Stephanie Bice reflects on tumultuous first 100 days


WASHINGTON When Oklahoma’s newest representative launched her campaign for the Fifth Congressional District seat, she expected the typical challenges that go with moving from the state political theater to the national. 

What she did not expect were the history-making challenges that presented themselves during her campaign and as she took office.

 From a global pandemic to a riot at the Capitol days after she took office, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice has seen a significant amount of history in her short time in office, in addition to making history herself by being the first Iranian-American elected to Congress.

 But Bice has already positioned herself in spaces that allow her to make an impact for Oklahomans, with a spot on the House Armed Services Committee and election as the first female Republican freshman class president during the House new-member orientation. 

“It was a really great honor,” Bice said. “My job as the freshman class president is really just to facilitate conversation, keep the freshmen informed on various topics.” 

Bice was elected by her peers in the freshman class of the 117th Congress, and her position has helped her to connect and collaborate with other representatives.

“I think that shows she has respect from her peers,” said Dr. Michael Crespin, director of the OU Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. “Bice was well-respected in the state Senate, so it’s not really too surprising.” 

She also has a seat on the House Armed Services Committee, traditionally an important one for Oklahoma and its military bases.

 Even though Bice’s district includes none of the state’s military bases, she is aware of their importance to Oklahoma and plans to work to represent that on the committee. She sits on the Military Personnel and the new Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems subcommittees.

“The congressional district that I represent has a majority of the military families that may work on Tinker (Air Force Base), but Tinker is actually part of (Rep.) Tom Cole’s district,” Bice said. “That being said, I want to make sure that I’m advocating for all of our armed forces to ensure they have what they need to be successful.”

Bice’s district includes all of Pottawaomie and Seminole counties and all of Oklahoma County except Tinker Air Force Base, which is the northern tip of Cole’s  Fourth Congressional District.

Bice also serves on the Space, Science and Technology Committee.

 Even with her early success, Bice says that dealing with the events of the past few months has been challenging.

 On Jan. 6, three days after she was sworn in, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and disrupted the joint session gathered to officially count and certify the electoral votes. When Congress reconvened after the Capitol was secured, Bice voted with the rest of Oklahoma’s House representatives to object to votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania, two states where former President Trump contested the election results.

But she spoke out against the mob.

 “(The Jan. 6 riot) was completely unexpected and disappointing,” Bice said. “I never imagined that we would be experiencing that type of scenario.”

 The COVID-19 pandemic also affected her campaign and made for a tumultuous first few months in office.

 “It was a little bit of a challenge trying to run a congressional campaign during a global pandemic. So we had to really figure out, how do you connect with voters and share your message when you can’t be on their doorstep?”

 As with most people who tried to continue their jobs even as lockdowns went into effect, Bice had to get creative to reach voters.

 “We made a lot of outreach calls, we put out a lot of Facebook videos, we did town halls on Facebook Live to try to just gain interaction with folks and answer questions that they may have had.”

 These efforts paid off, as Bice defeated Democratic incumbent Kendra Horn on Nov. 3. Now, she must deal with a different set of challenges posed by the pandemic.

“When we did new- member orientation, it was socially distanced with masks on and that actually made it a little bit of a challenge to know even your freshmen members that you’re going to be serving with. That has carried on into being a member.”

Some of the challenges of being a new representative amidst the pandemic include setting up an office, Crespin said.

“For some members, they had some staff in the office and some staff at home,” Crespin said. “They’re going to have to work through- how does that work out? And that’s probably a little harder for a new member.”

 Bice said she is now ready to work through the normal challenges of being a freshman representative. As a former Oklahoma state senator, Bice said it has been a “learning experience” to go from being in the majority party with a Republican governor to joining the minority in the U.S. House.

 “Part of what I’m trying to figure out is, how do you find ways to be effective here, when you’re in the minority?” Bice said. “How do you build relationships and coalitions?”

 To that end, Bice says she has made an effort to connect on both sides of the aisle and find common ground with Democrats, but has run into disagreements on issues such as energy.

 “One of the things you’re seeing is the Biden Administration really wanting to put a complete stop to fossil fuels,” Bice said. “And I think that’s a huge mistake.”

 The Biden Administration has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% from 2005 levels by 2030.

 Bice also is set to clash with Democrats on infrastructure, voting laws and border security. Infrastructure and voting laws bills are making their way through Congress.

 She has already voted against H.R. 1, a bill addressing election security, and has argued against the American Jobs Plan, President Biden’s infrastructure bill.

 “When I think of infrastructure, I think of roads and bridges, maybe water treatment facilities for communities, electric infrastructure is important,” Bice said. “But there’s a whole lot of things in this $2.25 trillion package that I don’t think have anything to do with infrastructure.”

Bice’s election comes amid a wave of Republican women being elected to Congress. In the 2020 election, 30 Republican women were elected to the House, setting a new record from 25 in 2006, according to the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics.

“Sometimes women, especially on the Republican side, are seen as more moderate than Rebuplican men,” Crespin said. “If she’s concerned about that, (she) might have to play against type a little bit.”

As Bice’s tumultuous first 100 days in office come to a close, she said her goal is always to represent Oklahomans on issues that are important to them.

“My goal from day one is really just to do what I can to support Oklahomans in any capacity that I can,” Bice said.

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.