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Cole Mourns Loss of Former President George H.W. Bush

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By Joseph Lozada. – U.S. Department of Defense [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2325714
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) mourned the loss of former President George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States.

 

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of former President George H. W. Bush. He was an inspirational American figure and principled leader, who devoted his life to public service and benefiting the greater good. He was not defined by his politics but always by compassion for others and love of our great nation.

“As a Republican State Chairman, the NRCC’s Executive Director and a GOP political consultant, I interacted with George H. W. Bush on many occasions during the 1980s and 90s. I found him to be invariably thoughtful, substantive, modest and polite. President Bush always cared about others more than himself. He was the most grounded and least egotistical politician I ever met. His sheer decency and profound wisdom were often overlooked because he refused to boast about his many personal and political accomplishments. President Bush personified the virtues of the so-called ‘greatest generation’ that won the Second World War and turned America into an economic powerhouse and a beacon of freedom that was the envy and hope of the world.

“Along with Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush led America to victory in the Cold War, consigning the old Soviet Union to the ash heap of history. When he departed office, he left the world at peace and America as the globe’s only and uncontested superpower. It was an amazing achievement that was unappreciated at the time.

“His legacy extends far beyond any office or position he held. First and foremost, he was a family man. George H. W. Bush was a devoted husband, beloved father and adored grandfather. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family as they mourn this incredibly difficult loss.”

Unmistakable Threads

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Existing throughout the fabric of our society are the unmistakable threads of Native American heritage. In Oklahoma, those threads are numerous and vibrant indeed.

As a member of the Chickasaw Nation, I am always proud that the month of November is set aside to draw national attention to the many contributions and significant achievements of tribal nations throughout history. Across the country, there are more than 530 federally-recognized tribes. In our state alone, there are 39 sovereign nations —including 11 located right in the Fourth District.

Growing up in Oklahoma, I was indeed fortunate to live in a state rich in tribal heritage. But my upbringing greatly influenced the distinct pride I will always carry. Throughout my life, I was surrounded by family members who were actively involved in tribal affairs and who sought to preserve our unique history and culture. My great, great grandfather served as the clerk of the Chickasaw Supreme Court, and my great grandfather was the treasurer of the Chickasaw Nation. My great aunt Te Ata Thompson Fisher was a gifted actress, entertainer and Native American storyteller whose talent took her all over the world; the story of her fascinating life was recently documented in a feature film. And my late mother, Helen Cole, was the first Native American woman ever elected to the Oklahoma State Senate.

I greatly treasure the example shown by my mother, who passed on the importance of knowing our heritage and our family’s compelling history. She taught my brother and me to recognize that it was a remarkable gift to be American, but as Native Americans, we also belonged to a special and unique group of people.

Because of my background, I have always considered it a privilege and honor to represent the interests and constitutionally-given rights of tribes in the U.S. House of Representatives. Along with my Oklahoma colleague Markwayne Mullin, I am proud to be one of two Native Americans currently serving in Congress. We will soon be joined by two others, who recently made history as the first Native American women ever elected to Congress. Indeed, this is an impressive achievement for tribes nationwide.

While the federal government has at times had a strained relationship with Indian Country, I am encouraged that efforts have been made to repair and improve it. As a co-chair of the Native American Caucus, I have worked with my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance legislation that respects tribal sovereignty and improves the lives of Native Americans. Earlier this year, I was pleased that the House passed the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which would restore authority previously afforded to tribes and respect their right to operate enterprises and govern effectively on their own lands. This summer, the House also passed legislation that would increase funding for the Indian Health Service, as well as vital programs at the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education.

Long before the United States came to be, tribes greatly influenced the land in which we live. For generations to come, I am confident that America’s tribal heritage will only become more vibrant

Honoring Our Veterans

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Throughout our history, hundreds of thousands of brave men and women have answered the call to serve in the United States military. For those who volunteer, this choice comes at a cost unlike any other. But it is because of their willing service and sacrifice on our behalf that we get to enjoy the benefits of living in a safe and secure nation. Without question, we owe a constant debt of gratitude to generations of veterans who have faithfully defended our precious freedom.

