U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, stopped briefly in McAlester on Wednesday, but still found time to address the ongoing health care overhaul, the political scene in Washington, cap and trade, the Gitmo Prison in Cuba, and Iran’s attempts to become a nuclear power.

One of the top issues on his mind regarded defense.

“I was here in McAlester when the president came out with his defense budget,” Inhofe said, referring to a previous trip to the city.

“I call it ‘Disarming America,’” said Inhofe, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Inhofe said one of the most serious things the president has done was to drop the plans to place Ground-Based Interceptor Missiles in Poland.

The GBIs are designed to intercept and destroy incoming enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Inhofe said Iran is currently on track to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2015 with the capability of reaching the U.S.

“That site (in Poland) would have given us the capability of shooting those missiles down,” he said.

Inhofe said the nation’s missile defense sites in California and Alaska can protect the nation from the West. Now, the East Coast of the U.S. is unprotected, he said.

While in McAlester, Inhofe met with members of McAlester Defense Support Association, a group formed to help with efforts to bring more defense jobs to McAlester.

Inhofe stopped by Giacomo’s Restaurant, where he met with the group. He also met with community leaders, including Mayor Kevin Priddle and Acting City Manager Pete Stasiak.

Addressing issues facing the nation, Inhofe said the health care overhaul package which passed in the Senate, and which Inhofe opposed, “was something to get out of town on,” so President Barack Obama could claim a victory.

Inhofe referred to the current health care overhaul plan, which has President Obama pushing House and Senate leaders to reconcile the two bills behind closed doors.

“There will be a conference with not more than 10 people — all Democrats,” Inhofe said of the group that will meld the House and Senate bills into the final version of the controversial health care overhaul.

Inhofe said that the final bill will be something unrecognizable when the two are joined together.

He predicted the way the health care issue has been handled will result in gains by the Republican Party in the mid-term elections later this year.

He compared the current situation to 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton had tried to pass another health care package.

Afterwards, Republicans had made significant gains in the House and Senate.

“That’s what’s going to happen in 2010,” Inhofe said.

He said it’s already started.

“Chris Dodd’s not going to run, because the party met with him and said ‘You’re unelectable,’” Inhofe said.

Inhofe referred, of course, to the senior Democratic senator from Connecticut, who played a driving role in getting the health care bill passed in the Senate and who is also chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

Inhofe also noted that U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, has also announced that he will not be seeking re-election.

Also, Inhofe predicted that the top-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Harry Reid, of Nevada, also will not seek re-election this year.

Inhofe, who is the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, predicted the so-called “cap and trade” legislation will fail in the Senate. He said Committee Chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer has far less votes that she needs to get the measure passed.

Inhofe strongly opposes the measure, which he contends will cost jobs and will result in increased costs to Americans.

Inhofe traveled to the recent United Nations Climate Conference summit in Copenhagen to announce his prediction that the U.S. Senate will not pass the cap and trade bill, despite any commitment the president might make.

“One of the problems with the Obama budget is that they want to kill oil and gas production,” Inhofe said.

The senator said Wednesday that when he returns to Washington, he’s going to work to change a false perception in Washington and among conservatives regarding the term “earmarks” in budgets passed in Washington.

“One of the biggest fraudulent things is everyone’s concentrating on what they call ‘earmarks,’” Inhofe said.

“I never do an appropriation that isn’t authorized,” the senator said, referring to the procedure in passing national budgets.

He said getting rid of what many consider “earmarks” doesn’t save money.

“It just gives more to the executive branch,” he said.

Inhofe said the true definition of an “earmark” is something that’s appropriated that hasn’t already been authorized.

On another issue, Inhofe noted that the Senate has agreed with him regarding the president’s plan to close the Gitmo prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where a number of accused terrorists are being held.

Inhofe and Sen. Daniel Inouye, (D-HI) co-authored a bipartisan amendment to block funding for the administration to close the terrorist detention center and move the detainees to the U.S.

The measure passed the Senate in May, with 90 votes to support the measure and only six opposing it.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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