WASHINGTON – Oklahomans in the U.S. House split along party lines when voting to condemn President Trump’s racist remarks targeting four minority Democratic congresswomen and to hold two Cabinet members in contempt of Congress, but the five lawmakers found common ground in voting to kill a resolution on impeaching the president and oppose raising the minimum wage.
Trump triggered the historic rebuke by tweeting several days earlier that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-Mn) should go back to their countries.
Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib were born in the U.S., and Omar is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia.
The resolution condemning Trump’s remarks passed the House by a vote of 240 to 187.
Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK5), the lone Democrat in the state’s congressional House delegation, voted for the resolution; Reps. Kevin Hern (R-OK1), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK2), Frank Lucas (R-OK3) and Tom Cole (R-OK4) voted against it.
“I’m troubled by the remarks of the President, which are below the dignity of the office he holds,” Horn said.
“As representatives of a diverse nation and communities, this toxic back and forth prevents us from making progress on many critical issues facing our communities. It’s time we hold each other to a higher standard and continue our important work,” she said.
Lucas explained his vote against the resolution was one against continuation of offensive political practices, describing remarks made on the floor by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in support of the resolution as “personality attacks against the President.”
He called on Congress to rise above such harmful political rhetoric.
While Cole conceded it was appropriate to be critical of what Trump said about the four congresswomen, he accused the Democrats of pushing a political double standard.
Democrats, he said, routinely speak of the president in an equally offensive manner.
“Just last week, the same people calling President Trump a racist were calling Speaker Pelosi a racist,” Cole said. “Both claims are wrong.”
Impeachment resolution defeated
All five Oklahomans – Hern, Mullin, Lucas, Cole and Horn – voted a day later to table an impeachment resolution by Rep. Al Green (D-TX), which was killed by a floor vote of 332 to 95.
That motion, a procedural action favored by top Democrats over an up-or-down vote on impeachment, drew support from leaders of both parties so the Oklahomans ended up again siding with their leadership.
Split on contempt citation
They again split along party lines on the resolution to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for refusing to comply with committee subpoenas for documents pertaining to the 2020 census, specifically the issue of adding a citizenship question to that effort.
Democrats argued they need the documents to conduct oversight of the census while Republicans accused the majority party of conducting a partisan investigation.
Horn voted for the contempt resolution; Hern, Mullin, Lucas and Cole voted against it.
The House passed the resolution by a vote of 230 to 198.
Delegation opposes increasing minimum wage
On the resolution to raise the federal minimum wage gradually from the current $7.25 to $15 per hour, the five all voted no.
“We need to raise the minimum wage, but we have to be smart about how we tackle such an important issue,” Horn said, describing the House bill as a sledgehammer, not a scalpel.
“By taking a one-size-fits-all approach, this legislation ignores the differences in regions, the cost of living and the cost of doing business. It doesn’t consider that Shawnee is different from San Francisco and Oklahoma City is different from New York City. That’s why I had to vote no,” she said.
Mullin warned the House approach would put at risk the record-low unemployment and historic economic growth achieved under President Trump.
“The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that this bill would kill 3.7 million jobs, which is the population of the entire state of Oklahoma,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”
Cole said such an unprecedented increase in the minimum wage would have dramatic and unintended consequences for the very workers it seeks to help by leading to up to four million jobs lost.
In a vote of 231 to 199, the House passed the resolution. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is not expected to take up the legislation in his chamber.
Gaylord News is a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma