U.S. Rep. Tom Cole | Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole | Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District

Last week’s inauguration of President Joe Biden marked the peaceful transfer of power, symbolizing that our unique government institutions and systems are still intact. During the next four years, I hope to cooperate with the Biden Administration when and where possible, but I will certainly not withhold criticism of damaging policies that will further divide the country or circumvent bipartisan debate and action in Congress.

Indeed, there are many areas where Republicans and Democrats can and should work together immediately. Most urgent, Congress and the Biden Administration must address the lingering consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and continue working toward defeating it entirely. Although President Biden signaled his desire to deliver solutions and additional relief by issuing and signing an executive order related to the pandemic, this is no substitute for congressional action. In the days ahead, Congress should prioritize bipartisan relief for the Americans still struggling and strengthen support for vaccine distribution in communities across the country.

Although President Biden’s executive order on the coronavirus pandemic could easily be met with bipartisan debate and action in Congress, the same cannot be said of several other partisan executive orders he has issued since taking the oath of office. While many are largely symbolic and are simply sops to various Democratically aligned special interest groups, others are dangerous and damaging to the long-term national interests of the United States. I will oppose these policies respectfully but forcefully. 

First, the president’s alarming decision to immediately cancel the Keystone XL pipeline and halt all activities relating to the federal government’s implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will cost our country billions of dollars, thousands of jobs and will force America to rely more on foreign energy. Considering that President Biden promised not to ban fracking and reassured voters that he would support the oil and gas industry if elected, this move should concern all Americans. Moreover, canceling the Keystone XL pipeline hurts the economy of our nearby friends and neighbors in Canada, which will certainly damage the relationship with one of America’s most reliable allies and trading partners. 

 Second, the decision to reenter the Paris Climate Agreement without renegotiating its terms will weaken our already struggling economy and put America’s hard won energy independence at risk by locking in inequitable mandates that favor China at the expense of the United States. If President Biden were serious about unifying and healing a divided country, he would put the Paris Climate Agreement before Congress and ask for bipartisan changes and approval. While climate change is certainly real, there are other solutions that are internationally equitable and would not cost millions of American jobs.

 Finally, President Biden ordered the federal government to cease all work on border barriers. This decision is simply wrong-headed and will surely be interpreted as a signal across Central America encouraging a new wave of illegal immigration into the United States. Although barriers are not the only answer to border security, they are an effective tool when it comes to limiting drug and human trafficking.

 For the past four years, we have experienced unprecedented worldwide peace and, before the coronavirus crisis, a robust economy. I am dismayed to see that, instead of working with Republicans to keep this momentum going and repair our economy, President Biden is moving forward with executive orders that will harm the long-term interests of the nation. 

President Biden promised to be a president for all Americans, but his actions thus far reveal quite the contrary. Unifying the country and getting work done for the American people is more important than ever, and he should allow lawmakers to negotiate and bring fair legislation to his desk to be signed into law. That is the way our founding fathers intended for our system to work: cooperation where there is consensus and bipartisan but vigorous debate and compromise where there is not.