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A Breath of Fresh Oklahoma Air

April 16, 2007
Weekly Columns

Washington D.C. is a busy place. Between the hustle and bustle of morning traffic, committee meetings and evening votes on the House floor, there is not much time to stop and catch your breath. This is why I love coming home to Oklahoma. Over the last two weeks I had the opportunity to talk with many constituents, tour different facilities, meet with local officials and visit schools in Southwest and Central Oklahoma. I hosted town hall meetings in eight different communities where I heard concerns and answered questions from Oklahomans who truly care about their country. Among those main concerns were healthcare, immigration and the war in Iraq.

Healthcare is a major concern for many seniors in Oklahoma. At the beginning of the 110th Congress I voted against the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiating Act of 2007. This act forces the government to set price controls in order to negotiate prescription drug prices for seniors enrolled in the Medicare prescription drug program. Historically, the government's interference in price controls has led to drug rationing which could lead to limited choices for seniors to choose their pharmacist and/or their prescriptions. Medicare Part D has been successful for 38 million seniors and 80 percent of those participants are satisfied with the current program. Competition between drug companies has reduced the average monthly premiums from $37 to $24 in 2006, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit's overall cost to the federal government will be 15 percent lower than expected in 2007. I am committed to health care reform that is voluntary, accessible and affordable to both the taxpayers who ultimately fund the program and the beneficiaries who rely on it.

The ongoing War in Iraq was also a major topic of discussion. I was proud to see so many Oklahomans who continue to support the troops and their mission. Last month I strongly opposed the Majority's Iraq supplemental bill. This bill allocated money to troops in harms way only if arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal were included. I believe very strongly that Congress is responsible for providing our soldiers with the bullets and helmets they need to protect themselves and complete their mission, but they are not responsible for micromanaging the war from Washington. That is the job of General Petraeus and our troops on the ground. I will continue to support our brave men and women in uniform and work on passing good policy that provides them with the equipment they need so they can finish their mission and return home.

The debate over immigration is another topic that Oklahomans are deeply concerned about. While ours has historically been a nation of immigrants, we have also always been a nation of laws. I believe that it is important that our country continue to be open and accepting to those who wish to come here, follow the rules and abide by the law, but we must make sure the people coming into our country are coming in legally and are not people who wish to harm us. At the beginning of the 109th Congress I co-sponsored the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act. Although this bill did not pass in the Senate, it was a good first step in initiating tighter border security. As this topic advances in the 110th Congress, I will keep you updated and informed on where I stand and what legislative steps are being taken to ensure that America's borders are safe and that those coming to our country are doing so legally.

In closing, I would like to thank all those who came out and voiced their concerns at the town halls. After long weeks in Washington, it is always refreshing to come back to Oklahoma and get a healthy dose of common sense from the constituents I so proudly represent.