U.S. Senators James Lankford and Jim Inhofe were upset last week because of what they say were improper COVID-related Small Business Administration loans to Planned Parenthood.

On Friday, Lankford joined 32 Republican senators and more than 90 Republican House members in demanding an investigation into how 37 Planned Parenthood local affiliates were approved for $80 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans.

The loans are intended to provide small businesses and nonprofits short-term cash in exchange for keeping employees on the payroll. One source of contention on the matter has been whether franchisees or other enterprises associated with larger corporations or organizations qualify.

Lankford has introduced legislation to make eligibility easier for nonprofit organizations but said it shouldn’t apply to Planned Parenthood because many of its affiliates provide abortions.

“We urge that the SBA promptly open an investigation into how these loans were made in clear violation of the applicable affiliation rules and if Planned Parenthood, relevant lenders, or staff at the SBA knowingly violated the law, and that appropriate legal action be taken if so,” the group’s letter to the SBA states.

Inhofe joined a letter to Attorney General William Barr alleging Planned Parenthood “fraudulently” applied for and accepted the loans.

The letter says the program “was not designed to give government funds to politicized, partisan abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”

Coburn remembered: Inhofe and Lankford led a remembrance of the late Tom Coburn on the Senate floor last week.

Coburn, a former congressman and senator, died earlier this year at 72.

“The Senate is a better place because Dr. Coburn was in it,” said Lankford, who succeeded Coburn. “When Oklahomans lost Dr. Coburn, our nation lost a man who fought for what’s right and wielded his one voice and his one vote in the Senate to bring needed change. He eagerly challenged the status quo of Senate processes and failing policies.

“Dr. Coburn worked to preserve the institution of the Senate and encouraged compromise, dialogue, and always doing the people’s work, even when it was difficult,” Lankford continued. “He didn’t pursue the fight, but he also did not shy away from the fight when it came. I will miss my friend’s sage advice, blunt straightforwardness, and his tenacity to fight for our values and future generations.”

Inhofe, who did not always see eye-to-eye with Coburn, said, “Here is the truth — there was no one like Dr. Tom Coburn.“

“In every policy decision, Tom sought to be a faithful steward of the taxpayers’ money and a dedicated public servant to Oklahoma,” Inhofe said. “He had an impressive record of service — in the House of Representatives before serving with me in the Senate. But nothing about that legacy would have mattered to Tom. Tom knew what mattered in life: family — his wife Carolyn and his daughters — and Jesus.”

Open Skies: Inhofe backed President Donald Trump‘s decision to pull out of the 30-nation Open Skies Treaty but warned against letting the issue get between the U.S. and its allies.

“Going forward, it will be critical for the Trump administration to continue working with our allies and partners, especially those in eastern Europe, to ensure they have access to the intelligence they need to protect their security. That includes facilitating access to high-quality imagery,” Inhofe said in a written statement.

The Clear Skies Treaty supposedly allows aerial surveillance of the signatories’ defense installations but Russian leader Vladimir Putin has reportedly blocked flyovers of some of its territory.

“I know there is concern among many of America’s friends that there are fewer arms control and confidence-building mechanisms in place today than in the past. That’s because of one person: Vladimir Putin.”

Lankford also endorsed Trump’s decision.

Dots and dashes: Third District Congressman Frank Lucas, ranking Republican on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and other Republicans on the panel asked for more information on an FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency report that China is trying to steal American COVID-19 research. ... Oklahoma has been accepted for online use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. ... Lankford joined Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire in requesting a Government Accountability Office investigation of the Air Force’s KC-46 program, which has been plagued by performance issues including malfunctioning in-flight fueling booms. ... Inhofe praised Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Inhofe’s former aide, for his role in reversing Obama-era fuel standards during a Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, even as newly released documents show EPA scientists and some members of the administration warned against the move. ... Lucas announced $4.6 million has been awarded to 93 rural clinics throughout the state for COVID-19 testing. ... Lankford and Inhofe received unanimous consent for a resolution honoring the late Lee West, former chief justice for the Western District of Oklahoma. ... Fifth District Congresswoman Kendra Horn, who chairs the House subcommittee overseeing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said she was “deeply concerned” but the sudden departure of Human Exploration and Operations chief Doug Loverro after just six months on the job.

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Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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