesting to be able to hear the President last night take credit for all of that, which I assume every president who’s sitting in that spot would. But I am grateful for President Trump and to the leadership that happened in HHS and the work of career folks and the folks that are in science and private industry and in pharmaceuticals for what they have done over the last year because it is remarkable what we’ve actually walked through and what we have seen.
What was not mentioned last night when we talked about the economy was unemployment insurance and it’s something I brought to this body before. When I traveled around my state the week before Easter, and after Easter when we were not voting those two weeks, as I traveled around, every employer I that I talked to said the same thing, ‘We’re hiring, but we don’t have people applying or people that are applying are coming and just applying, filling out a form and when they offer them the job they saying, ‘I didn’t really want the job, I just need to be able to complete the form back to the unemployment office and so I can continue to get my check.’
I talked to employees that were frustrated because the person who used to work next to them is not next to them because they are home getting unemployment benefits. Because the unemployment benefits in my state right now far exceed what the normal wage is. So people aren’t showing up. That’s a problem in our economy, and my fear is that’s a problem that going to continue until September because the unemployment benefits that were extended were extended all the way through the first week of September, even though we pushed back and said, ‘This is a bad idea,’ our Democratic colleagues and the President said, ‘No, let’s keep moving forward’.
There are lots of parts of the Green New Deal that were presented last night. They didn’t use the term Green New Deal. It was just bits and pieces of the elements Green New Deal separated into sets of ideas. And I understand, because the term Green New Deal has become very very unpopular with folks as they find out what it is. But taking the pieces of the Green New Deal and separating them in different spots and trying to pass them doesn’t change anything either.
I was surprised how little the President really talked about the crisis on the border. He did mention it and I was pleased he did, because many people in my state see that as a serious issue that needs to be resolved. Our open borders and the literally hundreds of thousands of people that have crossed our border illegally just this calendar year, just in the last 100 days is record levels. When I talked to the Border Patrol folks and they talk about how in March alone they had 172,000 encounters, that’s a record number.
But now in April, they are hitting or exceeding that record just in April again, as the numbers continue to skyrocket to numbers with we’ve not seen. The number of unaccompanied minors is at 20-year high. We’ve not seen these numbers in decades. It’s a significant issue for us as a country and it’s one that started on January the 20th, with the change in policy and in issues. We have more than 5,000 individuals that had been picked up by Border Patrol just this year that have a criminal record in the United States.
We have 15,000 individuals that Border Patrol has just released into the country with no Notice to Appear at all, just a statement that as they come through the line was so long that Border Patrol leadership was telling them from Washington, DC, that if the line gets too long, just release people into the country and tell them to check in with immigration folks whatever part of the country they go to. Just check in. Literally they are coming across the border and if the line’s too long, just let them go and tell them to check themselves in when they get to wherever they are going in the country. 15,000 people like that just this year.
We have 150,000 people that Border Patrol has reported that they saw crossing the border, but they literally didn’t have the manpower to get to them. What they call ‘got-aways,’ 150,000 this year that won’t show up on anyone’s numbers of people entering the country illegally. These numbers are truly epic numbers, and last night the President’s proposal was, allow us to do more in Central America and eventually this will get better.
I would tell you from being down at the border three times just this year and interacting with folks, I would encourage anyone from the Administration to go to the border and actually see what’s going on and actually talk to law enforcement there. But from being down in that area, their concern is this is a very long-term issue because the Administration doesn’t seem to see it as a crisis or something that has to be fixed immediately; it can be fixed eventually.
With hundreds of thousands of people coming across the border now every month, and in the last official report from Customs and Border Protection, over 150 different countries represented crossing the border just this year—over 100 countries—it’s not just folks from just central America. People from all over the world are paying the cartels to get through Mexico and travel to our country and checking in or skipping across the border and they disappear into our economy. I see that as an issue. And I wish the Administration would see that as an issue.
The conversation that came up last night was about voting is an important conversation for us. We’re a representative republic. Voting is extremely important to us as a nation, that every vote counts and that every vote has the integrity that it needs. But the Senate Bill 1 and on the House side what they call H. Bill 1, I am stunned at the contents of that bill, and when President Biden just said, “Pass that bill and put it on my desk,’ I thought there’s absolutely no way I would pass a bill like that, nor would the people at home want me to pass bill like that. That’s a bill that’s designed to make voting easy and cheating easy. We want to make voting easy and cheating hard. That’s the way we’ve done elections for a very long time. Why would we want to shift from that?
