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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.

Funding Strategic Readiness

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With global threats from our near competitors and great-state adversaries, improving our military’s readiness could not come at a more critical time.  Congress is committed to funding improved maintenance, readiness, and personnel accounts while providing key oversight on near and long-term procurement programs to build a modern force.  After years of budgetary dysfunction, we must recapitalize our military and ensure it remains a superior and effective fighting force across all domains anywhere in the world.

This year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 was passed last week by the House by a vote of 351-66, and will be the 57th consecutive year the legislation is signed by the President. It includes $708.1 billion in funding and adds to the end strength and fighting capabilities for all the services. The size of the Air Force will increase by 4,700 military personnel to include active duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen. The Army active force will increase by 4,000 soldiers to 487,000 troops. To compliment growth, increased funds will also be directed toward increased training and readiness as the military focuses on increased tensions with Iran, changing dynamics on the Korean Peninsula and Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea.

Congress supports additional funding above the President’s request to replace equipment that is too broken or too expensive to repair.  Additionally, funding is included to procure of new aircraft, ships and to invest in rebuilding key infrastructure. The bill also supports reducing the back-log of aircraft maintenance and improves sustainment and logistics, which is a key mission at Tinker Air Force Base. Furthermore, the legislation provides for Long-Range Precision Fires and Air and Missile Defense efforts, which incidentally are Future Command Cross-Functional Teams Headquarters that will be located at Fort Sill.

This year’s NDAA also provides for investments in new technology and includes accelerated funding for Artificial Intelligence, machine learning programs, as well as directed energy, and hypersonics programs.

Most importantly, the legislation provides for our troops and their families. The bill fully funds a 2.6% pay raise for our troops which is the highest increase in nine years.  It also extends special pay and bonuses for Servicemembers in high-demand fields.

This bipartisan bill includes threat-specific initiatives designed to maximize defense resources and keep America safe. It builds on the National Defense Strategy and provides the framework to restore American power in the new era of competition. I am proud to support this bill each year, and I look forward to its enactment into law.

The Mission for Better Care for Our Veterans

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Senator Lankford Statement on US Embassy Opening in Jerusalem

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today made the following statement on the US Embassy dedication ceremony and recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding:

“After more than two decades of bipartisan declarations from Congress, the US Embassy has been relocated to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel. While we must continue working to secure a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, today’s embassy move helps lay a better foundation for the peace process by signaling to the world that United States foreign policy will not be deterred by threats of violence and terrorism. Furthermore, as I said when the move was first announced in December, nothing about the relocation of our embassy to Jerusalem will impact America’s commitment to honor any solution which brings about peace resulting from direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. I pray that God would continue to bless the people of Israel and all people who strive to build harmony in the Middle East, as we celebrate today’s historic occasion.”

In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 with broad bipartisan support in the Senate by a 93-5 vote and in the House by a 374–37 vote. This law states that it is US policy that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city, that Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel, and that the US Embassy in Israel should be located in Jerusalem. The Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, which also passed with bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate, urged the President to immediately begin relocating the Embassy to Jerusalem pursuant to the 1995 law. Most recently, on June 5 of 2017, the Senate passed by a vote of 90-0 a resolution reaffirming the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and called upon the President to abide by its provisions.

Lankford visited Israel in March and August of 2017 to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other diplomats.

Senator Lankford Statement on President’s Decision to Withdraw From Iran Deal

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today made the following statement on the President’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called the Iran Nuclear Deal, and impose additional sanctions on Iran.

“The Iran nuclear agreement, designed and agreed to by President Obama, had major flaws from the beginning. The agreement gave permanent tariff relief to Iran in exchange for temporary restrictions on its nuclear weapons program. Iran has spent years designing nuclear weapons, but they needed more time to develop new missiles and more money to pay for their technology. The nuclear agreement gave Iran billions of dollars and it ignored the continuing missile testing in Iran. That is unacceptable.

“I support additional sanctions on Iran, as they are the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. The Iranian regime is expanding into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. The Middle East and the region cannot have peace with a threatening Iranian nuclear regime. I encourage the Trump Administration to immediately begin working with the international community, in close consultation with Congress, to find a solution that will ensure Iran never has access to nuclear weapons capabilities.”

On September 10, 2015, Lankford voted against the Iran deal, in the form of a resolution of disapproval. Before the vote, Lankford outlined his objections in an op-ed. After the deal went into effect, Lankford conducted oversight of the implementation of the deal. In April 2016, he introduced a Senate resolution to ensure that President Obama follows through on his commitment to reimpose sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear deal. In September 2016, Lankford and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) introduced the JCPOA Enforcement Transparency Act, which would increase oversight of the Joint Commission, a committee created under the Iran deal to monitor implementation.

Lankford serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

Continuing Achievements

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As Congress reaches the final stretches of its 115th session, the House can reflect on a long list of accomplishments it has achieved since the beginning of the session. Despite the constant discussions that partisan gridlock may be the new norm, it has been quite the opposite. Since the beginning of the 115th Congress, the House has passed 598 bills – 470 of which are sitting in the Senate with no action. That means almost 79% of all legislation passed thus far have yet to see the Senate Floor or the President’s desk. However, since President Trump took office, we have worked in concert with the Administration to advance good legislation that will support America’s economy and wellbeing.

