5 minute read

As the nation looked to lawmakers to find a way through the COVID-19 health crisis, Oklahoma’s U.S. Senators James Lankford and Jim Inhofe whined about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s insistence on oversight for a $500 billion business relief line item in the $2 trillion stimulus package.

Opinion
George Lang is the opinion writer for Free Press. (Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

And all the while, they pretended that the issues holding up a vote on the legislation were conservative bogeymen like wind energy, airplane emissions, and same-day voter registration.

Now, set aside the fact that Lankford, Inhofe and their ideological clones in the Senate think that enfranchising voters and new energy resources are scourges upon the body politic that should be eradicated along with COVID-19.

Both Inhofe and Lankford desperately wanted no purse strings on that slush fund for favored corporations, the one that prompted President Donald Trump to tell the world he should be entrusted with those funds during the COVID-19 White House press briefing on March 23. They wanted this piece of legislation to move along — fast.

“Can you believe the Democrats are blocking funding that would provide $75B for the treatment of individuals with coronavirus and $11B to develop a vaccine, all so they can demand their liberal wish list that has nothing to do with the coronavirus,” Inhofe wrote, not acknowledging his own conservative wishlist’s role in the vote delay.

Similarly, Lankford clutched pearls and careened toward the fainting couch upon learning how legislation works.

“Senate Democrats and Speaker Pelosi continue to play games while the American people wait for Congress to act,” Lankford wrote on Twitter. “We need to stop renegotiating everything we’ve already negotiated and vote so we can help the families and businesses that are hurting. Small businesses are waiting for us to pass this relief bill so they can access payroll loans to keep people employed at their full salary. Instead, my colleagues on the other side are still making ‘wish lists,’ while businesses are at point (sic) where they have to lay folks off. These are people’s livelihoods we’re talking about. Time is important, let’s stop pretending it’s not. Let’s vote.”

Opinion

From George Lang, our lead opinion columnist

No one is arguing the urgency of government action in this crisis, no matter how loudly both Inhofe and Lankford insisted they were. What Pelosi and Senate Democrats were fighting against was the ability for Trump and his Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, to make it rain for their favorite chief executive officers, all done without having to account for where their corporate welfare went and how much went there.

Democrats did not want a repeat of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, in which most of the corporations that reaped benefits used the windfall for stock buybacks, not expansion or employment.

When Trump leaned into the microphone at the March 23 White House press briefing and said, “I’ll be the oversight,” thousands of foxes across America realized their hen house-guarding gigs were small-time grifts.

Later that night, The Washington Post reported that the White House agreed to appoint an independent inspector general to oversee the fund. But hey, it was worth a try.

Oklahoma beneficiaries of this largesse from Mnuchin and Trump would not be Midtown restaurants, nor would they be boutiques in Tulsa’s Brookside or diners on NW 39th Street or carnicerias on SW 29th Street. All those businesses could apply for loans. The relief funds were going to oil and gas businesses, which is what all that noise concerning wind power and reduced emissions was really about.

We anticipate nastiness from Inhofe, who claims he was not involved in the stock sell-offs his financial adviser executed following a January 24 COVID-19 briefing in the Senate.

But Lankford’s political actions in the days leading up to the Senate vote on the stimulus package included a 12-minute tirade on the Senate floor in which he accused Democrats of wanting to have stakes in every major American company in order to keep those companies from initiating stock buybacks.

No, they just want someone to have oversight, at least someone other than the guy who ran a fake university, raided his own charitable foundation for campaign funds and still will not release his tax returns.

A telling sign that Lankford is taking his political cues from Trump, K Street and chambers of commerce rather than rank-and-file Oklahomans came when he posted a prefab social media entry at 9 a.m. March 24.

“You are either helping right now, or hurting. Pelosi’s handpicked partisan ploys are helping no one,” Lankford posted in a partisan ploy.

“She’s hurting American families by prioritizing airplane emissions, same-day voter registration & wind energy tax credits over #coronavirus relief. #StopTheGamesNancy #PasstheBill.”

Lankford put his name on the tweet, but those words were boilerplate. That same tweet issued from the Twitter accounts of Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Tim Scott (R-Florida), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) and also Chris Nielsen, an alleged NAPA auto parts employee from South Dakota who has eight numbers on the end of his Twitter handle.

This says a lot about Lankford, none of it encouraging. Oklahoma is getting cut-and-paste representation in the U.S. Senate.

The fact that Lankford was willing to join a bunch of back-benchers and Trump mouthpieces in robo-tweeting a generic, Sam’s Choice social media post means we do not have someone representing Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate with a genuine grasp of what Oklahomans need. He is either Senator Bot or Senator Bought, R-Oklahoma or wherever.


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