Week in Washington: Lankford pushes for Senate efficiency, Republicans advocate anti-abortion bill

Anna Bauman and Abigail Bitterman

WASHINGTON — Oklahoma’s delegation tackled issues of abortion, violence against women and a complex yet important Senate rule change this week. 

Here’s what congressional members have been up to in the district lately. 

Violence Against Women Act reauthorization

The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. The bill passed 263-158 with Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) voting for it and Reps. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) voting against it.

This is the fourth time the Violence Against Women Act has been reauthorized in its 25 year history. This bill includes new provisions that the National Rifle Association objected to, including measures to prevent those convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse or stalking charges from buying a gun. 

Cole, who broke ranks with his fellow Republicans by voting “yes,” said in a speech on the House floor that when considering legislation, including this bill, he looks at the overall benefit and context. 

This is the fourth time the Violence Against Women Act has been reauthorized in its 25 year history.

“Certainly, there are provisions in this version of the reauthorization with which I profoundly disagree — those are particularly related to the Second Amendment,” Cole said. “However, there are compelling things about this legislation that I believe particularly are consistent with my own views and my own voting record on tribal sovereignty and protection of Native women.”

Horn spoke on the House floor to advocate for awareness of the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences. 

“I’m proud our country is working to help women and families recover from abuse by reauthorizing #VAWA, but we also need to consider the long-term effects of trauma,” Horn tweeted.  

Lankford pushes Senate rules change 

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) spent the week fighting for a Senate rule change that Republicans ultimately forced through after it failed to gain bipartisan support. 

The change will cut the amount of time required for the Senate to confirm lower-level presidential nominees — one of the congressional body’s key functions. 

Lankford’s resolution, co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), on Tuesday failed to gain the 60 votes it needed. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell instead forced the same rule change through a series of procedural votes.

Lankford spoke on the Senate floor with uncharacteristic frustration at the lack of bipartisan support, rebuking his Democratic colleagues for using the cloture vote as a stall tactic.  

“This is not about actually debating people, whether they’re qualified or not qualified,” Lankford said. “This is about preventing President Trump from getting nominations by locking up the floor and making sure he can’t actually hire staff.” 

The Senate’s confirmation process has slowed to a “glacial pace,” Lankford said, with additional debate time — a full 30 hours — requested on 128 of Trump’s nominees. This extra time was requested 24 times total for the past five presidents, according to Lankford. 

The Senate is unable to do anything but debate the nominee during those 30 hours, which prevents the Senate from doing its job, Lankford said. 

“Today’s actions will allow the Senate to fulfill its unique duty of legislation and personnel and get back to debating issues, engaging new ideas and solving problems,” Lankford said. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the Republican effort to force the rule change a “short-sighted, partisan power grab.” 

“It is motivated by the far right’s desire to flood the federal judiciary with young, ideological nominees, many of whom … are simply unqualified to serve on our nation’s courts,” Leahy said in a statement. “Post-cloture time is a critical tool for Senators, especially those who do not sit on the Judiciary Committee, to vet nominees for lifetime judgeships.” 

Republicans advocate for vote on Born-Alive bill 

Oklahoma’s Republican House members this week took to Twitter with the hashtag #endinfanticide in an effort to get a vote on the ever-divisive issue of abortion. 

“Any child born into this world should have all rights that our Constitution protects and the Lord has given,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) tweeted. “I will always stand to protect lives and end infanticide.” 

Mullin, along with Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), signed a discharge petition calling for a vote on a House resolution known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. 

The bill would prevent doctors from failing to “exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion,” according to the text of H.R. 962. 

“No matter what side Americans fall on the issue of abortion, this bill is common sense,” Cole wrote in a weekly column about the issue. 

The bill will be voted on after the petition recieves 218 signatures, meaning 21 Democrats must sign it. The petition does not expire until the end of this congressional session. 

“Infanticide is horrifying,” Hern Tweeted. “I can’t believe this is a debate we have to have in Congress.”