By DAVID JONES
Editor at Large
INCUMBENT: John Sullivan is running for reelection to hold onto his Oklahoma District 1 seat in the U.S. Congress.
Editor’s Note: This article is the second of two profiling the Republican candidates for the U.S. Congressional seat in Oklahoma’s District 1, which covers Tulsa County and the surrounding area. Last month, challenger Jim Bridenstine was profiled. The election will be held June 26.
John Sullivan wants at least two more years representing the First U.S. Congressional District of Oklahoma in Washington. “There’s something about the job. It gets into your blood,” he says.
Trying to block him from another term is Republican Jim Bridenstine, who is running on the theme that Sullivan isn’t conservative enough. Sullivan says he doesn’t know how much more conservative he can get. He has received a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, an ‘A’ rating with the National Rifle Association, and was given the rank of Taxpayer Hero by Citizens Against Government Waste among other conservative awards. Bridenstine, like previous opponents, will attack him for his votes for and to increase the debt ceilings, and upon those arguments the election will be decided.
Sullivan says he wasn’t looking so much short-term, as in the upcoming primary election, as long-term, as in the next session of Congress. It is a session that concerns him largely because of the inability of the two political parties to work together.
“In this country we are much more polarized than we’ve ever been before,” Sullivan says. “There is no congeniality or camaraderie. People rush in and out of Washington. They don’t get to know each other. What is lacking are personal relationships. There are Democrats I personally like. I don’t vote with them but I like them. Now, too often, politics has become a blood sport and it doesn’t need to be that way.”
Sullivan sees this attitude as being part of the problem with Obamacare. The health bill was rammed through Congress with total support among Democrats and virtually none from Republicans who were left out of the process entirely. The result was a 2,700-page bill that Sullivan says he has dutifully read from cover to cover.
“I was on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that held hearings on it,” Sullivan says, “and for two weeks I had nothing else to do – that was all I focused on. I can’t – no one can – claim to understand every item in the 2,700 pages and that’s part of the problem. Even Nancy Pelosi said we have to pass it to find out what’s in it; that is a terrible way to govern.
I think the Supreme Court will strike down the law or, if not the entire law, the individual mandate that requires people to buy the insurance that is clearly unconstitutional. Without that provision the whole law falls apart. Then Congress can address the costs of healthcare. It’s wrong to force people to buy the service.”
Sullivan has voted 25 times to repeal, defund or dismantle specific provisions of Obamacare since it was signed into law two years ago. For documented votes, visit www.johnsullivanforcongress.com/issues/healthcare/.
“If the Supreme Court does strike down the law, than we can go after the changes we need incrementally,” Sullivan says. “We need to allow competition for health insurance plans across state lines. We need to look at medical savings accounts. We need to look at tort reform and coverage for pre-existing conditions and we need to go after these changes incrementally. We should never get between doctors and patients. We should be looking at plans not provided by employers so an insurance policy can follow a worker from job to job. With all the different plans in the country there are only about 10 million people who have no insurance whatsoever and even they can get help in a crisis.
We can set something up without overhauling the entire system. It’s better for the country if we don’t have a one-plan-fits-all concept. One thing we have to do is come up with something solid where people know what the rules are. Right now companies are sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash that they are unwilling to spend because of the uncertainty.”
Over the years Sullivan has worked his way up the congressional ladder to major positions on energy committees and subcommittees. He is on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Oversight and Investigations and the Environment and Economy Subcommittees and is vice-chair of the Energy and Power Subcommittee.
He is deeply involved in energy matters and has been one of the most successful members of Congress in reining in costly regulations, having two bills he authored pass the House of Representatives this year. Sullivan says those two pieces of legislation – the TRAIN Act and the Cement Regulatory Sector Relief Act -will protect Oklahoma energy sector jobs and keep the price consumers pay for energy from going up.
“There has been a lot of talk about new sources of oil and gas production being found, but the fact remains that we still send $1 billion a day to foreign countries for oil and some of them are markets we can’t count on,” says Sullivan. “We need to maximize our own reserves.”
Sullivan made national headlines last month when President Obama made a visit to Cushing, Okla., site of the connecting point of the northern and southern portions of the Keystone XL pipeline.
“Barack Obama claiming credit for the Keystone pipeline is like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet,” Sullivan said. Sullivan has been among the most vocal supporters in Congress of the Keystone XL pipeline project that he says is privately funded and won’t cost taxpayers a dime to create 20,000 American jobs.
Sullivan is going to be pushing his Natural Gas Act, which would give tax credits for converting large trucks to natural gas.
“For the distance a truck can travel on a gallon of gas today it would take about $1.40 if it converted to natural gas,” he says. “Of course you have problems with supply, there are few fueling places where a vehicle can be filled with natural gas and these would have to be built and run. If you added natural gas to the mix you would add a combination of roughly 400,000 jobs, lower the price at the pump, and, best of all, we can use the Oklahoma-made energy sitting under our feet instead of sending $1 billion per day overseas to dictators who hate us.”
Looking at the presidential race, Sullivan says he thinks President Obama may have the upper hand in fundraising now but that conservatives who want Obama to be a one-term president will unite behind presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney and he can make a successful charge.