After giving opening remarks to a mostly supportive Republican crowd, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, addressed the donkey in the room Friday at the Altus/Quartz Mountain Regional Airport.
Inhofe said the meeting was the first time elected Democrats have shown up at one of his town meetings and offered them the first questions.
Before the meeting, Susan Smith, chairwoman of the Kiowa County Democratic Party, said she and Anna Wehrle, another protester, fear the new tax law will create a huge deficit and that a Republican-controlled Congress and Presidency will cut Social Security and Medicare to make up for the deficit.
Inhofe said the bill is only a few weeks old and they need to give it time to see how it affects the federal deficit.
He said similar tax cuts generated more revenue during the John F. Kennedy administration, a Democrat, he pointed out, as well as in 1981 and 1986 during the Ronald Regan administration. Give it a chance, he said, “it will change their minds when they start getting their tax cuts.”
Inhofe said there won’t be a need to cut those programs because the federal government will have more revenue. He said he’d rather use that revenue to expand services and pay down the debt than to grow the government.
In a later challenge from one of the protesters who stated that 67 percent of the federal budget goes to the military, Inhofe corrected her and said that in 1964, 52 percent of the federal budget went to defending the country. Now it is about 16 percent, he said.
Inhofe serves as the senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He agreed with one protester from Elk City who discussed the need to keep smaller community hospitals open and vowed to assist where he can.
During his opening remarks, Inhofe talked about the importance of rebuilding the military. He said North Korea now has the capabilities of striking Altus Air Force Base with a missile at a time when much of the U.S. anti-missile technology was surrendered during the Obama administration.
Inhofe said President Donald Trump came into office with four main agenda items: repealing mandatory health care, rebuilding the military, overhauling federal taxes and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. He said he’s on track with the military and federal taxes, that the health care bill lost by one vote and that infrastructure appears to be on his agenda next.
He encouraged the state Legislature not to cut its 20 percent match of federal funding for road construction, a component of rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. In that case, the state wouldn’t get any road construction money during what might be a boom for the country.
While only three of the 30 or so people in the meeting were protesters, they talked aloud during his presentation and fired questions at him with the final one asking how he could support Trump after all of his disrespectful Twitter messages and public comments. Inhofe said, “It’s definitely a different style.”
When pressed further, he said, “Hey, if you don’t like him, don’t vote for him next time.”