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Cole Announces Congressional App Challenge for OK-04

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Moore, OK – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) today encouraged middle school and high school students in the Fourth District of Oklahoma to participate in this year’s Congressional App Challenge. This annual competition is designed to promote innovation, engagement and excellence in computer science through student development of an application (“app”).

“The Congressional App Challenge is a fantastic way for students to explore and sharpen their coding and computer-based skills, which could prepare them for potential careers in STEM fields. As this unique challenge gets underway, I look forward to seeing the ideas and creativity of Fourth District students.”

While participating students are encouraged to register online by September 10, the final deadline for entries is 12:00 p.m. on October 19, 2020. Fourth District entries will be judged and selected by a local panel of relevant experts.

The submissions portal is now open and students can register to participate at www.congressionalappchallenge.us. Questions can be directed toStudentSupport@CongressionalAppChallenge.us or by calling Cole’s office at 405-329-6500.

Background on the Congressional App Challenge

Launched by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015, this national contest invites students to create an application (“app”) for desktop/PC, web, tablet, mobile, raspberry Pi or other devices using any programming language – such as C, C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby or “block code.” The competition is open to all students who meet the eligibility requirements, regardless of their coding experience. Winning apps from congressional districts across the country are eligible for display in the U.S. Capitol and featured on the House of Representatives’ website at House.gov

More information is available at www.congressionalappchallenge.us.

Cole Congratulates 2020 Service Academy Appointees

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) this week congratulated nine students who received and accepted appointments to attend one of the United States military service academies. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy all require a congressional nomination to be considered for appointment. Cole previously nominated these students for appointment consideration in December.

“I am very proud to congratulate and extend my best wishes to nine phenomenal Fourth District students, who have accepted appointments to attend one of America’s prestigious military service academies,” said Cole. “These exceptional young leaders could pursue numerous career paths, yet they nobly and selflessly chose to answer the call to serve our nation with their talents and intelligence. I was honored to play a small part in their journey by nominating each of them for potential appointment. As they embark on a new chapter in their lives this fall, I know they will continue to make their families, communities and our state incredibly proud.”

The students from the Fourth District of Oklahoma who received and accepted appointments are listed below:

U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Heyward Hutson, Cache – Cache High School

Joseph Kelly, Lawton – Eisenhower High School

Bryson Stricker, Ardmore – Plainview High School

U.S. Naval Academy

Kirby Snow, Sulphur – Sulphur High School

Trace Stewart, Marietta – Marietta High School

Brody Sturges, Noble – Noble High School

U.S. Air Force Academy

Dalton Carson, Ada – Ada High School

Sydney Gunter, Lawton – MacArthur High School

Samuel Jun, Oklahoma City – Casady School*

*Note: Samuel Jun was also offered an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Cole Announces Reelection Campaign

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Moore, OK – Tom Cole formally announced today that he will seek reelection to represent the Fourth District of Oklahoma in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We are living in unprecedented times, and together, we are travelling uncharted waters. But America has seen and conquered greater challenges, and I know that we will win this battle as well,” stated Cole.  “From those on the front lines, to those doing their part by staying at home, Americans and Oklahomans will band together and see this through.

“Today’s challenges require strong and unwavering leadership that is always looking forward and preparing,” said Cole. “In representing the people of the Fourth District, I have proudly fought to protect and advance commonsense conservative values while also ensuring that we are investing in the future and are ready to face challenges, both foreign and domestic, and both man-made and natural.

“Prioritizing funding for biomedical disease research and readiness is one of the most important investments we can make in our collective future. Over the last five years, I have proudly championed and helped secure historic increases for the National Institutes of Health. In the last couple of years and long before the world heard of COVID-19, I was proud to lead the effort to establish the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund – an emergency fund that I proposed to immediately respond to dangerous infectious diseases like Ebola, Zika and COVID-19. Certainly, when we prioritize the public health, we can be better prepared for the future – and healthier and safer for it.

“In recent days and in response to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic and its spread in the United States, I was proud to stand with the Trump Administration in supporting aid to help Americans weather the storm. This includes more resources for state and local governments, tribal governments, small business owners, front-line health care workers and hardworking Americans to fight this disease.

“While our focus is rightfully on the pandemic, we cannot rest on other areas of preparedness. Whether it is responding to national security threats at home or abroad, there is no doubt that our military is in a stronger place today than it was just a few years ago. Along with President Trump, I was proud to help deliver the largest pay increase to our military men and women in a decade, increased funding for invaluable missions at Fort Sill Army Post and Tinker Air Force Base and continued support for the modernization of our military.

