POSTED ON MARCH 21, 2012:
Going Another Round?
Congressman Sullivan has big plans and high aspirations for America's future, and his own
After 10 years in Congress, U.S. Rep. John Sullivan has seen some pretty interesting things. During a trip to Iraq and the Middle East in 2004, he was able to see the spot where Saddam Hussein was hiding before U.S. forces brought the former dictator to justice.
A photo on Sullivan's office wall shows Oklahoma's 1st District Representative standing waist-deep in a dirt hole near the Tigris Euphrates River. "Remember Saddam Hussein? This is the hole."
He said troops smelled cigars and tripped on a piece of carpet covering the hole, "Or else they wouldn't have found it at all," Sullivan explained.
Also on his office walls are several different framed photos of Sullivan with former President George W. Bush, alongside glossy awards and happy family portraits.
Let's just say he has been around a while. He's seen a lot and has kept busy.
Sullivan began his congressional tour by cracking down on illegal immigrants -- not necessarily the ones who are roofing houses and serving as fry cooks, but the immigrants who are moving drugs across U.S. borders and committing heinous crimes like murder and rape.
At the start of his term he recalls a van in Catoosa that had been pulled over and was transporting 18 illegal immigrants -- all young children. After calling the immigration office in Oklahoma City, the sheriff was advised to let the van pass and "let 'em go."
This got Sullivan's attention and he began the process of improving the immigration enforcement in Oklahoma.
"I got the secretary of immigration enforcement, Julie Myers, to come here. We assessed the situation, how best we could remedy this because, where we're located in the U.S. -- because of I-35 and I-40 -- we're like a crossroads.
"I beefed up the immigration customs enforcement offices here... I set up a 287-G program at the sheriff's office, [which is] the most effective thing we've done," Sullivan said.
While Sullivan's accomplishments and travels have been extensive, he has just scratched the surface of what he wants to accomplish. With under a year left in office, with high hopes of reelection, he his eyes set on making a bigger impact on the U.S. energy sector.
It's Only Natural
Already serving on the Energy and Commerce committee, Sullivan believes that the U.S. shouldn't be as dependant on foreign oil, and by harnessing the natural resources in the states, the U.S. can improve its internal infrastructure.
He considers his presence on the committee of utmost important because "just in Tulsa, we have 120,000 people who work in the energy industry; 322,000 in the state. So it's vital to our economy."
And despite some opposition from environmentalists, Sullivan is determined to strengthen the energy sector in the U.S.
"With unemployment unacceptably high, we have 15 million people out of work... We still need regulations and we still want to protect the environment and the air and all that," Sullivan said.
"I have a bill in congress to address a critical need in this country. Right now we have about 120 years of reserves of natural gas here in the U.S., under our feet. God's given us a tremendous resource here and we're not using it... We're sending over a billion dollars every single day to other countries to purchase foreign oil. We use about 21 million barrels of oil a day in the U.S. and import about 13 million. We are sending money to Saudi Arabia, for example, subsidizing their economy and their nation; sending it to some people that hate our guts, in some instances funding the war on terror against ourselves."
The bill Sullivan is addressing is the Natural Gas Act and he is confident that the House is overwhelmingly supportive.
"The president even said he would sign the measure. And it would help Oklahoma--we are poised, I think, to get 150,000 of those jobs because we have the infrastructure."
Of course the most recent news in the energy sector has been the delay of the Keystone Pipeline and President Obama's appeasement of the environmentalists who protested it.
"If we do these things like the Natural Gas Act, we do things like Keystone Pipeline; if we look at alternative energy sources, wind, solar, all those collectively, we can become energy independent in this country by 2020, we really could and that's my goal," Sullivan said. "It's gonna happen, man."
Energy is just one of the issues front and center in Sullivan's mind. The healthcare debacle has Sullivan considering how Obamacare or another option might best take care of his constituents and the millions of Americans who can't afford healthcare.
"The Obama plan is a government kind of takeover and it's very very large in scope," he said. "Do we need to reform our healthcare system? The cost of it, yes. We have some of the best healthcare in the entire world here... but there are people who don't have access to it.
"What I propose is looking at health savings accounts, maybe a tax credit to have people to cover the premium that they purchase their own health insurance [with], [so] you don't have to depend on your employer as much.
"Right now, if you buy a plan in Oklahoma, you can only choose from between, I believe, eight to 10 companies. There are 1,600 health insurance companies in the country -- if you could compete with all 1,600 in the country, they're going to want your business and they're going to compete and it'll drive the cost down and you're going to get a better deal.
"We also need to look at Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare in particular, we need to root out the fraud," he said. "Last year alone in 2011, there was $80 billion worth of fraud in Medicare. You would never have an insurance company have that kind of fraud perpetrated on them."
Sullivan said that the federal government is being duped out of billions of dollars because the there is not a proper system of checks and balances within Medicare; and that modernizing the computer system could help the federal government weed out the fraud and stabilize the Medicare program.
"Someone still might do it, but we'd catch it a lot faster . . . Modernization and streamlining the process -- those are the proposals I've put forward," he said.
As for where Sullivan stands in the heated race for the presidential republican nominee:
"I think it's going to be either Romney or Santorum's going to get the nomination. I think they both have good skills but the bottom line is, whoever gets the nomination, I'm going to support them."
Romney and Santorum have gone head-to-head across the country and there still isn't a clear front runner as of right now but Sullivan is confident that they're both capable candidates, even though he's quick to not jump on anyone's bandwagon.
"I'm not trying to be a politician or anything, but I really have not endorsed anybody. I've had both of them contact me and I've told them I'm staying out of it. And me endorsing anyone -- no one cares what I say anyway about that," he said.
While the official election ballots aren't complete yet and won't be official until April 17, it looks like Sullivan will be facing a new politico for the District 1 Congressional seat. Jim Bridenstine, a freshly promoted Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserves, plans to challenge the veteran Sullivan in the Republican primary.
Since there is still some time before the ballots are complete, the two haven't gone head-to-head in a debate thus far, but stay tuned to UTW's coverage as we continue to follow these two motivated candidates through the primary elections on June 26 and then the general elections on Nov. 6.
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