By TEDDYE SNELL
Newly elected Dist. 2 Congressman Markwayne Mullin believes to be effective, you focus on a few issues and fight to resolve them, otherwise it’s easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged.
Mullin held a Town Hall meeting at Go Ye Village’s Richardson Hall Tuesday morning, and fielded questions about immigration, clean water, the country’s debt and how the Republicans can effectively get their party’s message across.
Mullin emphasized his plan to remain connected with his constituency and to not get bitten by the “D.C. bug.”
“Call me an idiot now and then if I deserve it,” said Mullin. “Let me know if I make a mistake. If I can’t admit failure, there’s no room for growth. Don’t be shy about asking your questions; it’s what keeps me from getting bit by the [Washington] D.C. bug.”
Mullin said he rarely leaves “campus,” choosing to sleep in his office.
“I don’t play golf, I don’t drink,” he said. “I sleep in my office on a cot and wander the halls at night. I’m there to work. Party is our issue now, and it’s time to put the country first. I won’t vote based solely on my party or with an eye on re-election. It’s not about us now. We dug this ditch and it’s time to cover it up.”
One member of the audience asked Mullin when Congress plans to actually get something done.
Mullin said to resolve the federal debt issue, uncomfortable decisions need to be made to secure the future for the next generation.
“We will see change if people stand up and say they’ve had enough,” said Mullin. “It’s been disappointing to see how slowly things move. I understand it takes three years to get a bill pushed through.”
Another audience member reminded Mullin and his colleagues the voters elected them and can easily fire them. He asked Mullin why Congress opted to approve the bailout for Hurricane Sandy relief.
“Didn’t they have insurance?” the man asked. “I have insurance.”
Mullin said he took the same position as the man asking the question. He explained FEMA holds the flood insurance policies for the victims.
“FEMA needed a $9.7 billion loan [from the federal government] to pay the claims on Sandy,” said Mullin.
“The problem is FEMA never repaid the $18 billion they borrowed to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Now, I couldn’t understand why we’d make a loan when the other wasn’t paid, but it wasn’t the people’s fault. They paid their premiums and the money was mismanaged by FEMA. To me, that’s an issue for the courts, which is why I voted against aid for Sandy.”
Hurricane Katrina decimated coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005, when George Bush was in the White House.
An attendee said he believes President Barack Obama’s latest plan for immigration reform runs counter to the Constitution and is illegal, and asked Mullin his thoughts on the matter.
“That’s why Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Obama haven’t presented a budget yet,” said Mullin. “[They’re operating] on an open resolution. In a way, they’re bypassing the Constitution. But in November, they had a chance to get rid of [Obama] and didn’t.”
Mullin said there’s no perfect solution for immigration reform.
“Right now, immigration has become the front for both parties,” said Mullin.
“What they’re not saying is it’s a national security issue. We talk about our southern border all the time, but the northern border is wide open. It’s easier to get into Canada than the U.S., and you can literally walk across the border. Now, there are elected officials on both borders who are going to answer to their constituents, so I think we have a real chance at addressing reform.”
Denise Deason-Toyne, president of Save The Illinois River Inc., asked Mullin what support the organization can count on in Washington for preserving Lake Tenkiller and the Illinois River for future generations.
“I don’t want to work with the EPA,” said Mullin. “They get involved and make things worse. I think it’s important we work within the state and with other states. The federal government treats us all like criminals, and the state should take care of it.”
Mullin, who was raised on a dairy farm in Adair County, said he hauled chicken litter and used it as fertilizer on his farm.
“After the Clean Water Act, the feds came in and told us we had to follow all kinds of rules,” said Mullin. “They told us we couldn’t spread litter near a waterway. We never spread it near a creek. They defined a waterway as a ditch. A ditch! They told us we couldn’t do that on our own dairy [farm]. Show me anyplace around here you can walk 1,000 feet without hitting a ditch. I want clean water, but I’m fighting to get the EPA out of our way.”
One woman said she’s tired of people receiving handouts.
“The people who put [Obama] in office are all on freebies,” she said. “I go out to eat once a month to a buffet in Muskogee. Every time I go, I see a single mother with four or five children eating there at $10 a plate. I’m not prejudiced, but we can’t keep giving. And why did we give them credit cards?”
Mullin said the problem wasn’t relegated to just single mothers, that he has a brother-in-law who has mastered ways of receiving government handouts. He believes the citizenry is becoming dependent on subsidies.
“And we gave them credit cards because they were embarrassed they were on aid, and it was considered demeaning,” said Mullin. “Well, they should be embarrassed. If we get fed up enough, we’re going to cry louder than they do. Look at what the president said in his inaugural address. It would make [a man] throw up in his mouth. What if 10 percent of the church population stood up and cried as loud as they do? We’re the majority, we just have to find a way to fight for it. Don’t give up.”
Andy Ewing, former owner of Andy Ewing Toyota in Muskogee, asked Mullin how he plans to get people working and if there is a way to balance the budget.
Mullin said sequestration – automatically cutting federal programs across the board to deal with the federal deficit - will happen most likely by March 1, and only then will spending cuts be renegotiated.
“Forty percent of our economy is government-driven,” said Mullin. “I’m all for going in and saying ‘boom! get rid of [the spending],’ but the ripple effect is unknown and could take up to 10 years to make us free from federal spending. So, we can either take 10 years to bring the budget back into balance, or we can take 10 years to wean us off the federal government. I’m one of those guys who wants to get it over with. If we take the 10-year approach to balancing the budget, we’ll cut 5 to 10 percent from services every year.”
Another participant asked how the Republicans can do a better job of getting their message across.
Mullin said it’s important to reach out to friends and family in other states.
“What’s our outlet? Fox News?” asked Mullin. “That’s preaching to the choir. What else can we do? If the rest of the states would follow [Oklahoma’s] lead, we’d be fine. We have some of the lowest unemployment in the country. Talk to your friends and family in other states. Tell them why Republicans are good, not why Democrats are bad. Democrats aren’t bad, they just have bad leadership. They have good ideas. We all have good ideas.”
Mullin thanked the audience for attending, saying he knows everyone has a lot of questions and concerns, but it’s important to remain focused.
“I’m a glass half-full guy,” said Mullin.
“It’s not about me. It’s about the generation behind us. I choose to focus on a few issues and I’m going to fight for them and not get overwhelmed by trying to fix everything. I recommend you do the same. Fix the problems you’re passionate about and don’t be silent about them. This country is worth saving. Don’t give up on us, our kids and our grandkids.”