“While I am proud of my record, there is still important work ahead,” continued Cole. “I am running for re-election to build on the significant strides taken and to usher in solutions that help Americans and our economy recover from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, further support and strengthen our military’s readiness and capabilities, and help set future generations on firm financial footing.

“It is a great honor to represent the people of the Fourth District. I look forward to being of service, earning the vote over the coming months and continuing to fight for our conservative ideals and principles.”

Cole Applauds Full-Year Government Funding for FY 2020

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), Vice Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement after President Donald Trump last night signed into law two full-year government funding packages for fiscal year 2020. The two packages include all 12 appropriations bills, which cover annual operations across the entirety of the federal government.

“One of the most fundamental duties of Congress is to fund the government and to keep it open and operational. By coming to bipartisan agreement on full-year appropriations, I am very proud that lawmakers in both chambers not only prevented a government shutdown, but they avoided the need for another short-term continuing resolution. I applaud President Trump for signing these critical packages into law, responsibly providing certainty for the federal government and the thousands of supporting federal workers.”  

Earlier this week, Cole made extensive remarks in support of the funding packages on the House floor. Video is available here

Cole also explained the importance of funding with full-year appropriations, instead of continuing resolutions, in a recent column here.

Honoring the Bravest Among Us

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Each year on the eleventh of November, we rightly pause to honor and remember the bravery and boldness of the men and women who selflessly answered the call of duty and wore one of the many great military uniforms of the United States of America. Without question, we owe a constant debt of gratitude to generations of veterans, including many of our own family members, who made sacrifices to ensure the safety of our homeland and who faithfully fought to promote and preserve America’s precious freedoms. 

On Veterans Day, I am certainly reflecting on the military service rendered by my own relatives. Each day, I am reminded of my namesake and late uncle Tom’s tremendous courage and sacrifice. A prisoner of war during World War II, he was forced to walk the infamous Bataan Death March, and he was held in the Japanese prison camps of Cabanatuan in the Philippines and Hanawa on the main island of Japan. He kept a booklet with the names of the brave men that he met in the prison camps because he never wanted to forget those with whom he served. I was honored to be given his little book after he passed away, and I keep it in my DC office alongside several photos of him, including a picture that was taken of him and his brothers in arms on the day Hanawa was liberated. 

I am also always thinking of my father, who I greatly admired while I was growing up in a military family. My dad joined the Army Air Corps on the eve of World War II, and when he left the service, he was the second most senior master sergeant in the Air Force and generally recognized as one of the best to run a crew (or dock) that fixed airplanes. He was an amazingly talented mechanic and won the prize for “dock of the month” so many times at McGuire Air Force Base that they quit giving it out. When he was placed at Dover Air Force Base for his last command, he was given the worst dock assignment and still managed to win the same award seven out of 12 times there—another testament to his impressive skill. Following his retirement in 1960, our family returned to Oklahoma, where my dad served another 20 years as a civilian defense worker at Tinker Air Force Base.

My uncle and my dad were not the only people in my family who served. My grandfather on my mom’s side retired as a naval captain and fought in several engagements in the Pacific. My brother served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era. And my favorite cousin retired as an Air Force lieutenant colonel after serving in Iraq.

Of course, in a sense, the families of all these brave men served, too. They supported them when they deployed. Spouses missed anniversaries, children missed birthdays and all were sometimes separated and worried over Thanksgivings and Christmases. But they never wavered in supporting their family member in uniform. Millions of other families are making those same sacrifices today, so each of us can enjoy the upcoming holidays in peace, security and freedom.

Just as stories of military service and heroism are numerous within our families, so too is the current population of veterans in communities across the nation. According to the Census Bureau, there are more than 21.3 million civilian veterans living in the United States, including more than 67,000 in the Fourth District of Oklahoma. As a grateful nation, we have a solemn duty to these veteran heroes, including many who sustained life-altering injuries fighting for the cause of freedom.

It is indeed right to set aside one day each year to recognize America’s veterans, but we can rightly honor their sacrifices every day of the year by ensuring they receive their earned benefits. Unfortunately, there are still too many instances of our veterans not getting adequate care or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system not meeting their needs. While I was encouraged that Congress came together last year to address some of the issues, efforts must continue to keep the VA accountable and ensure promises made to our veterans are always kept. And I remain committed to finding solutions to improve the care and benefits received by our veterans.

If you are a veteran and have experienced problems related to your earned benefits, please contact my Norman office at (405) 329-6500, so my staff can help you get answers.

