U.S. Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole touched on the following topics at last week’s telephone town hall meeting:
• Drugs coming across the nation’s southern border: “This is one you can lay squarely at the president’s feet,” Cole said of action Biden took to stop building the border wall and suspending a policy that specifies those coming across the border must have a legitimate reason to be in the U.S. Cole said in most cases, drug cartels have more influence at the border than the U.S. does because government policies hamper action. He said constituents should see some action by May, when an immigration reform bill is expected to come to the House floor. “We have major legislation coming,” he said, adding the president needs to acknowledge the policies he put into place are not working. “It’s not going to change unless he changes policy or, frankly, he is replaced in the next election.”
• House action to prohibit biological males from participating in women’s and girls’ sports: Cole called the action “culturally controversial,” with the final vote following party lines. “This is a touchy subject,” Cole said, explaining while transpeople want to participate in sports, those born biologically male have an advantage over females. “We want to protect women’s and girls’ sports, without denying people an opportunity to participate in sports,” he said, adding the argument is people should participate in sports “based on your sexual identity.”
• Rarely seen action where Congress overrides decisions made by Washington, D.C., local government: Cole said the Constitution gives Congress the right to govern Washington, D.C. and while Congress has given local government leeway to run their own affairs and hasn’t done it in 30 years, “we reserve the power to overturn some decisions. If we think the law is out of bounds, we can overrule.” Congress recently took that step after local government passed new criminal codes that lowered penalties, action that legislators felt so outrageous “it needed to be overturned.” Cole said even Washington D.C.’s liberal mayor vetoed the code, but was overridden by city government. Congressional override came on a bipartisan vote in both houses, Cole said, predicting similar action on other laws being considered by the city council that are strongly opposed by law enforcement. That action moved out of the House on Thursday and has moved to the Senate.
• Questions about the integrity of the election system: Cole, a political science professor before entering politics, said in America, each state runs its own election system, with the federal government avoiding action as long as those systems don’t violate civil rights or discriminate. He said Oklahoma’s election system is a good one, noting, for example, that ballots that arrive after 7 p.m. on election day aren’t counted and ballots are saved. “I can’t remember the last time an election was overturned in Oklahoma,” he said, adding Oklahoma runs its own system based on its own rules and other states get to do the same.