Although I was called back to Washington for a few days due to votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, I was still able to spend much of August in Oklahoma for the customary monthlong district work period. This extended time each year always provides the opportunity to interact directly with constituents and hear firsthand about the issues that matter most to them. In addition to traveling across the district to visit local communities, organizations and businesses as well as site tours and various coffees and lunches with community leaders, I hosted two telephone town halls, in which I provided an update from Congress and answered questions on a variety of national issues from those on the line. Throughout the month, several topics consistently came up in discussions.
Clearly, constituents are concerned about the state of America’s economy, which is now in a recession, and the worsening burden of inflation on families and small businesses trying to stay afloat. In fact, since President Joe Biden assumed office, inflation has reached an historic 40-year high and led to the most dramatic food price increase in American history of 12 percent. Unfortunately, this situation is the result of the irresponsible spending promoted and advanced by Democrats and the Biden Administration. Toward the beginning of August, Speaker Pelosi called members back to Washington to vote on a partisan tax-and-spend reconciliation bill that will only make matters worse. Although deceptively promoted as the “Inflation Reduction Act,” it would be better named the “Inflation Expansion Act.” One thing is clear in my conversations across the district, Oklahomans are paying more to feed their families, run their businesses and cover everyday expenses.
In addition to the unprecedented rise in prices on pretty much everything, constituents also remain concerned about gas prices, which have reached an all-time high on President Biden’s watch. Although the president and Democrats want you to believe that the rising cost of fuel should be attributed to Russia’s invasion of and ongoing conflict in Ukraine, it is the Biden Administration’s anti-American energy policies enacted on Inauguration Day that caused this crisis. As a nation rich in energy resources and emerging technologies, America has the resources here at home to pursue an all-of-the above energy strategy that encourages domestic energy production, reduces America’s dependency on oil sourced from adversarial countries and immediately lowers fuel prices. Unfortunately, the president and Democrats continue to chase Green New Deal climate policies and ignore our own energy resources that are readily available. In Oklahoma, we are fortunate to have many sources of energy and are well equipped to fill the demand domestically and internationally. However, the president must lead with a commonsense approach to oil and gas production. Regardless of what elected officials in non-energy producing states believe, regulations matter. The industry cannot increase production on a large scale at the whims of those in Washington. A stable, commonsense approach to investment, leasing and regulation are needed for our country to become energy independent.
Most recently, numerous constituents have called or written into my office out of great concern about the president’s plan to “forgive” a wide swath of federal student loans, which is estimated to cost American taxpayers at least $519 billion. I certainly echo the same concerns as my constituents. It is a terribly unfair idea that ultimately harms hardworking Americans more than it will help anyone other than affluent voters in the days ahead. Canceling college debt that individuals voluntarily chose to undertake is a monumentally bad policy that will benefit the few at the expense of the many. That is exactly the opposite of what the country should be doing. Moreover, forgiving federal college loans will only add more fuel to the raging inflationary fire that is already making it difficult for Americans to pay for basic items needed to live and take care of their families.
Another topic brought up often by constituents was the rise and aggressive behavior of Communist China and America’s dangerous reliance on the country to support our supply chains. Although supply chain woes became prevalent at the height of the pandemic, those challenges remain, with nearly 80 percent of small business owners reporting an increase in supply chain issues in the last three months. To address aspects of the supply chain that could jeopardize our cybersecurity, Congress took a promising step with passage of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 that was recently signed into law. Although not a perfect bill, it importantly seeks to strengthen America’s global competitiveness by investing in our nation’s semiconductor industry and encouraging manufacturing of those critical pieces of technology domestically. However, more should be done in the days ahead to encourage American manufacturing generally in order to keep China at bay. We know that this investment in American manufacturing and supply chain independence makes the CCP angry, and that is incredibly telling.
Constituents continue to raise concerns about the Biden Administration’s foreign policy missteps and national security failures. For example, it has been a year since the disastrous withdrawal of the remaining U.S. military troops in Afghanistan, and neither Congress nor the American people have answers for why this action was taken or advisable at the time. Meanwhile, the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border, caused by President Biden’s open border policies, continues to worsen and put our communities at risk. Illegal border crossings have reached a record high, our country has the highest murder rate in more than 20 years, immigrants from more than 150 countries have illegally crossed the border and tragically the abundance of fentanyl is now the leading cause of death in American adults ages 18-45. The president’s policies have put our Customs and Border Patrol agents in an untenable situation as they try to do their job.
When Congress returns for legislative session later this month, I will remember the constituent conversations from my extended time in Oklahoma and use that feedback to further inform my votes as I continue to represent the Fourth District of Oklahoma. If you have any questions, concerns or need help with a federal agency, I encourage you to reach out by calling my office at (405) 329-6500 or visiting my website to send an email at cole.house.gov/contact.