Bridenstine defends his controversial first votes
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2013
1/10/13 at 8:02 AM
New 1st District U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday that the two controversial votes he cast during his first 24 hours in office should not have been a surprise to anyone who followed his campaign.
Bridenstine, in town for a few days during a one-week recess, said he promised to strive for new Republican leadership in the House and to oppose increases in the national debt.
As it happened, two of Bridenstine's first votes were for (a) speaker of the House, and (b) a bill to authorize an additional $9.7 billion in debt for the National Flood Insurance Program to cover claims from superstorm Sandy.
"Jim Bridenstine campaigned promising to vote against John Boehner," Bridenstine said. "My dilemma was that there was no overt person running against (Boehner)."
Bridenstine said he had not decided how to solve that dilemma until pressure was applied "to get my vote for Boehner."
According to published reports, at least 20 Republicans had at one time planned to vote against Boehner in the hopes of blocking his re-election as speaker. Bridenstine, whose name was near the top of the alphabetical roll call, was one of only nine who actually did so.
The next day, Bridenstine and 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin, also a first-termer, were among 67 Republicans who voted against extending the flood insurance debt limit. Those votes were roundly ridiculed by northeasterners, and by some Oklahomans who fear retaliation the next time the state needs federal assistance. Oklahoma regularly ranks among the states with the most natural disasters, and on Wednesday all 77 counties became eligible for emergency drought assistance.
The entire state was under a similar designation in 2012.
Bridenstine said he favors assistance for those hit by Sandy and does not oppose disaster relief in principle, but that he could not in good faith use one of his first votes to add $9.7 billion to the national debt.
Bridenstine said the program is already $19 billion in debt and cannot be sustained by the premiums intended to support it.
"If we want to spend money for Hurricane Sandy relief, it needs to come from somewhere other than borrowing," he said.
A constant theme of Bridenstine's campaign was opposition to continued deficit spending supported by debt issued through the Treasury Department and bought, for the most part, by the Federal Reserve through increases in the money supply. It's a complicated and somewhat abstract argument that Bridenstine acknowledges does not translate easily into soundbite explanations.
Despite his early contrarian votes, Bridenstine said he does not want to be seen as a bomb-thrower or troublemaker, and indicated he has no desire to feud with leadership. He noted that he retained his seat on the House Armed Services Committee despite voting against Boehner, and was made vice-chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee's subcommittee on technology.
Bridenstine said he didn't think his vote damaged his relationship with the other four members of the state's House delegation, all of whom voted for Boehner.
"Not that I've seen," he said. "After it was all over, I explained that this was something I campaigned on, and they understood."
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine: He said his first two votes reflect his desire for a change in House leadership and reducing debt