Changing the Course of the Opioid Epidemic

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While it takes time to change the course of a national health crisis, I am encouraged that noticeable progress has been made to combat the epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction in the United States. Because of bipartisan solutions in Congress in recent years and the Trump Administration’s focus on related initiatives, the course of the opioid addiction crisis is indeed starting to change.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provisional estimates of overdose deaths dropped by 5 percent between 2017 and 2018. And as HHS Secretary Alex Azar recently pointed out when speaking about the National Institutes of Health’s HEAL Initiative, this is the first time in more than 20 years that there has been a decrease in this sobering statistic.

In recent years, Congress has prioritized financial resources to address the opioid crisis. And I am proud that the first significant federal investment in funds to target opioid addiction came while I was chairman of the subcommittee that directs funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While shepherding the funding bill for fiscal year 2017 in the House, my subcommittee included the first ever flexible grant to states for prevention, treatment and recovery services related to opioid substance use disorder.

Lawmakers have continued to prioritize and increase funding for resources to prevent and treat opioid addiction in communities. In fact, as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, funding for programs addressing opioid substance use disorder was increased by $3 billion, and the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill included more than $4.6 billion in total funding for opioid addiction and treatment services. Since 2017, HHS has received more than $10 billion to fund these vital programs. The largest program is opioid response grants for states, including millions allocated to fight the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma communities.  

Since opioid addiction exists in most—if not all—American communities, confronting the epidemic has never been a partisan undertaking in Congress. For example, at the end of last year, both chambers passed and President Trump signed into law the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. Made up of several bills introduced throughout last Congress to prevent and end the cycle of opioid abuse, the historic legislation sought to address the symptoms of the epidemic and confront underlying causes of the crisis. This included solutions to improve treatment and recovery options, support non-addictive opioid alternatives for pain management, discourage the high opioid prescription rate and empower law enforcement to keep harmful drugs from entering communities. 

Certainly, the fight against the opioid crisis is far from over, but I am heartened that past efforts seem to be making a real difference. In the days ahead, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure states and communities have the resources needed to prevent opioid abuse and save lives.

We Stand with Israel

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The United States has been a long-time friend and ally of the Jewish state of Israel. For decades, our country has rightly supported the nation of Israel as one of our greatest allies on the international stage. But in recent years, Israel has been subject to an increasing amount of unfair criticisms. 

Since its inception, Israel is a shining example of western civilization and democracy in a region of the world that has been characterized by chaos and terror for years. The Middle Eastern countries and terrorist organizations that heap so much scorn upon Israel would certainly benefit if they followed Israel’s example. However, many in this part of the world simply despise western values. Additionally, Israel has been an indispensable ally in the war on terror.

The unfair criticisms hurled at Israel stem from land disputes with the Palestinians. While I certainly sympathize with Palestinians who want a peaceful solution to their disagreement with Israel, we cannot forget the influence that the terrorist organization of Hamas—who is funded by the Iranian government, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism—exerts on the Palestinians. Just recently, a senior Hamas official even went as far as saying that Palestinians across the world have a duty to kill all Jews. Israelis have been supportive of a two-state solution with a sovereign Palestinian state, but as long as Hamas continues to target civilians, including women and children, Israel has every right to defend itself.

Last month, we passed a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives condemning the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is designed to destroy Israel’s economy. Leaders of the BDS movement have repeatedly refused to distance themselves from Hamas. Generally speaking, people around the world who participate in the movement refuse to do business with companies from Israel. While I of course supported the resolution to condemn the BDS movement, I was disappointed that the measure was simply non-binding words.

Rather than etch anti-BDS sentiment into policy like the Senate has done in a bipartisan fashion, we simply condemned it. The Senate passed a bill earlier this year by a margin of 77-23, that actually puts some teeth on the condemnation. It is not—as some people have suggested—an infringement on the freedom of speech. The legislation does not prohibit people or companies from participating in BDS either. It simply allows states and local governments to refuse to do business with those who participate in BDS. In fact, courts have ruled that the U.S. government has a substantial interest in preventing American citizens from participating in the BDS movement.

It is our duty to stand with our Israeli friends, who are courageous defenders of western values. We must not allow those who sympathize with the terrorist organization of Hamas to dangerously control the narrative.

An Enduring Alliance

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On April 4, 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed, and the United States entered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as one of 12 founding member countries. Seven decades later, the transatlantic alliance endures, and it has grown to include 29 countries, pledging still to face aggressors and security threats together.

