U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, in his first official act, turned thumbs down on the man who will be his boss. Career-limiting move? Perhaps, but it wouldn't necessarily be seen that way if, two days earlier, Bridenstine had voted against the “fiscal cliff” resolution bill.
After all, Rep. James Lankford voted against the bill and is now part of House Speaker John Boehner's leadership team. Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, and Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, will probably be on the same side of most issues in the coming two years.
Bridenstine ousted veteran Republican congressman John Sullivan last summer and easily defeated his Democratic opponent in November. In the election for speaker, Bridenstine supported Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., also part of the leadership team. He was one of only 12 Republicans to oppose Boehner.
Some members of Congress linked to the tea party movement, including Bridenstine, weren't happy with Boehner's role in a tax increase included in the compromise bill. Some Republicans who voted for the bill — including every member of the Oklahoma delegation except Lankford — will get complaints from the tea party; some of them may draw primary opponents based largely on the tax increase.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, has passed this way before. He's consistently turned back tea party opponents in Republican primaries, as did Mary Fallin when she ran for governor in 2010. The tea party hasn't had much traction in Oklahoma. We think that's because mainstream Republicans here are so conservative. Bridenstine in fact may be the first tea party-backed candidate at such a high level to actually win office in Oklahoma.
What Cole and the other delegation members did to resolve the impasse was an example of statesmanship. This isn't a criticism of Lankford. His opposition was principled, not petty. Other fights — and other fiscal cliffs — await down the road.