Rep. Stephanie Bice, the newly elected Republican from Oklahoma City who voted this month to prevent certification of President Joe Biden’s election, joined some of her colleagues Wednesday in congratulating the new president and praised parts of his initial agenda.
Hours after becoming the nation’s 46th president, Biden planned to issue a flurry of executive orders, his first steps in significantly reversing a course set by his predecessor, taking a more open posture towards immigration, while slowing the expansion of oil and gas, two issues with deep impact in Oklahoma.
Earlier in the day, Bice was one of 17 freshmen Republican House members to sign a letter congratulating Biden and advocating for a bipartisan spirit in Washington.
Bice also expressed support for Biden’s reversal of a Trump-era travel ban against Muslim-majority countries.
“A blanket ban does little to assist national security, but instead has caused hardship for families,” said Bice, who is the first Iranian-American elected to Congress.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to intensify across much of the country, including Oklahoma, Biden has vowed to push for a $1.9 trillion health and economic relief plan.
“While I have deep concerns with several policies included in (Biden’s) plan, it’s clear that millions of families and small businesses are still in need of assistance and I am pleased that the president is making COVID-19 relief a priority,” Bice said in a statement.
But Bice was critical of some Biden priorities.
“I’m most concerned about the decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit,” Bice said in a statement, referring to Biden’s plan to revoke a permit for the controversial pipeline that would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
Support for the oil and gas industry became a focal point in Bice’s race against former Rep. Kendra Horn, who said she supported energy interests in Oklahoma, but not necessarily offshore or in the Arctic, where the expansion of drilling did not benefit Oklahoma companies.
Bice said support for Oklahoma’s energy industry required wide support for oil and gas interests across the nation and she will likely be a critic of Biden’s desire to transition away from fossil fuels in response to climate change.
With an all-Republican delegation, Oklahoma’s five representatives and two senators are now in the minority as Democrats retained control of the House and have a majority in the Senate with a tiebreaking vote from the vice president.
The loss of the Republican majority in the Senate cost Jim Inhofe his chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
On Tuesday, serving his final day as committee chair, Inhofe urged continued support for the military during a hearing to consider Biden’s nominee for secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin.
“Our military’s technology advantage has eroded,” said Inhofe, who urged Austin to support an increase in military spending and strengthen the support of military families.
Austin will require special approval from both the House and Senate to become secretary of defense since he is within seven years of serving in the military.
“I’ve never been all that concerned about the seven years,” Inhofe said at Tuesday’s hearing.
Both Inhofe and Sen. James Lankford voted this month to endorse Biden’s electoral college votes, although Lankford’s support came after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent Biden’s election certification.
All five Oklahoma House members voted against the certification.
One of the biggest political questions following Biden’s inauguration is how Republicans will handle an internal split between those who view Biden as an illegitimate president and those who are ready to move on from Trump.
On Wednesday, Bice congratulated Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
In the letter signed by Bice and her colleagues, bipartisanship was also promoted as a necessary response to current divisions.
“The constituencies we represent showcase the variety of thought across our great nation,” the letter said. “From Texas to California and from Oklahoma to New York, Americans are tired of the partisan gridlock and simply want to see leaders from both sides of the aisle work on issues important to American families, workers and businesses.”