One of the first legislative initiatives that Congress approached was the successful work to deregulate harmful government regulations and Obama-era federal rules. Congressional Review Acts served as the catalyst to end the many bureaucratic red-tape practices that have slowed industrial growth, regulated thousands of workers and hampered American ingenuity. So far, Congress has passed, and the President has signed, 15 Congressional Review Acts. Regarding deregulatory action alone, no Congress and Administration have done more than the current ones.

The most significant accomplishment of the 115th Congress so far has been the passage and implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reforms the current tax code and incentivizes businesses to invest into the American economy. This year, Americans filed their taxes for the last time under the antiquated tax system and will begin to reap the benefits of the new system’s individual tax brackets. Businesses have begun to reinvest in corporate expansion, and have awarded thousands of dollars in bonuses to employees. As a result, the passage of the tax reform bill is projected to contribute to economic growth in the United States in the years to come.

During this Congressional session, the federal government, unfortunately, faced multiple continuing resolutions and even a government shutdown. The House has been diligent in the past year by passing all twelve appropriations measures to send to the Senate promptly. However, it was ultimately the Senate that made it impossible for the bill to be sent to the President’s desk on time. The Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill, which funds the entire federal government, was finally passed by both chambers and signed into law by President Trump in March of this year. It is important to note that this year’s omnibus funding bill does not direct any funds to Planned Parenthood, and includes many provisions to protect the sanctity of life. Legislative amendments like the Hyde Amendment prohibit federal funds to be used for abortion, and the Weldon amendment protects doctors and nurses that do not want to perform abortions from discrimination.

Our national security has become a top priority in the past year as well. In the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill, the Department of Defense received its largest funding boost in 15 years, which will lift the military out of the harmful sequester. These investments in the military will bolster critical programs that support troop training, equipment, and facility maintenance, improving technology, research, and development and fulfill any readiness shortfalls. Furthermore, the funding increase will expand troop numbers, so that the U.S. military is a more robust and able fighting force.

Additionally, reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) systems has also been a significant accomplishment of the 115th Congress. A vast number of legislative reforms have been signed into law that are directed at creating more transparency and accountability at the VA. In the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus bill, the VA received the largest dollar amount increase in history. The Department of Veterans Affairs received $85.1 billion which will help care for 7 million patients. It will also address shortfalls at the VA by reducing patient wait times, improving electronic health records and addressing the disability claims backlog.

In addition to completing the Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill this year and in regular order, the House will still maintain a busy legislative agenda to finish before the end of the year. Many major actions, like the 2018 Farm Bill and the creation of stronger border security will need to be addressed. As we reach the home stretch of the year, it is imperative that the House, Senate, and the White House continue to successfully pass bills that will advance regulatory reform, economic growth, public health and wellbeing and ultimately, the American taxpayer.

Senators Lankford, Shaheen, and Tillis Introduce Bill To Stop Transfer of Fighter Aircraft To Turkey

Bill Comes As Turkish President Erdogan Continues To Imprison Dr. Andrew Brunson

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced a bill to prevent the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey. The bill would also block Turkey’s role as a maintenance depot for the aircraft. Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey was expected to purchase more than 100 aircraft.

“Senators Shaheen and Tillis have worked diligently with me and others in Congress to address America’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Turkey,” said Lankford. “I applaud our State Department for their ceaseless work to improve the US-Turkey relationship, but President Erdogan has continued down a path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law. Individual freedoms have been increasingly diminished as Erdogan consolidates power for himself, and Turkey’s strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, US interests. These factors make the transfer of sensitive F-35 technology and cutting-edge capabilities to Erdogan’s regime increasingly risky. Furthermore, the Turkish government continues to move closer and closer to Russia, as they hold an innocent American pastor, Andrew Brunson, in prison to use him as a pawn in political negotiations. The United States does not reward hostage-taking of American citizens; such action instead will be met with the kind of punitive measures this bill would enact.”

 “Given my steadfast commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance, it is with regret that our relationship with Turkey has reached a point where we must consider severing defense and business ties in order to free American hostages held in Turkey,” said Shaheen. “Turkish President Erdogan’s choice to take hostages and imprison innocent Americans, to try to gain leverage over the United States, is egregious and unlawful. Erdogan and his government must abide by the rule of law within his own country and abroad, and release Pastor Andrew Brunson and other Americans unlawfully held in Turkey. There must also be an immediate end to the harassment and detainment of locally-employed staff at the U.S. mission. Until that occurs, I’ll continue to join with Senators Lankford and Tillis to call for punitive action, including blocking the transfer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

 “America is not going to forget about Andrew Brunson and the other Americans who are being wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish government,” said Tillis. “Turkey has long been a vital NATO ally and America understands the unique national security threats it faces; however, denying the rights of law-abiding Americans undermines the relationship between our two countries. The Erdogan government should understand that Congress will pursue measures to protect the interests of American citizens, including stopping the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey.”

On April 19, Lankford and Shaheen announced their decision to pursue targeted sanctions against Turkish officials in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill. On April 20, Tillis and Shaheen led a 66 Member letter to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, demanding the release of Andrew Brunson.

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