U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice’s first year in Congress began with the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol and is coming to a close with the redrawing of her central Oklahoma district.
She’s put up strong opposition to much of President Joe Biden’s first-term agenda, including a vote against his signature infrastructure bill earlier this month.
“It’s been like no other freshman class, I think,” said Bice, a Republican representing the 5th Congressional District, during an interview with The Frontier in her downtown Oklahoma City office.
The coronavirus pandemic made in-person meetings a challenge during Bice’s first months in office, which made it hard to build relationships, she said.
With such a close margin between the parties in both the U.S. House and Senate, Bice said she hoped there would be more bipartisan collaboration.
“But that hasn’t been the case,” Bice said.
Bice has worked on a handful of bipartisan efforts over the past year, including a bill that seeks to provide injured National Guardsmen access to medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
But she also has been a staunch opponent to Biden’s agenda and even his presidency.
Bice voted against the certification of election results on Jan. 6, the same day a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.
She also has traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to highlight an immigration crisis she blames on the president. Bice told The Frontier she plans to look at ways to help property owners along the border access funding to repair damage caused by migrants.
Earlier this month, Bice voted against Biden’s infrastructure bill that will send nearly $5 billion to Oklahoma to repair roads and bridges, increase rail service and expand rural broadband.
Bice objected to the bill’s $1 trillion price tag but also believed it included a large amount of non-infrastructure projects and others that would have little impact on Oklahoma.
“There were a lot of things that were sort of climate or clean energy based, and certainly I recognize that we want to be mindful of the environment, but spending a lot of resources on that particular issue, I think, is a concern,” Bice told The Frontier.
The infrastructure bill includes $66 billion for passenger rail that could help expand Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer line from Oklahoma north into Kansas.
But Bice said the federal government already has given out a lot of funding for transit as part of COVID-relief packages.
“I recognize that may be a need, but that doesn’t benefit Oklahoma. We have very limited Amtrak capacity here,” she said. “I wanted to see true infrastructure.”
Bice also criticized the bill’s nearly $256 billion addition to the national debt — a figure based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
Republicans, before Bice’s time in office, made their own contribution to the national debt through a major tax decrease. Bice said she is unsure if she would reject proposals for future tax breaks if it also meant billions in new national debt.
“I don’t know because you have to see what the package looks like,” Bice said. “I just want to be mindful that we are not growing the debt in a way that is going to harm us long term.”
Bice won her seat in 2020 by a four-point margin over incumbent Kendra Horn, a Democrat, who herself won by a slim margin in 2018.
Bice already has drawn one challenger — Democrat Abby Broyles.
But she enters a reelection fight with a 5th Congressional District map that will be much friendlier after the Republican-controlled state Legislatures redrew the lines in a way that removed a significant number of Democratic-leaning neighborhoods that voted.
The boundaries of Bice’s future district, signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt after a special legislative session, pick up portions of Lincoln and Logan counties, along with parts of Canadian County, an area that she previously represented as a state senator.
“I think the (state) Legislature took into account all of the different aspects of redrawing the map. They did the job they were tasked to do,” Bice said.
Earlier this year, Bice was appointed to the newly formed House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. She said she hopes to use her seat to highlight ways to provide more employment opportunities.
The Democrat-majority committee is expected to look at ways to create more economic parity, especially as some members have complained about the amount of wealth a small number of Americans have accumulated in recent years.
“I fear that some of the members of this committee may want to look at economic equality in some shape or form,” Bice said. “I’m going to push for growing education opportunities, particularly when it comes to connecting private sectors to programs like career tech.”