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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.

Senator Lankford Subcommittee Approves FY2019 Financial Services & General Government Appropriations Bill

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today chaired the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government and advanced a $23.688 billion funding measure that prioritizes national programs to combat terrorism financing, spur small business growth, maintain a fair and efficient judicial system, and target heroin and prescription drug abuse.

 

“This is a responsible bill that boosts our national economy, financial security, and government accountability, and I urge the Senate to pass it without delay,” Lankford “I’m pleased that we are moving forward on the appropriations process. Orderly and transparent appropriations is a core responsibility of Congress, and a place where significant government reforms can be implemented.”

 

The FY2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act provides $16 million above the FY2018 enacted level to fund the US Treasury Department, the Judiciary, Small Business Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and several other independent agencies.

 

The measure includes targeted funding increases for the Treasury Department to combat money laundering and terrorism financing; for the SEC and CFTC to oversee our nation’s securities, swaps, and futures markets; for the Federal courts to support the administration of justice; and for the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Buildings Fund. The bill will be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

 

Bill Highlights:

 

Treasury Departmental Offices – $208.751 million for Departmental Offices, an increase of $8 million above the FY2018 enacted level. Additional funds will allow the Department to manage a growing caseload associated with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, invest in information technology improvements, and hire additional staff to conduct economic analysis of tax regulatory actions.

 

Treasury Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) – $159 million for TFI, which combats terrorism financing and administers economic and trade sanctions through its Office of Foreign Assets Control. The FY2019 amount is $17.2 million above the enacted level and is equal to the President’s budget request.

 

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – $11.263 billion for the IRS. Of this amount, $77 million is dedicated to implementation of tax reform.

 

In addition, to ensure accountability and transparency, the bill includes:

  • A prohibition on funds for bonuses or to rehire former employees unless employee conduct and tax compliance is given consideration;
  • A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs;
  • A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights;
  • A prohibition on funds for the production of inappropriate videos and conferences.

 

Executive Office of the President (EOP) – $728 million for EOP, which is $2.6 million above the FY2018 enacted level.  The bill maintains the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities (DFC) programs within the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  The bill provides $280 million for the HIDTA program to combat heroin and prescription opioid abuse and $99 million for the DFC program.

 

Judiciary – $7.251 billion in discretionary funding for the federal judiciary, which is $140 million above the FY2018 enacted level.  This will provide sufficient funding for federal court activities, including timely and efficient processing of federal cases, court security, and defender services.

 

Small Business Administration (SBA) – $699.3 million for the SBA to provide assistance to small businesses, expand the economy, and increase job growth for unemployed and underemployed Americans.  The bill fully funds business loans at $159.2 million.  The bill also funds several valuable programs, including $130 million for Small Business Development Centers, $31 million for microloan technical assistance, $12.3 million for veteran’s outreach programs, and $11.5 million for SCORE, formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

 

General Services Administration (GSA) – The bill allows GSA to spend $9.63 billion out of the Federal Buildings Fund.  This level will provide funding for rent payments for privately-owned office space leased by the government, and operations and maintenance costs for buildings owned by federal government agencies across the nation. Of this amount, the bill provides $1.08 billion for construction, and the measure fully funds the requested levels for Major Repairs and Alterations ($424.7 million) and Basic Repairs ($373.6 million) to continue addressing the backlog of repairs and renovations needs across the federal government.

 

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – $1.695 billion for the SEC, which is equal to the FY2018 budget request and includes $37 million for the potential relocation of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.  The bill provides targeted funding for economic analysis within the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis.

 

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – $281.5 million for the CFTC, which is equal to the FY2019 budget request. The bill includes increased funding to boost the CFTC’s analytical expertise, cybersecurity capabilities, and financial technology to maximize the Commission’s ability to oversee the nation’s swaps, futures, and options markets.

 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – $309.7 million for the FTC, which is equal to the FY2019 budget request.

 

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – $333.1 million for the FCC, which is equal to the FY2019 budget request.