On Veterans Day, we rightly honor those who have selflessly served, but during this year’s observance, we also solemnly remember an important marker in history. More than a century has passed since the beginning of the First World War, which is often called the “war to end all wars.” Those who went into this fight likely expected adventure and newfound freedom—never imagining the extent of what was ahead. Instead, they ended up being involved in the deadliest conflict of all time and an unprecedented catastrophe that has shaped the modern world ever since.

It has now been 100 years since the tragic conflict ended through an armistice signed between Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918, at 11 o’clock in the morning. Exactly a year after this peace agreement, Allied nations honored the 10 million military deaths and approximately seven million civilian deaths by remembering the tragedy through Armistice Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law legislation that expanded the observance to “all veterans, veterans’ organizations and the entire citizenry (who) will wish to join hands in the common purpose.” As a result, Veterans Day rightly recognizes those who served in all past and present conflicts—including World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and in the Middle East.

Today, there are more than 21 million veterans living in the United States, including nearly 66,800 in the Fourth District of Oklahoma. Just as they volunteered to protect our nation both at home and abroad, so do we have a duty to them upon their return from combat. And we should always remember those who did not make it home, showing our support for their grieving families and loved ones in our communities.

Without question, promises to our veterans must be kept. Following their honorable service to our country, that fulfilled promise must include quality and reliable care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Looking back on the work of the current Congress, I am pleased to report that lawmakers worked together in a bipartisan manner to advance several pieces of legislation signed into law, ensuring our veterans receive the benefits they have earned.

While we dedicate special time on Veterans Day to remember the men and women who have shown the utmost patriotism and love of country, we should strive to honor them every day.

Confronting the Opioid Epidemic

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In too many communities across the nation, opioid addiction has destroyed and claimed lives, causing unexpected grief and loss for families. Without question, opioid abuse is a very real and rampant health crisis and one that is impacting individuals from all walks of life. In response to this widespread problem, I am encouraged that Congress offered solutions to combat the issue through a comprehensive piece of legislation recently signed into law by the president.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people fall victim to opioid overdose each day. In fact, addiction to once well-intended prescription medications like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine—as well as illicit use of heroin and fentanyl—have led to the deaths of more than 42,000 Americans in just one year. The unfortunate imprint on our own state is heartbreaking; in 2016, there were 813 Oklahomans tragically lost to overdose. Along with and likely due in part to the rapid rise in opioid misuse, the nation’s overall life expectancy has seen a disturbing decline in recent years as well.

Especially since opioid addiction exists in most—if not all—American communities, confronting the epidemic has never been a partisan undertaking in Congress. And I am pleased that H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, demonstrates a truly bipartisan effort. Rightly so, the historic legislation reflects the concern shared by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and the desire in both chambers to effectively confront and end this national health crisis.

Made up of several bills introduced throughout this Congress to prevent and end the cycle of opioid abuse, H.R. 6 not only addresses symptoms of the problem but confronts underlying causes of the crisis. For those currently struggling with addiction, the legislation improves treatment and recovery options and ensures help is more readily available. To prevent addiction from taking root at all, the legislation supports non-addictive opioid alternatives for pain management and discourages the disturbingly high opioid prescription rate through better drug monitoring. The legislation also supports safer communities by empowering law enforcement to keep harmful drugs from coming in and by combating illicit use of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which is easily and often lethal.

In addition to this important effort, recent legislation to fund the government reflected the same commitment to confronting the opioid crisis. As part of a two-bill appropriations package that maintained many priorities first advanced by the subcommittee I chair, lawmakers directed $6.7 billion toward treatment and recovery programs for those battling substance abuse. This included a substantial increase for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. I am proud that the president signed this legislation into law at the end of September.

While it takes time to change the course of a national health crisis, I am encouraged that Congress and the president have taken critical first steps in slowing down the opioid epidemic. I believe that we can and will eliminate its hold on individuals, families, communities and our country.

