Capitol briefs: Some issues from last Congress will confront the new session

Oklahoman Modified: January 7, 2009 at 4:45 am •  Published: January 7, 2009
WASHINGTON — As Congress began a new session Tuesday, Oklahoma lawmakers confronted some issues left over from the last one. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, reintroduced a bill to freeze the balance of the $700 billion approved to bail out the financial industry. And Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, criticized Senate Democratic leaders for announcing that a sweeping public lands bill would be among the first matters tackled in the Senate. All five of Oklahoma’s House members were sworn in for new two-year terms Tuesday, and Inhofe was sworn in for his third six-year term. Inhofe, who voted against the financial rescue money last year and tried in December to freeze the remaining funds, said Tuesday he is still committed to the goal. He said the program was wrong to begin with "and has been executed without regard for taxpayers or future generations.” Other lawmakers also have advocated freezing the balance, which can’t be spent without approval from Congress. Coburn blocked several bills in the last Congress that would expand public trails or heritage areas, and Senate leaders tried unsuccessfully to bring them up as a package to push them through. He said a decision by the leaders to try again "makes a mockery of voters’ hope for change.” "Congress should spend the next few weeks holding hearings on an economic stimulus package and identifying areas of the budget to cut to pay for that proposal,” Coburn said.

Chris Casteel, Washington Bureau