Markwayne Mullin visited Pryor Monday evening as a part of his listening tour.
Mullin, who will take office in January, is the third Republican to represent northeastern Oklahoma in the United States House of Representatives.
Mullin told the friendly group in the Graham Community Building he was there so he would not be “paying attention to myself, and not paying attention to the district. And I think that could happen with the last two weeks of orientation.”
He said he heard a lot of talk about bipartisanship, but when orientation began, the freshmen Republicans went in one room and the Democrats into another. Mullin said freshmen Democrats and Republicans don’t have any contact with each other during orientation. This segregation even extends to receptions. Mullin blamed the congressional leadership for this.
Mullin said he iss grateful to outgoing Rep. Dan Boren who has turned over his office to Mullin when he’s needed it during orientation. Mullin said he plans to know everyone he can while in Congress, even the janitors. He believes it is good to get to know everyone and what they do.
Mullin described a sense of pride he has in being a future congressman. “..and they make sure you understand it,” he said.
Ed Silcox of Chouteau asked about farm dust that he said is being regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Mullin said the EPA is just sitting on a whole new batch of regulations to enact in 2013. He said this will lead to higher food costs as farmers will have to abide by new regulations.
Mullin said his plumbing business is up and running by 7 a.m. and his vans are out to service customers by 8 a.m. Mullin contrasted that with an observation he made about the federal government while in Washington last week. He said traffic in Washington does not even get started until 8 a.m. Mullin said “at four o’clock, five o’clock, things start shutting down.”
Mullin was asked if he would break his promise to serve only three terms. Mullin said he misses his kids already and that in six years, his oldest son will be 15. “I’m going to miss six years of their life,” he said.
Paul Hollorah about the Republican message. Hollorah said he knows Speaker of the House John Beohner personally, but that he cannot reach Boehner regarding framing the policy debate from a Republican perspective.
Mullin said Boehner is very colorful in private. Mullin said the Republicans lost seats in the house and senate and there are “serious conversations going on,” in regard to policy. He did not elaborate about specifics.
Mullin said he thinks the Republicans are in a great position to project a different vision for the country than the Democrats. He said the president and his party want to make the government bigger and that has never worked throughout history. “Are we going to sit back and let him (Obama) have his way and drive that bus off this fiscal cliff? And on the other side, if we don’t he is going to say, ‘I tried to give them something, they (Republicans in the House) wouldn’t compromise.’” Mullin said if he is voted out of office, the worst thing that will happen to him is he “will get his life back.” Mullin said others in the house don’t have that view, that many have congress as careers.
When asked if he would vote to raise taxes, Mullin was adamantly against sending more money to Washington. He said if congress does nothing, the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration will expire at the end of the year.
Mullin said if a deal is not made, and the government cannot operate due to the debt, then it would be “a wake up call. To all of us.”
When it was suggested Mullin would get blamed he said, “I’m okay with that.” Mullin said locally he wants people to know the truth and defend what he is trying to do in Washington.
Mullin was asked about sequestration of the budget. This means that cuts in the budget will automatically go into effect should congress and the White House not agree to a compromise. Some of those cuts will be in the military budget. Mullin said if those cuts do go into effect, the Navy will be reduced to the same amount of ships it had in 1917.
Mullin was asked by Tex Gaskins about tax reform. Mullin said between the fair tax (a national sales tax eliminating the income tax) and a flat tax, he favors the fair tax. “Anything is better than what we have now.”
Mullin was asked about Veterans affairs. Mullin said he will vote the way Dan Boren has voted on Veterans issues. Mullin said if congress really wants to fix the health care issues at the Veterans hospitals, congress should have to use them. “That problem will be fixed real quick.”
Mullin praised the Oklahoma delegation both in the Senate and the House. Mullin said he and Tom Cole are the only American Indians in Congress. Mullin is part Cherokee and Rep. Cole is Chickasaw.
Mullin said his first priority is to hire a knowledgeable staff. He lamented the poverty in the second district, despite an abundance of natural resources.
Mayor Jimmy Tramel asked about the Federal Emergency Management Authority. Tramel said he wants to see FEMA as an assistance agency rather than coming into a community after a disaster and taking over the situation. Mullin rhetorically asked, “How did we survive without FEMA in the first place?”
Tramel said, “We need to define a disaster, instead of an inconvenience.” Mullin said the responsibility of congress to take care of disasters. “That wasn’t written up in the Bill of Rights or the Constitution.”
Tramel said FEMA reform won’t happen unless someone like Mullin introduces a bill to make it happen. Tramel said while he will take the FEMA money if it is offered, a snowstorm in Pryor is not a disaster.
Mullin challenged Tramel on that point, saying as long as people are going to ask for FEMA funds, even when unnecessary, no reforms will ever come about.
“Two years ago, if you had told me that I would be standing in front of you I would have laughed; but I got fed up. I said I’m going to do something different.” Mullin suggested that FEMA does some things for publicity. Mullin took a poll, asking how many people knew about the Nashville floods two years ago. A few hands came up. Mullin asked about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and all the hands went up.
Mullin concluded by telling the group that under Obama Care, members of Congress like himself are going to have to purchase health insurance.
He said the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader in the Senate and members of the Executive Branch are exempt from purchasing health insurance under Obama Care.