OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Republican Party’s takeover of the U.S. Senate gives the GOP its best chance to push back against government regulations and ramp up military spending since Democratic President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Oklahoma’s senior U.S. senator, Jim Inhofe, says.
Elected to a fourth full six-year term in November’s general election, the 80-year-old Inhofe, a Republican, will be part of a 54-seat majority when the Senate convenes in January. While not a veto-proof majority, Inhofe said the GOP, which retained control of the House in the fall elections, will still have considerable political sway over Obama.
“We’re not going to resolve these problems unless we have a lever over Obama,” Inhofe said during a recent phone interview with The Associated Press. “This gives us the margin to make me optimistic.”
Inhofe will wield considerable influence in the new Congress. Currently the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Inhofe is expected to become the committee’s chairman in the next Congress. He also has been the ranking Republican on the Senate’s committee on armed services, an area Inhofe said will be a primary focus.
Inhofe accused the Obama administration of “disarming the military” over the past six years, reducing the nation’s military budget by billions of dollars.
“He is a very liberal person,” Inhofe said of the president. “Extreme liberals sometimes don’t think you need a military.”
But the senator said ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East, including attacks against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, will require the U.S. to devote more resources to its armed forces.
“We are now being challenged all over the world,” Inhofe said.
Rolling back federal regulations, especially those involving the environment, will be another goal of the GOP-controlled Senate, Inhofe said. He accused the current administration “of destroying this country in terms of overregulation.”
“(Obama) has this extreme environmental agenda,” Inhofe said. “We’re going to be very busy.”
Inhofe, one of Congress’ most vocal deniers of the scientific consensus of climate change, wrote in a 2012 book that global warming was “a hoax.”
“It’s not happening,” Inhofe said during the AP interview. Climate changes detected in recent years are part of a natural cycle that takes between 25 and 35 years to complete, he said.
“We’ve gone through this since 1895 five times,” Inhofe said. “There’s not warming going on. We’re now in the 15th year of cooling.”
He said regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency will kill the economy and jobs. He has urged the agency to abandon stricter rules on refinery air pollution and to reject their own scientists’ recommendation to tighten a standard for the main ingredient in smog.
As the likely chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Inhofe will lead an effort to boost oversight of the EPA and try to thwart its agenda.
While the Republican agenda will likely face opposition from Democrats, Inhofe said he expects bipartisan support in the next Congress for a transportation reauthorization bill to distribute federal dollars for new roads and bridges and repairing and replacing existing ones.
“That will be the No. 1 priority,” Inhofe said. “That’s what we’re supposed to be doing here.”
And he said he looks forward to support from Oklahoma’s newest addition to the U.S. Senate, Republican Sen.-elect James Lankford, in accomplishing the GOP goals. Lankford was elected in November to the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Tom Coburn.
Lankford, a two-term member of the U.S. House from central Oklahoma’s 5th District, said expects to have a good working relationship with the state’s senior senator and play a role in passing legislation that challenges Obama’s agenda.
“We need to set things on his desk,” Lankford said Monday. “I think the president is going to have a hard time vetoing things over and over again.”
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