U.S. Senator James Lankford on Wheat to Iraq, the $3.5 Trillion Budget Plan and the Vaccine MandateFri, 17 Sep 2021 15:17:04 CDT
To catch up on the latest from Capitol Hill, Ron Hays talked with junior U.S. Senator for Oklahoma James Lankford about wheat exports, the $3.5 trillion budget plan and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
On Tuesday, Lankford sent a letter to U.S. Trade representative Katherine Tai, encouraging her to convene another meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Trade and Investment Council.
“We have an abundance of wheat and they have a need for wheat,” Lankford said. “We have a growing relationship with Iraq from setting them free from Saddam Hussein and working to get them to have a more open government.”
A great way to continue that relationship, in Lankford’s opinion, is by trade. It is also no coincidence that he is approaching the opportunity with one of Oklahoma’s top commodities in mind. The move would give Oklahoma producers increased access to the Iraqi market and the U.S. another trade partner.
“We are overdependent on China as a major supplier,” Lankford said. “I do not want to make our country and our prices dependent on one country - we need to have a lot of places we are selling our commodities.”
Lankford said the Trump-Pence administration laid a foundation for trade with Iraq and the Biden-Harris administration should at least try to engage on this issue.
As for the $3.5 trillion budget plan, Lankford said he is not sure the Democrats are going to get it through the U.S. House of Representatives, let along the U.S. Senate, with such narrow majorities.
“It is an enormous amount of tax spending,” Lankford said. “If only a few of the more moderate Democrats in the House or even one moderate Democrat in the Senate were to say, ‘this is just too weighty,’ then the whole thing falls apart.”
He said Republicans are looking for Democrats to help them bust Biden’s bill. Lankford said an odd thing about the Bill is that it is being floated as the budget for fiscal year 2022, but no appropriation work has been done by Democrat Senators.
“There are 12 bills that need to be done by Sept. 30, but they have not even brought them to the committee yet,” Lankford said. “They are not going to get done, which leads us to a government shutdown, two weeks from now.”
Lankford has his own bill; one that would end government shutdowns altogether.
“It would be very simple,” Lankford said. “If we get to the end of the fiscal year and the appropriations work is not done, we’ll just continue the budget of the past year.”
That way, American tax dollars do not go to waste and federal employees can continue their tasks, Lankford said. He is hopeful that the bill will pass, as it has bipartisan support and he does not want another government shutdown.
“We have had 21 government shutdowns in the last 40 years,” Lankford said. “All of them cost the federal taxpayer quite a bit of money.”
Arguably, the most controversial topic right now is President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. On Tuesday, Lankford defended Oklahoma’s workers who oppose the mandate, in a scathing speech. He says he continues to encourage Oklahomans to get vaccinated if they wish.
“The American people have personal responsibility - they can choose to be able to do what they want to do for their own, personal good on this,” Lankford said.
According to Lankford, the vaccine mandate ignores the basic science available. Of the more than 332 million people in the U.S., an estimated 41 million of them have natural antibodies from contracting COVID-19 previously, according to Lankford. To require those individuals, as well as folks who cannot get the vaccine for health or religious reasons, just doesn’t make sense, he added.
Ultimately, Lankford said he thinks the courts will prevent the vaccine mandate from coming to fruition.
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