CHICKASHA, Okla. — Congressman Tom Cole stopped in Chickasha on Wednesday to meet with members of the community for a town hall meeting.
It's been a "controversial year," the congressman said in the meeting room at the Canadian Valley Technology Center.
In addition to a divided government, Cole said that as members of the House gear up for their own campaigns, they are less willing to compromise with the incumbent.
Moreover, the shutdown put a wrench in the first of the year. He said this was the first government in United States History to begin the year in a shutdown.
The Mueller Investigation and U.S. tariffs on China have also led to polarization in D.C. and across the country, he said. However, he said there are Democrats who are in support of the president addressing issues with China.
The mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, which have sparked conversations on gun control, second amendment rights and the safety of U.S. Citizens.
Cole said that until President Trump takes a firm stance on how he would vote, it is difficult for Congress to move forward on this issue.
He said there is no question that the shooting in El Paso was motivated by racist ideologies against Mexicans and Mexican Americans.
A few members of the audience expressed concern about Red Flag Laws and whether it would hinder due process in the justice system.
Many were also concerned about the deficit and what it could mean for future generations. There were several residents in support of "No budget, no pay," which would deny salary to members of Congress after Oct. 1 if they failed to approve the budget for that fiscal year.
Cole said entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security need to be at the top of budget priorities as people are living longer lives and these funds are at risk of failing to meet these needs.
Another member of the audience expressed concern about carbon emissions and climate change.
Cole said he believes climate change is a reality and that humans have had an impact. He championed Oklahoma as being leader in wind power. He said he was not in favor of the Green New Deal because it doesn't make life better for his constituents. He said he is open to solutions, but not willing to destroy the economy in the process.
Someone asked about Russian interference in U.S. elections and what can be done to negate this. Cole said foreign interference with U.S. elections is not new, but the Internet has opened up new ways for these entities to interfere. Cole said Russians interfered was through false information, rather than changing ballot totals.
Cole said one of the problems is that many Americans do not participate enough or inform themselves enough.
"[The] best defense, number one, is you," Cole said. U.S. Citizens need to read more broadly, rather than getting all their news from one source. Cole said he does not just watch Fox News, but MSNBC as well, even if he finds it difficult some mornings.
Lane is news editor for Chickasha Express-Star, a CNHI News Service publication.