WASHINGTON — Markwayne Mullin made his first trip to Washington last week as one of Oklahoma's two congressmen-elect. And though he's still finding his way around Capitol Hill, he knows where he stands on the biggest issue here now.
“I'm not for raising taxes on anyone — period,'' said Mullin, a Republican who will succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dan Boren in the House next year.
Mullin, of Westville, won't get to vote on any kind of temporary fix, if one is fashioned in the next few weeks, for the looming tax hikes and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. He won't take office until January, just after they're scheduled to take effect.
If, as expected, the real work of overhauling the tax code is done next year, the 35-year-old plumbing company owner will get his say. In a brief interview, he said he would not support tax code changes that meant higher taxes for anyone.
“Right now, if it's putting more (money) in the hands of the government — they're not being responsible with it now. It makes no sense to send more money up here for them to waste.”
Mullin was on Capitol Hill for freshman orientation activities, which included a session on ethics. Mullin said there's a lot of do's and don'ts.
“It's not necessarily all common sense,” Mullin said. “Some of it doesn't make any sense, but that's government for you. But really it's just being careful. Ask questions. Don't assume anything. That's the best way to describe it.”
One thing Mullin hasn't done is look for an apartment. Many members of Congress — including three from Oklahoma — sleep in their offices when they're in town since their families stay in Oklahoma. Mullin said that's what he'll start out doing.
“I want my wife and kids to be somewhat involved so it really depends on how often they're willing to come up,” he said. “I don't want to raise my kids on concrete; I want them to be raised in the country like I was … I've slept in my office anyway so many times, sleeping here will be nothing.”
Secession petitions aren't realistic, lawmakers say
Mullin isn't among those who want the state to secede from the Union because of the Nov. 6 election. He and his eastern Oklahoma congressional district are decidedly opposed to President Barack Obama, and one of the two petitions filed on the White House website for Oklahoma to secede came from Grove, which is in his district.
Mullin said, “People are upset. We understand people are upset. But we've got to be realistic at the same time.”
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, said of the petitions, which call for Oklahoma to secede and create its own “NEW” government, “First of all, that ain't going to happen. I understand the reaction. All that is an incrimination of members of Congress of not doing their job.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, also called the petitions unrealistic.
“I can see a solution in (Republicans) taking over the Senate” in 2014, he said.
There were petitions on the We the People section of the White House website for all 50 states to secede. Petitions that garner at least 25,000 signatures within 30 days can get an official response from the White House. On Friday afternoon, one Oklahoma petition had 17,203 signatures, while the second had 8,966.
A petition seeking Texas' secession had more than 111,000 signatures.
For comparison's sake, here are some other petitions on the website and their level of support on Friday:
• “Outlaw offending prophets of major religions,” 37,358 signatures
• “Remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substance Act and allow the states to decide how they want to regulate it,” 57,772 signatures
• “Nationalize the Twinkie industry,” 218 signatures
• “Provide University graduates ability to trade their diplomas back for 100% tuition refunds,” 741 signatures
• “Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States of America,” 22,972 signatures
• “Not Allow The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) To Regulate Premium Cigars,” 33,579 signatures
• “Establish new legal system of motorcycle riding ‘Judges' who serve as police, judge, jury, and executioner all in one,” 1,984 signatures
Tribal conference set
The White House will host its fourth annual Tribal Nations Conference on Dec. 5, with invites going out to all 566 of the federally recognized tribes.
President Barack Obama typically speaks to the tribal representatives at the beginning and end of the daylong conferences, which feature sessions with cabinet secretaries and agency heads about issues important to Indian country.
Indian leaders from Oklahoma have praised the Obama administration's engagement with tribes, saying their input has been sought and sincerely considered before policy decisions are made.
At last year's conference, Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel, the president of the National Congress of American Indians, said, “We've made some real gains in the past three years with this administration. He made some commitments to Indian Country and he's fulfilled them.”
In September, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker called Obama “the best president for Indian Country in the history of the United States.”