U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Edmond) and U.S. Rep.Tom Cole (R-Moore) of Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District visited the Great Plains Technology Center in Frederick on Tuesday.
Cole and Lankford both discussed budget crises facing America in general, and Oklahoma specifically. One of the major problems facing rural Oklahoma today is health care.
Frederick’s emergency room closed this year. Lankford addressed this issue by explaining about the REACH Act. The Rural Emergency Acute Care Hospital Act would help emergency rooms remain open by getting rid of the most expensive parts of any facility such as surgery centers. One of the reasons small rural towns are losing their emergency room centers is because of the way the Affordable Care Act was written, Lankford said.
“The way the Affordable Care Act was structured, is to push small into large,” Lankford said. “It simplifies oversight though the federal government. It’s easier for Washington D.C. to oversee spending if they have fewer entities…so many smaller hospitals are merging with larger groups.”
The Senate handed President Barrack Obama a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and he vetoed it within two days, Lankford said.
“I don’t think there is anyone who has voted against the Affordable Care Act as many times as I have,” Cole said. “More people do have insurance, but many people’s rates have gone up for less coverage and many insurance companies have pulled out altogether.”
One of the budget problems facing not just Oklahoma, but all of America, is the cutting of the defense budget. In 2009, the government overspent $1.5 trillion and in 2010, they overspent $1.4 trillion in a single year.
“This year’s deficit, this year’s overspending is at $500 billion,” Lankford said. “The only good news in that is that it’s a trillion less than what it was just five years ago.”
In 2011, there was a fight for the Budget Control Act. The initial battle was being strategic to get it passed. They had three options: figuring out how to reform long term entitlement spending, commission and the third option was just across the board cuts, Lankford explained.
There are ways to cut spending without cutting the defense budget, but there is no simple fix.
“I have no problem with the 535 members of Congress, Senate and White House getting pay cuts, but it would do no good,” Lankford said. “You could probably pick up $6 million out of 500 billion. It just doesn’t make a dent. People think Congress gets raises all the time but they haven’t had a pay increase in 20-some-odd years.”
“There is an automatic cost-of-living raise written in the law and every year, Congress turns that off,” Lankford said. “I wish it was that easy. I’ve had folks tell me we should cut off foreign aid. That’s 37 billion. Well we have 463 billion to go.”
Both Cole and Lankford said that this is an election year and things just aren’t getting done. After the election, they will refocus their efforts into the budget and health care crises.
Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.