OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s congressional delegation is entirely Republican, but a few days into a new term it’s proving to not be solidly aligned behind the party’s leaders.
While Oklahoma’s four House and Senate veterans, who have a combined 60 years of legislative experience, typically follow their leaders, two freshmen House members — Reps. Jim Bridenstine and Markwayne Mullinhave — have emerged as a new breed.
“Like everybody else, they’re independent and have their ideas and want to express them,” said Rep. Tom Cole. “They own their voting cards, so to speak, and I think they’ll both do well over time here.”
Bridenstine made waves Thursday when he voted against the re-election of Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as House Speaker, and Bridenstine and Mullin both voted Friday against allocating Hurricane Sandy relief aid for the Northeast. Even Rep. James Lankford, who has quickly moved up the leadership ranks in just his second term in office, broke with the rest of the Oklahoma delegation and voted against resolving the “fiscal cliff” resolution, in effect supporting a tax increase on virtually all Oklahomans.
Tom Daxon, a former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, said he was concerned that Bridenstine’s vote against Boehner on his first day on the job was a politically risky one.
“There are some obvious risks there. Anytime you get yourself that out there and that isolated, then that puts you in a position where you have to overcompensate to get back to zero,” Daxon said. “Hopefully he was aware of things and considering things like this when he voted.”
But Cole said Bridenstine didn’t do political damage to himself or the Tulsa area Bridenstine represents.
“Frankly, the Speaker made it very clear this morning in conference. He said: ‘Look, I want to thank each and every one of you that voted for me, and for those that did not, I want you to know I don’t believe in retaliation or retribution and I appreciate you expressing your opinions openly and honestly. I know that’s not easy to do, and my door’s always open.”’