Ensuring Lasting Benefits from Tax Reform

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Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, the country has undoubtedly been better off as a result. Wages are steadily on the rise, unemployment has reached its lowest level in nearly 50 years, jobs are being created and the economy is booming. Since this historic tax relief and reform effort was enacted earlier this year, the benefits have not slowed or diminished. Certainly, the lasting impact continues to be felt by individuals, families, small businesses, entrepreneurs and indeed, by all Americans.

Using facts and figures to put reality into perspective, multiple accounts and reports showcase the positive results of tax reform across the nation, in our state and specifically, in the Fourth District of Oklahoma. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Oklahoma’s full-time workforce has expanded by 2,433 workers since tax reform was enacted, and over 10 years, that figure is expected to grow to approximately 13,758 new jobs. Also due to tax reform, the Heritage Foundation recently projected that take-home pay will increase by $16,654 in Fourth District households over the next 10 years.

Without question, tax reform is working. And to ensure hardworking Americans can continue to enjoy the benefits, the U.S. House of Representatives recently advanced legislation to build on and permanently keep in place some of the provisions. Through passage of three bills known jointly as Tax Reform 2.0, House Republicans voted at the end of September to ensure hardworking Americans can continue to enjoy the benefits of a fairer, simpler tax code.

Rightly so, Tax Reform 2.0 revisited the terms of the tax relief provided by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As the law currently stands, some provisions are eventually set to expire in several years—specifically, the lower tax rates now enjoyed by individuals and families across all income levels. Legislation recently passed by the House addresses this issue and appropriately makes tax cuts permanent for individuals, ensuring Americans get to keep more of their hard-earned money and can save more for the future. Similarly, the legislation promotes and supports long-lasting financial security for hardworking Americans by encouraging earlier and active savings for retirement, education, emergencies and other life events.

Because of tax reform, small businesses and the communities they serve are also better off. The set of bills rightly preserves tax relief for individuals and families, but the legislation passed in the House also empowers small businesses and encourages would-be entrepreneurs. According to the findings of a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, optimism amongst small business owners is at its highest level in recorded history. Due to much-needed tax relief, job creators on Main Street have been able to expand and invest more in their employees. In addition to making tax relief permanent for small businesses, Tax Reform 2.0 lessens some of the barriers to entry in the market – like startup costs – and encourages entrepreneurship and innovation.

Through passage of the bills associated with Tax Reform 2.0, I am pleased that lawmakers in the House voted in support of certainty and lasting benefits for hardworking Americans, families, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Senator Lankford Supports Bill to Strengthen US Water Infrastructure

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today supported the passage of America’s Water Infrastructure Act, a bill to improve the nation’s water infrastructure. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 99 to 1. The bill will head to the president to be signed into law.

 “This is a commonsense bill that promotes good governance, removes cumbersome red tape, and addresses unnecessary spending while providing updates to the nation’s water infrastructure,” said Lankford. “Congress continues to prioritize US water infrastructure to maintain the critical infrastructure, which our families and our economy depend on. I’m specifically grateful to see the bill directs the Army Corps of Engineers to engage with everyone who is directly impacted by any new rule so they can provide valuable feedback on implementation.”

 Additionally, the bill directs the Army Corps of Engineers to provide a public online database of all its real estate assets in the US. In June, Lankford introduced a bipartisan bill to streamline the federal inventory review process to save taxpayer money by directing federal agencies to more frequently assess unneeded federal property.

 Lankford is a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water.

Cole Mourns the Passing of Senator John McCain

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement on the passing of Senator John McCain.

“John McCain was a patriot, a genuine war hero, a dedicated public servant in and out of uniform and an American original,” said Cole. “While Senator McCain and I did not always agree, I never doubted his personal and political integrity and his deep love for America and the American people.”

“I was proud to work with Senator McCain on many important matters, including defense and Native American issues. His knowledge of and commitment to Native American people and issues surpassed that of almost every other member of the Senate.”

“It was an honor for me to speak at the 2008 Republican Convention in support of Senator McCain’s presidential candidacy,” continued Cole. “He was a happy warrior waging a hard campaign in a difficult year. He lost to Barack Obama, of course, but he did so with class and grace.”

