By Keith Eaton
“It is agreed on all sides, that the powers properly belonging to one of the
departments ought not to be directly and completely administered by either of the
other departments. It is equally evident, that none of them ought to possess, directly
or indirectly, an overruling influence over the others, in the administration of their respective powers.
It will not be denied, that power is of an encroaching nature, and
that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.”
– Federalist Paper 48; James Madison
At 38, Sen. James Lankford is too young to remember the fictional Mr. Smith in the 1938 political satire “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” directed by Frank Capra and starring James (Jimmie) Stewart. But there is no dodging the irony of a young, straight-shooting, non-politician from a western state assuming the duties of a popular senator, and against all odds succeeding in impacting the culture of the most deliberative political body in the world, the U.S. Senate.
Senator Lankford had developed an impressive résumé of experience in his 38 years prior to winning a special senate election in 2014 to replace the retiring Tom Coburn. An undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, an M.S. in theology from Southwestern Baptist Seminary, director of the largest Christian youth camp in America, U.S. Representative from Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District for two consecutive terms (2010-2014), a successful 21-year marriage to Cindy, and father to their two daughters, Hannah and Jordan.
Lankford has enhanced his political résumé in the senate the hard way … through steady performance and service “not for himself, but for his constituents and his country,” consistent with his personal and political philosophy.
“Washington is a place where it’s quite easy to be busy with endless meetings, interviews and so-called business luncheons. You can appear to be engaged and yet not actually accomplish anything of significance for the people you represent. It’s a mode of operation I guard against every day we’re in session.” Lankford expounds.
The committee assignments afforded Senator Lankford are significant for a first-term senator, in keeping with his fast-track résumé of demonstrated ability, intellect and work ethic.
Appropriations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Indian Affairs and the Select Committee on Intelligence places the senator front and center in the serious concerns of the American people and the debates about how, as a nation, we should proceed.
“Fiscal and budgetary problems cannot and will not be solved by omnibus budget reconciliation acts, not in one year alone. Our deficits have decreased in the last few years from a trillion dollars to about half that amount, but such profligate spending cannot continue, and massive tax increases are unsustainable, a recipe for economic stagnation or worse,” Lankford warns.
Senator Lankford is dedicated to the proposition that, while fully two-thirds of the nation’s spending is currently on auto-pilot, one-third is purely discretionary and can be downsized significantly by shutting down agencies, programs and duplicate activity, followed by block granting as many of the attendant dollars and responsibilities back to the states and closer to the intended beneficiaries of the associated activities.
“We have to get the American economy growing at four percent to overcome the jobs problem, balance our budget and reduce our public debt substantially. Only then can we afford to reform the cost structure of our education system and rescue the social safety net from bankruptcy. The anemic, jobless, two-percent growth promulgated by this administration will never accomplish these goals.”
Lankford’s government-solving philosophy espouses dividing problems into pieces, developing a long-range plan and demanding a daily dedication to carrying it out applied to another current hot-button issue before the public: immigration reform.
“As a person of faith, I believe every person has value, a purpose; and that applies to the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country today. But it’s equally important that we remain a nation of laws and have the means and ability to enforce those laws. That means the immigration issue has to be divided into pieces and digested by the populace one bite at a time. It would be impossible to perform a one-size-fits-all legislative solution after the Obamacare debacle … the American people will never be supportive of a mammoth incomprehensible, bureaucratic spider-web approach. It’s apparent that approach requires a new president,” Lankford declares.
Lankford is particularly concerned with the balance of power between the three separate branches of the federal government that has sustained the republic for over 200 years. And although history reveals the attempt over time by each branch to assert itself into policy formulation, legal interpretation, law-making and intermittent attempts by each to invade the arenas of legitimate function of another branch, the last decade has seen particularly aggressive action by the executive and judicial branches through regulation, executive orders, activism and strained interpretation of statutes. So much so that the actions taken have become front and center issues in the 2016 election cycle.
Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent and impactful on ordinary citizens than the overregulation of the economy by the EPA, where the intrusion of the feds into lives of small business, farming, refining and manufacturing has resulted in huge cost increases to producers and consumers alike.
“We need desperately to have a president and administration that respects the balance of power, shows restraint in the use of executive orders, balance in the appointment of department heads, and curbs the appetites of bureaucrats to regulate the lives of the American citizenry. This can only happen with the election of a conservative Republican with a governing approach that promotes moderation, reconciliation, outreach, bipartisanship and respect of Congress. These characteristics have been absent under President Obama,” Lankford declares.
Lankford takes the long view of domestic policy and sees the breakdown of the traditional family as the source of many of our festering problems, whether the ongoing abortion debate with the current Planned Parenthood practices and the associated funding issues, illegal and legal immigration, healthcare reform, Social Security and Medicare sustainability, or the cost of college education.
“The leadership of the country is centered in the office of the president. If the president is a forceful promoter of bipartisan discussion, mediation, compromise, frequent and open communication, and uses the bully pulpit to bring the entire country to a unified plan of action, or as nearly as is reasonable, then the relationship between the people and their government is one of trust, satisfaction and adherence to the democratic process where change is desired. This is sorely lacking in the Obama administration,” laments the senator.
So for a state that for some time has boasted a congressional delegation of Republican conservatives, how does Lankford stack up when examining his actual voting record?
Voted YEA on HR 1314 authorizing fast-track action by the president on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and authorizing trade adjustment assistance for possibly displaced workers.
Voted YEA on SconRes11, the first senate approved federal budget document in seven years.
Voted YEA on HR 1191, a bill providing for the right of congress to examine the administration’s Iran Nuclear Proposal for 30 days and vote on approval or disapproval.
Voted YEA on HR 2048, the USA Freedom Act of 2015 banning the bulk collection of private citizen phone record meta-data.
Then there’s the second amendment support as measured by the National Rifle Association, which for Lankford is in the nineties (90 percent) or “A.”
Reader’s wishing to examine Lankford’s position and voting record in complete detail can reference the website http://votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/124938/james-lankford#.VfDl_TZRGM8 .
One can easily conclude from these statistics that Senator Lankford is very much in the tradition of his predecessor Tom Coburn and the state’s senior senator, Jim Inhofe, all men of faith, conviction and dedicated constitutionalists.
Oklahomans are rightly pleased with our entire congressional delegation and particularly of Lankford, a junior senator in name only, rather Distinctively Oklahoman.