Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) spoke with The Madill Record via phone March 20 from his Washington, D.C. office to provide an update on the COVID-19.
The conversation moved into other areas including Inhofe’s no vote earlier this week on a COVID-19 aid package and his support for a replacement package.
He also responded to multiple national media outlets who in his view criticized his sale of stock in both January and February. The reports came late Thursday after fellow GOP senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) sold $1.7 million worth of stock Feb. 12 ahead of the Feb. 20 stock market crash.
Inhofe stated that the sale of his stocks began in December 2018 after became chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Inhofe began the conversation by praising President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic.
“I just want to say on the record that President Trump is doing a great job,” Inhofe said. “The thing first started in January in China and the president ordered a travel ban. Then, he declared a national emergency. He had to do that so we could start addressing this thing.”
The administration’s initial suspension of entry order came on January 31. It can be read at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-persons-pose-risk-transmitting-2019-novel-coronavirus/.
The proclamation limited “entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.”
However, section 2 of the same proclamation stated the order did not apply to “any lawful permanent resident of the United States;” or “any alien who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident”.
Additionally, the president declared a state of emergency for the United States on March 13, which was six weeks later.
A changing situation
Inhofe pushed back against people who say the pandemic is not an emergency situation.
“For those saying it’s not that big of deal, it is,” he said.
Inhofe said cases continue to increase across the board.
“Yesterday globally they were at 215,000 and today it’s 236,000,” he said. “Nationwide, yesterday the cases were 7,000 and today it’s 11,700. Yesterday in Oklahoma there were 29 cases with one death and today we’re up to 46.”
Inhofe said the situation and related guidelines have changed over the past few days. He specifically referred to CDC guidelines not to have gatherings of more than 10 people.
Inhofe said the situation will not improve the United States is able to increase its capacity to respond. He pointed to the dire situation in Italy. There are currently 41,035 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country which has led to 3,405 deaths.
“In Italy, they’re not treating Inhofe and fellow Oklahoma Senator James Lankford were among eight senators to vote against a Coronavirus Relief Package that had earlier passed the house.
Inhofe said his issues with the legislation boiled down to reimbursement of paid medical leave to employers.
“It required employers to have paid leave, but reimbursement wasn’t there,” he said.
The legislation has since grown to a $2 trillion stimulus deal, that Inhofe said he would support. However, a vote on the measure was pending as of March 25.
Inhofe said his message to constituents is that his offices in both D.C. and Oklahoma are open for business. Inhofe and his staff have offices in Enid, McAlester, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
The senator asked readers and constituents to visit his office’s Coronavirus Resourses page at www.inhofe.senate.gov/coronavirus.
Sale of stocks
As detailed above, Inhofe hit back at media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post after his name was mentioned in connection with stock sales made by Senators Burr and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA).
Specifically in question was Inhofe’s attendance at a January 24 senate briefing about COVID-19 and whether that impacted he decision-making when it came to the sale of stocks.
“The New York Times allegations are completely baseless and 100 percent false,” he said in a statement. “I was not at the briefing on January 24. I was meeting with pro-life kids from Oklahoma here for the March for Life and the new nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania.”
Inhofe said he instructed his financial manager to begin divesting his portfolio of all individual stocks back in December 2018 after he took over as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Inhofe said he wanted his investments to be in mutual funds instead to prevent the appearance of controversy.
“I do not have any involvement in my investment decisions,” he said in the same statement that was released after our call.