Republicans are raising concerns about big government and federal overreach following President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, and Oklahoma members are particularly concerned.
GOP worries about increasing federal spending were relatively muted under President Trump, but the party is regaining its voice as the party of small government under a new president, who they say made clear his belief that the federal government is the solution to every problem.
"It was pretty jarring, just one program after another, which is normal in a speech like that, but it seems to be even more than normal," said Sen. James Lankford, (R) Oklahoma.
In an interview Thursday, Lankford said he's willing to take a look at some of what the president is proposing.
"I’m very skeptical that just creating more government programs actually solves this," he said.
Since taking office 100 days ago, President Biden has proposed new spending totaling more than $6 trillion. The American Rescue Plan, approved along party lines by Congress in March, carries a price tag of $1.9 trillion.
The president appealed to the approximately 200 socially distanced members in the chamber Thursday to also pass his infrastructure package -- the $2.7 trillion American Jobs Plan -- and his newest proposal, the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.
Rep. Tom Cole, (R) OK-4, was the lone Oklahoma member who attended the address.
“It is always an honor to listen to any president speak to Congress in person,” said Cole, in a statement released following the speech. “And I was certainly pleased to be part of President Biden’s official escort into the House chamber. However, the proposal the president put before Congress and the American people tonight spends too much, taxes too much and is likely to undercut the current economic recovery that began in the third quarter of last year."
First District Congressman Kevin Hern, a fiscal hawk and member of the influential House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement: "I’d like to see more effort from this White House to help the American people instead of patting themselves on the back for driving us into unimaginable debt."
The president's proposals include some programs Republicans and Democrats both view as critical, like roads and bridges, which is why Senator Jim Inhofe says not to worry.
"Don't be too concerned about it, we'll be using it as a model," said Inhofe, (R) OK, in an interview. "The bill that will be coming out of the committee and it will be joined by Democrats and Republicans."
Lankford says there are recent signs of bipartisanship, including in Wednesday night's speech.
"That’s helpful to be able to hear the president say, two different times in his speech, Republicans have another proposal, let’s sit down and visit," Lankford said. "That’s helpful, that’s actually what government looks like. That’s what we’ve had to do in the past."
And that will likely be the challenge of the president’s next 100 days -- can he find the common ground and generate the good will needed to bring the two sides together to pass any of his proposals.