In The News

Jim Bridenstine, James Lankford join Sen. Ted Cruz on proposed legislation

By RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer

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Washington, March 19, 2015 | comments

U.S. Sen. James Lankford and First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine joined Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in introducing separate pieces of legislation on Wednesday.

Lankford and Cruz attracted national attention by introducing Senate resolutions disapproving two measures enacted by the District of Columbia City Council, which is subject to congressional oversight.

The resolutions seek to overturn, on First Amendment grounds, D.C. laws barring employers from discriminating based on “reproductive choices.” The measure was aimed at preventing employers from firing workers who have abortions or use contraceptives, but could also apply to discrimination against pregnant women.

Bridenstine and Cruz teamed up on a Senate bill they say will free up the domestic energy industry for exploration, development and trade.

Among other things, the bill would end the nation’s oil export ban and ease restrictions on liquified national gas exports; end Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases; leave regulation of hydraulic fracturing to states; phase out the Renewable Fuel Standard; and open up oil and gas exploration on federal land.

“Our proposed changes in law and policy will open federal lands and reverse policies that cripple the free market and inhibit innovation and private investment,” Bridenstine said in a news release. “Opening federal lands to oil and gas development, allowing exports and infrastructure improvements, and stopping regulatory overreach will greatly expand U.S. energy production.”

Lankford and Cruz said the D.C. council’s actions pose a threat to freedom of religion and run contrary to the spirit of last year’s Hobby Lobby decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers could not be forced to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage.

Abortion rights groups and the D.C. council have pointed out that the measure does not require employers to pay for reproductive health services, but Lankford and others say it still goes too far.

“What the D.C. Council has done is a major threat to the fundamental right to religious freedom for D.C. residents and organizations, and a brazen display of intolerance,” Lankford said. “The Constitution provides that all Americans enjoy the right to live a life in accordance with their convictions of faith. Limiting religious practice to a church building is a weekend hobby, not a personal faith. The First Amendment is first for a reason – it cannot be ignored by the D.C. City Council.

“Last summer’s Supreme Court decision affirmed the right to live and work in accordance with your convictions.

“In America, a person can choose a lifestyle of any faith or no faith at all — that’s religious freedom. Washington, D.C., residents and organizations shouldn’t be discriminated from enjoying those same rights.”

Disapproving the D.C. council’s actions requires resolutions from the House and Senate and the signature of the president.

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