Oklahoma lawmakers pleased with president's message

Wednesday, February 1st 2006, 5:53 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) President Bush delivered a strong and optimistic message for the future of Oklahoma in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, members of Oklahoma's mostly Republican congressional delegation said following his speech.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma's junior senator, said he was particularly pleased Bush stressed the importance of ensuring affordable and reliable energy and moving away from a dependence on foreign oil.

In his State of the Union address, Bush set ``a national goal'' of replacing 75 percent of the oil now imported from the Middle East and outlined a plan for increased funding for research into the production of ethanol and other bio-based fuel from agriculture products.

``I think his proposals on energy are very important,'' said Coburn, R-Muskogee. ``The great news for Oklahoma agriculture is we're going to be using agriculture as much for fuel as for food.''

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe also applauded the President's emphasis on ensuring energy reliability by promoting renewable fuels and the expansion of nuclear power. Last year, Inhofe worked on legislation to expand the nation's refining capacity and encourage the production and use of ethanol made from sources other than corn.

``President Bush articulated a strong plan for ensuring affordable and reliable energy while improving the nation's energy security,'' said Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee.

U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, a Republican candidate for Oklahoma governor, said he would like to have seen Bush go even further and address expanded drilling for oil and natural gas.

``Safe nuclear energy and alternative fuels are needed, but he never mentioned how we need to free the oil and gas industry, so they can drill safely in areas of America that are now off-limits,'' Istook said in a statement.

While U.S. Rep. Tom Cole said energy policy is always an important topic for Oklahomans, he said his patriotism as an American always resonates during a State of the Union address. Cole, R-Moore, said he became particularly touched when Bush read portions of a letter written by Marine Staff Sgt. Dan Clay, who was killed last month in Iraq.

``I thought the most moving moment in the entire speech was the reading of the letter by Sergeant Clay,'' Cole said. ``The emotion in there was palatable.

``The war is certainly a very divisive issue, but all Americans ... can respect the patriotism and heroism of the men and women who put on the uniform of the armed forces of the United States.''

U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, the lone Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation, and U.S. Rep. John Sullivan both stressed the need to target immigration reform to keep illegal aliens out of America as a key component of national security.

``While our troops are fighting a foreign enemy abroad and working to secure Iraq, we must ensure they have a nation with protected borders when they come home,'' said Sullivan, R-Tulsa. ``We have to demonstrate that we can effectively enforce immigration laws before even considering a guest worker policy.''

Boren added: ``(Immigration) is a national security issue. As I go across my district, people want stronger border controls. That's something we're going to approach aggressively in this next Congress.''

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas said that while he liked the aggressive agenda for the future that the President laid out in his speech, he expressed some concern about the request for passage of the Patriot Act.

``While I agree with the President that the Patriot Act will help give law enforcement the tools they need to protect our homeland, I believe the provision should be temporary, so that Congress can review them again in the future. It's my hope that we someday no longer need these provisions.''