“I will always remember how in the midst of that hard fought campaign Senator McCain put aside partisanship to work across the aisle and help pass the legislation that prevented ‘the Great Recession’ from becoming the second ‘Great Depression.’ It was an act of bipartisanship and statesmanship in the midst of a presidential campaign that has seldom been matched in American history.”

“John McCain was a lion of the Senate and a giant in contemporary American politics. America will miss his leadership, his bipartisanship, his patriotism and his sheer decency. My thoughts and prayers are with his loving family and his many friends and admirers at this difficult time.”

Oklahoma Policy Institute Releases Statement Opposing the 2018 Farm Bill Passed by House

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Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the U.S. House’s passage of a harsh and partisan farm bill:

The farm bill approved today in the U.S. House is deeply flawed. This legislation violates the bipartisan history of previous farm bills and would take away food assistance from two million struggling Americans, including children, seniors, and veterans. It is especially disappointing that all of Oklahoma’s House Representatives voted in favor of SNAP restrictions that put 97,000 Oklahomans and their families at risk of going hungry. SNAP brings nearly $1 billion per year to our state and keeps many of our communities from becoming food deserts. The food assistance provided by SNAP is crucial for many Oklahoma families and the Oklahoma economy.

Fortunately, the U.S. Senate has developed a much better, bipartisan option. Instead of punishing struggling Americans, the Senate bill would allow more states to participate in programs that help people find stable, good paying jobs. The Senate bill would also reduce the cost of SNAP by adopting new technologies to improve program efficiency and reduce error rates.

The bipartisan Senate bill is much better policy than the irresponsible and punitive House bill. We call on Senator Inhofe and Senator Lankford to protect SNAP and resist any amendments to the Senate bill that will make SNAP less accessible for struggling Oklahoma families.

Cole Applauds Passage of 2018 Farm Bill

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, with Cole’s support.

“Protecting our farmers and ranchers is essential to the agriculture community and our nation’s economy,” said Cole. “To maintain healthy crops and produce, farmers and ranchers need protection and stability. This year’s farm bill provides those securities.”

“I am pleased that this year’s farm bill includes provisions to preserve and strengthen crop insurance, which is crucial to protecting Oklahoma’s farmers and their harvests. Additionally, the Farm Bill will continue to maintain the Conservation Reserve Program, which promotes soil conservation and has been beneficial to Oklahoma’s farmers for decades.”

“Farmers and ranchers are the foundation for the vitality of our nation. I’d like to thank House Leadership and Chairman Conaway for bringing forward this comprehensive legislation that will preserve and protect our nation’s farmers and ranchers. I look forward to its passage in the Senate and enactment into law.”

Senator Lankford and 12 Republican Senators Call on Justice Department to Pause Family Separations While Congress Works on Legislative Fix

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WASHINGTON, DC – James Lankford (R-OK) today joined a group of senators in sending a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for a halt to the practice of separating families who have illegally crossed the US-Mexico border. The letter petitions the administration to delay enforcement of this policy until Congress can pass legislation to keep families together.

 

The letter was led by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and has also been signed by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bob Corker (R-TN), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Boozman (R-AR), Dean Heller (R-NV), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Rob Portman (R-OH).

 

Lankford spoke about this issue on the floor of the Senate last night.

 

Full text of the letter below:

 

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

 

Like millions of Americans, we have read with increasing alarm reports of children being separated from their parents at the southern border. Although enforcing our immigration laws is an essential responsibility of the federal government, it must be done in a way that is consistent with our values and ordinary human decency.

           

The current family separation crisis has multiple contributing causes, including court decisions that require release rather than detention of children but not parents who enter our country illegally. But the immediate cause of the crisis is your Department’s recent institution of a “zero tolerance” policy under which all adults who enter the United States illegally are referred for prosecution, regardless of whether they are accompanied by minor children.

           

We support the administration’s efforts to enforce our immigration laws, but we cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents. We therefore ask you to work with the relevant Administration officials to stop the separation of families pursuant to the Department’s zero tolerance policy while Congress works out a solution that enables faster processing of individuals who enter our country illegally. We believe a reasonable path forward can be found that accommodates the need to enforce our laws while holding true to other, equally essential values.

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