I’m all for making voting as easy as we can. My state has early voting and mail-in voting. We protect the integrity of the vote and everyone can look at it and say, ‘My person won or lost, but I believe the integrity of the vote.’ We have to make sure that every area has access to voting and doesn’t have long lines and make sure we have mail-out ballots to not only get people the ability to vote but protect the integrity of the vote. But senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1 does the same-day registration, and you don’t need to have an ID. You can’t have the two together. It mandates third-party collection of the ballots that it could be done in any state. So an individual political group could go door-to-door, and say, ‘Have you voted? If you haven’t, I’ll stand here and we can vote together, and then I’ll turn your ballot in for you.’ It violates secret ballots and about the integrity of the ballot and only the folks in the Post Office would handle it or the folks in the polling place would handle it. Now this is a third party that no one has any connection to, nor accountability to, can randomly grab ballots and collect them. How do we not think there won’t be fraud in that system?
It also takes away all voter IDs in every state, including my state where there’s not even a complaint about voter IDs on either side of the aisle. Because it is an incredibly fair system that doesn’t require a driver’s license. It can require any piece of paper or any way to show that you are who you are. We have a straightforward system to be able to protect not only the integrity of the ballot but to make sure every person is not only allowed to vote, is encouraged to vote.
Why would we take that away from places where it’s already working and there hasn’t been a complaint just because someone in Washington, DC, says we shouldn’t do it. Centralized control of voting in Washington, DC, seemed to be the part of the theme where everything would seem to work better if it only came to DC. I can tell you I’ve met a lot of smart people in DC, but I can also tell you I know a lot of smart people in Oklahoma that love their neighbors, that want to see the right thing done, that care about people and their community and in their state, and this sudden belief that if we’re going to get things done right, you’ve got to bring it to Washington, DC, and allow the folks in Washington, DC, to be able to run it, I will tell you the folks in my state would shake their head and say, ‘We’re doing okay. Let us take care of our neighbors at home, and don’t make us sign a paper every time we want to do something and send it off to somebody we’ve never met in Washington, DC,’ because growing the size of our federal government is not a goal for me. Being efficient, protecting the rights of every American, protecting our national security, those are goals. They don’t require federalizing everything.
I can tell you a couple of areas where last night really had some shining moments for me, though. President Biden twice in his speech literally reached out to Republicans and said, ‘I understand Republicans have another idea on this. Let’s sit down and talk.’ That was a good moment. Quite frankly, for the last, let’s say, of 100-day presidency so far, for 90 days for that, we’ve gotten the Heisman from the President and his team saying, ‘We’ve got this. We don’t need you.’ And then in the last really ten days or so, the White House has started reaching out some, and to hear President Biden say, ‘We understand Republicans have different ideas,’ that almost sounds like governing. That would be a great shift for us to be able to sit down and for us to be able to talk things through.
Republicans aren’t opposed to infrastructure. How absurd to be able to make infrastructure a partisan issue. We’ve always done infrastructure together. It’s not like any of us are opposed to highways, waterways and clean drinking water, and to broadband, they are key aspects core to infrastructure. Let’s continue to do those. Let’s do it efficiently and wisely. That’s all that we would ask. So I’m pleased that the President actually reached out and said, ‘Let’s sit down and talk things through,’ because that will allow us to work together towards better solutions.’
And the second big moment for me last night was listening to my friend and colleague, Tim Scott, speak about his family, speak about a vision for the country, to be able to challenge the country and to be able to challenge this body to be able to do what he called commonsense finding common ground. It’s a great idea. We have different perspectives across the aisle in this building. That doesn’t mean we can’t sit down as Americans and be able to work them out. As Tim Scott reminded us, part of the story of America is the story of redemption. We can do that together.
Tim also challenged this nation to stop politicizing race, to stop saying over and over again because we disagree it’s because you’re a racist. Tim spoke to the nation and said, ‘There are real issues of race out there and you cheapen it when you politicize every issue and say it’s because you’re racist.’ Let’s actually sit down and disagree on issues as Americans and let’s resolve things to together.
We have common ground, and we have areas of real disagreement. I have lots of areas where I disagreed with President Biden, but I’m willing to sit down and be able to lay out a set of ideas that I think is a much better option. Let’s talk it out. That’s what we do. But let’s resolve these issues in the days ahead. And, no, you’re right, I’m not going to give on the Second Amendment. I’m not going to give on issues like life and the value of every child. I’m not going to give on I think the debt and deficit is a very important issue. I’m not going to give on encouraging the value of work for every single person and every single family.
They are areas I’m not going to give on, but we should at least sit down and treat each other with dignity and respect and let’s talk it out.