By Justin Juozapavicius
TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma's two newest Republican congressmen-elect said Wednesday they were optimistic they'll be able to work with a Democratic president and Senate to break the partisan gridlock in Washington.
Navy pilot Jim Bridenstine and plumbing company owner Markwayne Mullin both won victories Tuesday in a heavily red state that handed Mitt Romney one of his largest vote margins in the country. Both targeted President Barack Obama in their campaigns, calling for the repeal of the federal health care law and speaking out against other Obama policies. But they say they are willing to hear him out on issues and work with his administration following his re-election.
"I'm optimistic about this, but I'm cautious in my optimism, when the president said last night he's going to sit down with Romney and talk about legislation where both parties can agree," said Bridenstine, who will represent Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District, a northeastern swath of the state that includes the cities of Tulsa and Bartlesville. "I'm going to take him at his word.
"If you look at the last four years in office, he hasn't governed that way," he said of Obama. "He's pretty much passed things on a party-line basis without getting bipartisan support, so I'm hoping that what this election has done is helped him see that he needs to reach across the aisle."
Bridenstine said the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would go through Oklahoma and create jobs, is an issue that both parties can tackle together.
Mullin, who will represent Oklahoma's 2nd District, said he will consider any idea regardless of which party develops it, as long as it has "America's best interest in mind."
"The party members, people will have to be willing to get their boots muddy," said Mullin, whose district stretches across 26 eastern Oklahoma counties from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in the northeast to the Red River border with Texas in the south. "Gridlock does nobody any good.
"It shows me people who are afraid to make the wrong decision," he said. "But if you're not trying, you're just sitting idle, and in my mind you're dying."
Mullin said in the next four years, Republicans "have to work with this administration."
He will replace outgoing Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, who announced last year that he wouldn't seek a fifth term in office. Bridenstine replaces five-term congressman John Sullivan, who lost in the primary election.