NORMAN — The only member of the Oklahoma delegation to attend President Joe Biden’s Joint Session Address in person this week was also one of seven House Republicans to take part in Biden’s official escort into the House chamber.

Norman’s Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., joined leaders of the House Republicans in the Republican escort committee as Biden made his way to the House floor to address Congress in a joint session for the first time since becoming president.

“It is always an honor to listen to any president speak to Congress in person,” Cole said in a statement following the address. “And I was certainly pleased to be part of President Biden’s official escort into the House chamber.”

Regardless of his role in Wednesday night’s address, Cole said afterward that he took issue with much of what Biden said and proposed in his speech.

“The proposal the president put before Congress and the American people tonight spends too much, taxes too much and is likely to undercut the current economic recovery that began in the third quarter of last year,” Cole said. “Since taking office less than a hundred days ago, President Biden has proposed … a $4.5 trillion annual budget, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, a $2.3 trillion infrastructure program and now a $1.9 trillion expansion of America’s social safety net.”

During the address, Biden unveiled his new American Families Plan, which will be partially funded by rolling back the 2017 GOP tax cut and returning the top individual tax rate to 39.6%, a move that would apply to the “top 1%” of taxpayers.”

Both are moves Cole said he strongly opposes.

“To pay for this extraordinary expansion of government, President Biden has proposed the greatest increase in taxes in modern history,” Cole said. “He has sought to make this acceptable by triggering class conflict on an unprecedented scale. He seeks to persuade the American people that they can have unlimited government services at someone else’s expense. Fortunately, Americans are smarter than that. They know there is no free lunch.”

Despite Biden’s expression of optimism about the American Families Plan Wednesday, PunchBowl News reports that the plan is unlikely to garner any GOP support, and may not have much of a chance of passing due to the slim majorities Democrats hold in both chambers.

“I expect that debate to play out in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trail in the weeks and months ahead. and in the end, I believe my fellow advocates of smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal sanity and economic growth will prevail,” Cole said in the statement.

Oklahoma’s two senators, James Lankford and Jim Inhofe, both released statements expressing disapproval at the conclusion of Biden’s address.

“If you want to know what the beginning of socialism looks like, this is what it looks like,” Lankford said in a Facebook Live about Biden’s address. “It is: raise taxes on this group of people, and give the money to this group of people and there will be a government program for every single thing. His focus [Wednesday] night was ‘every single problem we have, government is the solution.”

Inhofe also criticized the amount of spending the Biden administration has proposed over the president’s first 100 days in office.

“President Biden’s biggest push [Wednesday] night was for another new big spending plan, which would cost another $1.8 trillion,” Inhofe said in a statement. “All told, in just 100 days, Biden has already spent or proposed spending over $6 trillion. Not a single dollar of that is for our national defense.”

Inhofe echoed a prominent GOP talking point, stating that while Biden called for unity and bi-partisianship in his inaugural address, he does not believe the president’s actions show he wants unity.

“Bottom line — this speech wasn’t about unity or policies for all Americans,” Inhofe said. “This was a traditional tax and spend Democratic speech with a progressive and environmentalist flair.”

Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript; reach him at rgorman@normantranscript.com or @reeseg_3.

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Reese Gorman covers politics and the COVID-19 pandemic for The Norman Transcript. He started as an intern in May of 2020 and transitioned into his current position as a staff writer in August of 2020.