 

Other Oversight, Accountability, and Noteworthy Provisions:

  • A prohibition on funds for an increase in pay for the Vice President and other senior political appointees;
  • A prohibition on funding for grants or contracts to tax cheats and companies with felony criminal convictions;
  • A requirement that all departments and agencies link contracts that provide award fees to successful acquisition outcomes, and prohibit the use of funds to pay for award or incentive fees for contractors with below satisfactory performance; and
  • A pay increase for civilian federal employees of 1.9 percent in calendar year 2019, equal to the 2018 increase.
  • A prohibition against the use of funds to paint portraits of federal employees, including the President, Vice President, Cabinet Members and Members of Congress;
  • A requirement that agency inspectors general have timely access to agency documents and records;

Stigler Act Passes Committee; Could Help Native American Land Owning Familes

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after H.R. 2606, the Stigler Act Amendment of 2017, was passed by the House Natural Resources Committee. This legislation amends the Stigler Act of 1947, which restricts Native American allotted land to only persons of ½ degree of Native American blood.

The Dawes Act of 1887 authorized the federal government to survey tribal lands and divide them into allotted parcels for individual Native Americans. Title to these allotment parcels was set forth in the “Stigler Act of 1947.” The Stigler Act provides that, upon probate, if the heirs and devisees of an original allottee from the Five Tribes (Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee) have passed out of ½ degree Native American blood, the allotment loses its “restricted free” status. Restricted land is not subject to state taxation. Federal law does not dictate a minimum Native American blood degree requirement for any other tribe.

The Stigler Act Amendment of 2017 seeks to amend the original Stigler Act, and remove the ½ degree requirement of Native American blood. In doing so, it would provide the opportunity for heirs and devisees to take title to the land, and allow the parcel to maintain its “restricted” status. This legislation will also create parity in federal law in the treatment of Native American-allotted land by removing minimum blood degree requirement for solely the Five Tribes.

“I am pleased that the Stigler Act was agreed to and passed through the House Natural Resources Committee,” said Cole. “Amending the Stigler Act will allow for past precedent to be current with the realities of Native-owned land. By expanding the blood lineage degree, the amendment will support the preservation of the rights and legacies that Native Americans are entitled to, as well as their inheritance. I look forward to supporting the Stigler Act Amendment of 2017 on the House Floor for passage.”

First Step Toward Peace

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What seemed to be once impossible, has finally come to fruition. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week. For the first time in history, a U.S. President and a North Korean leader met in an official capacity in an effort to strengthen ties and reach a peace agreement. President Trump has achieved something previous Administrations have not been able to do. Bringing North Korea to the negotiating table is an accomplishment, but it is one that has required extraordinary measures to do so.

North Korea is a top adversary to the United States and combating its aggression over the past few years has been a fight guided by resolve. Multiple nuclear tests, reports of human rights abuses and even the death of an American citizen were evidence that the regime of the Kim dynasty continues to be erratic and dangerous. But with continued economic sanctions from the United States and its allies, North Korea is feeling the strain of global pressure to end its tyrannical practices. Additionally, South Korea has been at the forefront of improving relations with North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un had met a number of times to set the course of dialogue with North Korea.

China, North Korea’s primary trading partner, has also stepped up in supporting dialogue with North Korea. In the past, China has not been reliable in exerting and implementing sanctions, but it has been essential in diplomatic engagement. The summit would not have been possible without China’s cooperation. It is reassuring to know that China has recognized the importance of putting pressure on North Korea.

The U.S.-North Korean Summit marks a new era of American foreign policy with the rogue state. Despite reservation and doubt, the President and his administration remained resolute in establishing an effective diplomatic framework. The summit was conducted with transparency and resolve. In the joint statement signed by both President Trump and Kim Jong-un, a set of provisions were laid out as a diplomatic framework. First, North Korea must commit to denuclearization. With this commitment, the U.S. agreed to suspend joint military exercise in South Korea. However, if North Korea continues with its nuclear program, the U.S. will begin full-fledged exercises again. Sanctions from the U.S. and the U.N. will also remain in place. Any potential failures from this historic meeting will be a result from North Korea deviating from their commitments.

