By James Beaty
Asked if he thinks there will be more of a spirit of bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate during the upcoming 2014 congressional session in Washington, Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said “I hope not.”
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said if bipartisanship means not supporting the things he believes in — such as a strong defense, a thriving domestic energy program and a stance against excessive government regulations — then he wants no part of it.
“You don’t want to cave in,” he said.
“Defending America should not be a partisan issue.”
Inhofe made the comments in response to a question from the News-Capital during a quick visit to McAlester on Friday. At Pete’s Place in Krebs, Inhofe met with city leaders and representatives of the McAlester Defense Support Association — the private group formed to support the defense industry in McAlester.
As the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Inhofe said he and Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and their counterparts in the House came together to agree on key provisions of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act before the December deadline expired.
Congress then passed the $625 billion NDAA and President Barack Obama signed it Dec. 26.
Inhofe said a version of the NDAA had been passed out of committee in June, but he said Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would not let it come up for a vote before the last week in December.
Inhofe said he’s come under some criticism in some conservative quarters for the way the matter had been handled by the two chairmen and two ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.
“In three hours, we did the whole bill,” he said. But, if the 2014 NDAA had not passed before the deadline, then a number of military-related matters would have gone unfunded, according to Inhofe.
“On Dec. 31, everything would have stopped,” Inhofe said.
That included combat bonuses for the military, according to Inhofe.
Inhofe said there will be no closings by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, also known as BRAC, in 2014.
“We stopped any BRAC closings from taking place this year,” Inhofe said.
Mark Jordan, of the McAlester Defense Support Association, thanked Inhofe for his support of the military and his efforts on behalf of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and the Defense Ammunition Center in McAlester, as well as other bases across the state.
“Why is it that we’re the only state that has benefited in every BRAC round?” Inhofe said.
“It’s because of community support. We do things other people don’t do.”
Many people in Oklahoma think other states and communities are as supportive of the military as Oklahoma is, but that’s not always the case, the senator said.
Inhofe said defense spending has taken an inordinate hit during Obama’s administration. It’s only 18 percent of the budget, but it’s received 50 percent of the cuts, Inhofe noted.
Inhofe said it’s difficult to quantify what effect that might have on the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, but if other bases in Oklahoma are hit by defense budget cuts, then the effect will also be felt at McAAP.
Asked about his stance on proposals to raise the nation’s debt ceiling again in February — an issue that had been hard-fought and divisive in 2013 — Inhofe said “I will vote no.”
“As long as they spend the way they do and wait until the last minute” to bring the debt ceiling extension up for a vote, Inhofe said he will continue to vote “no,” to take away the excuse that the measure must be passed because Congress has run out of time.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.