WASHINGTON – Oklahoma's Republican representatives say most constituents support their unwavering demand for border security funding as the shutdown drags into the end of its fifth week.
The state's conservative elected officials back President Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for a wall and other security measures at the southern border, calling on Democrats to come to the table to negotiate.
The Senate rejected two measures on Thursday afternoon that would have resolved the 34-day shutdown. The Republican bill, which fell short of the 60 needed votes by 10, would have provided $5.7 billion in border funds along with a 3-year protection period for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Democrat proposal, which did not include border wall funding but would have funded the government through Feb. 8, failed with a 52-44 vote.
"At least we're debating bills on the floor," said Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, who voted in favor of the White House plan and against the Democrat bill. "For the past month it's been just yelling at each other and tweeting at each other and all the politics that I'm trying to stay out of."
Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, who voted in favor of the White House proposal Thursday, said in a statement he is deeply disappointed in his Democratic colleagues for their refusal to engage in "good faith negotiations."
"Over the past weeks, I have received an abundance of calls and letters to my offices from constituents urging me and the president to stand firm for the wall and I intend to do so," Inhofe said in the statement.
Lankford said he has heard from Oklahomans on both sides of the issue. His office typically receives 50 calls each day, but in the past few weeks, the volume has increased to between 100 and 120 individuals calling with mixed opinions on the shutdown.
"There are some people saying, 'Hold out, make sure we stand firm on X, Y, Z, I stand behind Trump.' Others are saying, 'Reopen the government, this is crazy,'" Lankford said. "So it just kind of depends where everybody's perspective is."
Several of the state's U.S. House members, however, said the vast majority of constituents calling their offices have expressed support for the president's hardline stance on securing border funding.
Rep. Kevin Hern, recently elected to serve the state's 1st District, said his office has received roughly 400 calls since the shutdown began in mid-December, with just four or five expressing concern.
"Most are very supportive in the Tulsa area about supporting border security, about protecting this country, in particular, about protecting the sovereignty of this country," Hern said.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma's 2nd District said about 15 or 20 out of approximately 140 callers have voiced frustration, while most are understanding of the need for border security.
"Right now there's nothing that I can do other than be an ear for them," Mullin said. "I understand their frustrations, I get where they're coming from. Once we explain the situation though … I haven't had one of them that hasn't said, 'I get it, I understand it -- it just hurts.'"
Constituent feedback to Rep. Tom Cole has been varied, according to Cole's press secretary, and the office continues to monitor it closely and seriously.
Cole has spoken at length about the shutdown on the House floor, placing the onus on Democrats to come to the table and negotiate according to Trump's stated terms.
"Thus far, Democrats have been determined to put political fights ahead of the critical need to strengthen border security," Cole said in a statement released Jan. 19. "President Trump is clearly trying to negotiate in good faith with Democratic leadership in order to end this painful government shutdown. For the good of the entire country, I hope Democrats finally come to their senses, work with Republicans and the president to enact real solutions and finally reopen the government."
Mullin also questioned why Democrats refuse to support border wall funding, and Hern said he thinks the three "very strong-willed" leaders -- President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer -- need to come together to find common ground.
"It's hard that we have 800,000 Americans that are in the middle of all this -- I'm very sorry for that happening," Hern said. "We've just got to get the border security."
Citing a high number of drug-related deaths, Mullin called the situation at the country's southern border a "national security risk."
"It's obvious that we can slow down the flow of drugs, it's obvious we can slow down the flow of illegal immigration if we're able to just bump up security measures," Mullin said.
Unlike her Republican counterparts, Rep. Kendra Horn of District 5 has stressed the adverse effects the shutdown has on Oklahomans, such as those employed by Oklahoma City's Federal Aviation Administration Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
In a Jan. 23 interview with Oklahoma City Fox 25, Horn said she wants to reopen the government in order to get federal workers paid before discussing border security issues.
"We need to get the government back open again and then let's have a broader conversation that puts everything on the table in terms of border security," Horn said in the interview.
Horn said it's never okay for the government to shut down over political disagreements or to require people to work without pay.
"This shutdown is having devastating impacts on these families," Horn said. "One federal worker said to me, 'It's not just the government that's shuttered, this is really shattering families.' They want us to get back to work."