Enid News: Lankford talks Congress, Israel-Hamas war during Enid visit

June 28, 2024

By Kevin Eagleson

View the full article at www.enidnews.com


ENID, Okla. — U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., gave an update on several topics during a visit to Enid on Monday, June 24, 2024.

Lankford spoke to members of Enid Rotary Club at their weekly meeting at Stide Bank Center. He gave an update on congressional matters, the Israel-Hamas war and the federal debt. Lankford also dedicated a portion of his address to questions.

Congressional update

Lankford began his update on Congress by noting that there are only six weeks of session left in the Senate before the general election on Nov. 5.

Twelve fiscal year 2025 appropriations must pass before Sept. 30, but Lankford said he does not believe they will pass before the deadline. Instead, he believes, there will be a continuing resolution that will push the deadline into November or December.

“At this point, it is when politics, what they affectionately call the silly season, when it just becomes political messaging votes, we’re not actually moving anything of consequence,” Lankford said. “When both sides are just trying to be able to posture on the other one to be able to prepare for the election.”

Lankford cited Senate Bill 4381, which aimed to protect contraceptive access nationwide, as an example of a bill on the floor for political messaging. According to Lankford, the bill was nothing but a political message.

“There’s not a single jurisdiction, not a single state in the country that is threatening contraceptives,” Lankford said.

In recent years, multiple states have attempted to limit access to emergency contraceptives.

In 2020, Texas received permission to exclude emergency contraceptives from its medicaid-funded family planning program. In 2021, Idaho enacted a law that prohibits health clinics at public schools, including higher education institutions, from providing emergency contraceptives, except in cases of rape. In 2023, Iowa stopped paying for Plan B for sexual assault survivors through its Crime Victim Compensation Program.

According to a report from KFF, although these bills do not legally restrict access to contraceptives, they do restrict access by affecting coverage.

Israel-Hamas war

Lankford said things are difficult for Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip because of the Israel-Hamas war. No war is good, it is painful, Lankford said.

Because Lankford is on both the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the Intelligence Committee, he said the resolution of the Israel-Hamas war is a big issue for him.

“I also serve as the chair of what’s called the Abraham Accords Caucus, trying to be able to work to develop relationships between Israel and other nations in the region,” Lankford said. “Because if those relationships — what’s called normalization — occur, it brings in the region, that brings the volume down significantly.”

Lankford went on to call Hamas a terrorist organization and said the war began as a result of the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks on Israel.

According to a post on X, on Feb. 15, 2024, by Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Hamas has not been designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council.

Contrary to the United Nations, the United States Department of State designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization on Oct. 8, 1997. That same day, the Department of State listed multiple other Palestinian organizations as foreign terrorist organizations.

Conflicts between Israel and Palestine are not new. There have been sporadic conflicts since the 1948 Nakba, in which Israeli settlers displaced more than 750,000 Palestinian, according to Al-Jazeera.

The Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 left 1,139 Israelis dead. Since then, Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to reporting from Reuters in May.

Lankford also accused Hamas fighters of using Palestinian civilians as human shields.

On June 23, 2024, a video surfaced of a Palestinian man strapped to the hood of an Israeli military vehicle during a raid on the West Bank city of Jenin. In a post on X, Francesca Albanese, the United Nations’ special rapporteur to the occupied Palestinian territory, said it was an example of human shielding.

Special rapporteurs are independent human rights experts. They work with the United Nations to examine the human rights conditions in a specific area.

Federal debt

Lankford criticized the lack of attention on the federal debt in the current election cycle.

“We’re in a very bad spot. We are a country that is maxed out on every credit card, and now we’re just paying the interest on our credit cards and can’t keep up with the interest,” Lankford said.

According to Lankford, the country needs the economy to grow by 3.5% to 4% to get out of its current level of debt.

“Now, I’m not bringing you an answer, I’m bringing you an issue, and I’m saying to you, this is going to be a real conversation in the country in the next three to four years more than we’ve ever talked about before,” Lankford said.

Lankford believes the next year will be the year of tax policy, regardless of which party is in power.

“Most of the 2017 tax bill expires at the end of next year, which means if we don’t do something serious on tax, we have a huge tax increase that’s coming at the end of next year,” Lankford said.

Questions from Rotarians

During the question-and-answer period of Lankford’s address, a Rotarian asked him about the future possibilities of the Affordable Connectivity Program receiving funding moving forward.

Lankford said an expansion of the program is likely.

“In Oklahoma, we have about 200,000 people that still do not have broadband capability,” Lankford said.

Because of the cost of bringing broadband to remote, isolated homes and communities, Lankford suggested the use of satellites, such as Starlink, as a cost-effective solution moving forward.

“Take a mountainous area in West Virginia; somebody’s living very remotely. It’d be exceptionally expensive,” Lankford said. “Should we spend $50 million getting into that one house with a broadband connection? Or should we have a satellite eventually, maybe it’s $100 a month?”

One Rotarian asked Lankford if it would take another crisis, such as the COVID pandemic, to bring people together.

“I hope that’s not what it takes. But I will tell you, America is really good in moments of crisis of everybody looking at each other, putting arms down in front of each other,” Lankford said. “ We have done that the entire history of our country.”