This meeting has been a possibility for a long time, but the final push to bring North Korea to the negotiating table was the result of President Trump’s endeavors. As a whole, it represents the hope of future diplomacy and negotiation with Kim Jong-un. Although there is still much work to be done with North Korea, the door to a path forward has been opened.

Senators Lankford and Klobuchar Submit Election Security Legislation As NDAA Amendment

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today submitted provisions from their Secure Elections Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The purpose of the amendment is to strengthen America’s election cybersecurity and protect against the possibility of future foreign interference by streamlining cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies and providing security clearances to state election officials.

“The security of our election systems is a major national security issue, and it is appropriate for this legislation to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Lankford. “This legislation will help states prepare our election infrastructure for the possibility of interference from Russia, Iran, North Korea, or a domestic hacktivist group. I’m grateful that our national security agencies have worked with states to make improvements, but this legislation is needed to help us better prepare for all election-related threats.”

 “Election security is national security and our intelligence officials have made clear that our election systems continue to be a target for foreign adversaries,” said Klobuchar. “We must do everything in our power to protect our democracy from future attacks. That is why Congress should pass our Secure Elections Act amendment that will improve information about cyber attacks so states can respond in real time. With only 151 days until the next election, we must act now.”

Along with Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lankford and Klobuchar originally introduced the bill in December. With the support of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), they worked with stakeholders to revise the bill and reintroduce it in March. The funding portion of the original legislation, $380 million, was included the Omnibus Appropriations bill that passed in March, however, the other provisions of the bill have not been passed into law yet.

Senator Lankford Statement on Announcement to Cancel August Recess

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) issued a statement following the announcement from Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to cancel the August state work period to continue the work the American people elected Congress to do:

 

“I appreciate Leader McConnell hearing our call to keep the Senate in session and continue our work to confirm pending executive branch and judicial nominees and to complete the appropriations process before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2018,” said Lankford. “Our work has been delayed, but it should continue through August until it gets done. We must get the President’s nominations caught up and we must complete the appropriations process on time to avoid another omnibus disaster.”

 

On May 11, Lankford joined 15 Senators in a letter to urge McConnell to expedite floor consideration of funding bills, even if the Senate must work nights, weekends, and through the August state work period. Lankford also introduced the ‘No Budget, No Vacation Act’, which would prevent members from traveling during August until the budget and appropriations process is complete. Lankford serves on the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Reform, which is a bi-partisan panel that includes members of the Senate and House.

Congress Is At The Forefront Of The Fight Against Opioids

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In recent years, our country has been ravaged by a deadly epidemic that is destroying communities and families alike. The opioid crisis has been a devastating battle for Americans young and old, and combatting this epidemic has become one of the most significant challenges facing families and communities across the nation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 115 American die each day from an opiate overdose. That is one American every 13 minutes. In fact, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. Sadly, the most significant contributor to this alarming fact is the misuse and abuse of opioids. Prescription drugs like oxycodone, codeine and morphine have become readily available through illegal channels and are being distributed without supervision from a prescribing health professional. Addiction to opioids, as well as illicit use of heroin and fentanyl, have led to the deaths of over 50,000 Americans in just one year.

Congress has worked diligently to find multiple ways to combat this killer. Numerous pieces of legislation have been passed and signed into law to establish new sets of regulations and reforms for the medical industry. Additionally, many parts of passed legislation are aimed at creating new health programs to support communities nation-wide.

Significantly, the House Appropriations Committee has made it a priority to fund programs that target combating opioid abuse. Since Fiscal Year 2015, the Committee has made significant increases in federal funds directed toward opioid prevention and response programs. As Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked to ensure that the subcommittee secures substantial funding to address opioid and heroin abuse. In the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill, passed into law last December, the subcommittee allocated over $3.72 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services specific to combat opioid abuse. This includes supporting the numerous medical programs and research programs within the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health that are targeted toward treatment, prevention and care of opioid abuse.

We are fortunate in Congress to have a working relationship with President Trump on addressing this issue. The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has been a solid catalyst in bringing light to this issue to millions of Americans. And I am proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to combat opioid abuse from the ground-up. Collectively, our work can help promote education and policy solutions that can widen the scope and impact that Congress has on fighting the epidemic efficiently.

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