Social conservatives are stirred up over Oklahoma speaker-elect's comments

Some House Republicans say the next speaker of the House of Representatives should put more emphasis on so-called social issues, such as anti-immigration and gun laws. Others say they should wait until the agenda for next year's session is drawn up during caucus meetings next week.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT, Modified: December 4, 2010 at 12:44 am •  Published: December 4, 2010

“Otherwise, conservative members of the House Republican caucus should take note that our new leadership intends to unilaterally break the promises that we made to the public during our campaigns.”

Terrill, R-Moore, said he is disappointed Steele has not responded to his satisfaction.

“The speaker, still to this day, despite given multiple opportunities do so, has not clearly and unequivocally repudiated the comments that appeared in your paper,” Terrill said Friday. “This snowball that was put in place on Thursday night clearly has now grown beyond everyone's expectations.”

Terrill, who is disappointed he was not reappointed chairman of a key budget subcommittee for the next two years by Steele, said it appears to him next week's caucus meeting is a “sham.”

“At this point we have reason to question its authenticity and its genuineness,” he said.

A couple of social conservatives said Friday that Republicans, who hold a 70-31 majority in the House of Representatives, should not overreact to Steele's comments. They reaffirmed their support last month for Steele to be the next speaker; the full House of Representatives will meet Jan. 4 to vote officially on a speaker to succeed Chris Benge, who could not seek re-election because of legislative term limits.

“It's too early for anyone to determine that they've been cut out,” said Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. “Next week is about the agenda that the Republican caucus would like to come together behind. ...”

“I don't see his leadership being chipped away,” Reynolds said. “I see his leadership being formed by how he stands up to this kind of controversy because I believe he's going to face a lot tougher things than this in the next two years.”

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft said the criticism of Steele's statements has been a rush to judgment.

“It's all going to be worked out at the Republican caucus,” said Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “I'm optimistic that at the Republican caucus that Speaker-elect Steele will give just as much emphasis to so-called constitutional or social issues as he will economic because that's what our caucus wants. He serves us. We don't serve him. … We elected him and I feel confident that he will treat us fairly.”