In reflecting on this historic and lasting partnership, it was an honor to recently hear from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a joint session of the United States Congress. While his address was a sobering reminder of the security threats and difficulties we have experienced alongside our NATO allies, it was encouraging also to remember the steadfast cooperation that has existed all the while in promoting and preserving freedom. As Secretary General Stoltenberg poignantly remarked, “The strength of NATO is that despite our differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task. To defend each other. Protect each other. And to keep our people safe.”

Following the devastating conflict of World War II, NATO allies banded together with the shared commitment to defend against future threats and the shared desire to prevent future conflicts, particularly with the Soviet Union. A partnership which started in the thick of the Cold War, NATO allies remained watchful and ready to defend against potential attacks during the early decades. However, it was not until 2001 that NATO allies invoked Article 5 of its treaty: “An armed attack against one or more of them…shall be considered an attack against them all.” 

After the heartbreaking September 11 terrorist attacks on our soil, NATO allies quickly came to the aid of the United States. Our treaty allies fought and died alongside us during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where terrorism had taken root. 

I am proud that Oklahoma’s Fourth District has played a part in supporting our NATO allies – including the use of Fourth District airspace for training exercises conducted by Sheppard Air Force Base, which hosts the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program. And last year, AWACS aircraft from Tinker Air Force Base were part of one of the biggest NATO exercises in the last 20 years.

Although President Trump has rightly put pressure on our NATO allies to contribute two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) toward defense spending, not all contributions toward NATO’s collective mission can be measured in dollars. Aside from military funding and support, countering the unique threats of today requires strong alliances to confront new challenges. Current threats include cyber, hybrid warfare and terrorism, transcending borders and calling for fresh approaches in deterrence. Sharing the burden requires infrastructure investments as well. 

Certainly, NATO remains a vital component to defending freedom and ultimately ensuring a safer and more peaceful world. While we have disagreements between members, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was indeed right when he said, “It is good to have friends.”

Senator Lankford Votes to Fully Fund the Government, Provide Border Security

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today voted to support a bill to fully fund the federal government for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year (ends September 30, 2019). The bill, which passed in a bipartisan vote of 83 to 16, includes funding for the Department of Homeland Security and related agencies after a Conference Committee negotiated the final version following passage of a continuing resolution on January 25, 2019. It also contains funding for the six remaining appropriations bills: Commerce, Justice, Science; State and Foreign Operations; Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development; Interior; Agriculture; and Financial Services and General Government.

“Finishing last year’s work in February is reprehensible, and it means we must immediately prioritize the funding plan for the next fiscal year,” said Lankford. “Though the funding bill public debate centered on border security, the funding package also included vital funding for 25 percent of the federal government’s operations. In addition to the vital provisions on border security fencing, the bill funds new immigration judges, increases border security agents, and maintains ICE’s ability to detain individuals who do not have legal status. The Democrats fought hard to restrict ICE’s ability to enforce key immigration laws, but the final negotiated bill demonstrates our commitment to the important work of ICE agents.”

Last Congress, Senator Lankford served as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government (FSGG). The bill that passed today contains the Senate-passed version of the appropriations bill his Committee offered last year, which received wide bipartisan support when it passed the Committee in 2018 for the first time since 2007. Lankford spoke on the Senate floor about the benefits to Oklahomans in the FSGG bill like funding for tax reform implementation, law enforcement support, and combating drug trafficking.  

Lankford now serves on the following Appropriations Subcommittees: FSGG; State and Foreign Operations; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Legislative Branch.

Lankford Commemorates Black History Month

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today praised the important work in the US Senate to honor Black History Month and to continue to address improving race relations in the US. This week, Lankford cosponsored a Senate resolution to formally commemorate Black History Month. Lankford also joined Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tim Scott (R-SC) to finally address the crime of lynching through theJustice for Victims of Lynching Act.

“In February, our nation pauses to reflect on the achievements of so many black Americans who have courageously, inspiringly, and often in the face of great adversity paved the future for our nation and helped heal the wounds of racism we still sadly face,” said Lankford. “As Americans, I believe we can and should highlight members of our communities who lead and serve others. In Oklahoma, leaders in the black community from businessmen and women to government leaders to teachers help improve our communities and work to inspire young Americans.

“Our work is ongoing even today to address the stain of racism on our nation’s history. Most of the issues associated with racism in our nation cannot be solved by legislation; they are heart issues. However, there are some areas in which government can and should step forward and provide a solution. I cosponsored the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act because I believe we should once and for all condemn and criminalize lynching as ‘a pernicious and pervasive tool’ that ‘succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States.’ This bill seeks to right a wrong and provide a tool that DOJ needs to fully prosecute this type of crime. I am grateful for the work of Senators Scott, Harris, and Booker to bring this bill to the floor.”