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Putin Continues to Test and Provoke

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For several months, an increasing and disturbing presence of Russian military troops and equipment has lined the Ukrainian border, heightening concerns that Russia intends to invade in the coming days. With tensions between these two countries expected to reach a boiling point, it is worth considering the gravity of the consequences of such conflict and why the danger facing our friends in Ukraine matters to the United States.

This isn’t the first time Ukraine has been the target of Russian aggression. As you might remember in 2014, Russian armed forces seized control of the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine. While Russia has held de facto control over that area since then, it is not recognized by the United States or other member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). At the time of the Crimean invasion, former President Barack Obama showed lackluster leadership and refused to help our Ukrainian friends or impose sanctions on Russia.

Amid another imminent threat facing Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly intending to gain control of the country, now is not the time for the United States to take a back seat on the global stage. President Biden should promise lethal aid, and lots of it, as well as the strongest possible economic, diplomatic and political sanctions. Indeed, it is vital that America and our NATO allies consider ways to assist Ukraine in this time of desperate need. 

Indeed, this unfolding situation requires strong and decisive action. Unfortunately, Putin and several other leaders around the world recognize the weakness displayed by President Biden, especially after his careless and disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August. Beyond the alarming situation of Russia testing and provoking the United States and our allies through its presence along the Ukrainian border, bad actors in other areas of the world are similarly becoming empowered to test their limits. We see this happening in areas of eastern Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Taiwan Strait.

Although I remain concerned about President Biden’s shortfalls in leadership amid these ongoing tensions worldwide, I am proud that Congress is at least poised to deliver the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022 to his desk. Passed in the House last week and soon expected for a vote in the Senate, this vital piece of legislation authorizes the necessary resources and funding to provide a defense that can stand up to our adversaries, like Russia, while also sending support to our allies. Among many other things, this NDAA authorizes $300 million in security assistance and intelligence support for Ukraine, as well as up to $75 million in lethal assistance. It also continues to prohibit military cooperation with Russia and any recognition of Russian sovereignty of Crimea.

Unfortunately, at a time when our adversaries are becoming increasingly and alarmingly more aggressive, President Biden and many Democrats still stand by an effective cut in the current version of the annual defense appropriations bill. For the priorities contained in NDAA to be fully realized and accomplished, the authorized funding increase must be replicated in the appropriations process. Congress must not only authorize the resources our military needs but enact the related funding to ensure the success of our military, and I remain committed to doing just that.

During times of crisis, our nation needs a strong commander in chief to lead American military and diplomatic efforts to deter bad actors. This includes not only supporting our friends around the world in their time of need, but providing for our national defense to counter threats of terror and hold the line on our strategic adversaries.

The Blessing of Being American

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As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, I hope you will join me in reflecting on the incredible blessings we have – simply because we are Americans. Indeed, this annual tradition of joining together in collective gratitude transcends differences in political parties and points of view.

No matter one’s feelings on the state of affairs in our country, Thanksgiving is a reminder that we are still the most fortunate people on earth. We live in the greatest country in the world. We live in the freest country that mankind has ever seen. And we live in a country that provides more opportunity and more security for its citizens than any other nation ever has in the history of humanity.

I hope that as you give thanks with your family, friends and loved ones this year, you take a moment to remember how extraordinary the blessing we all have been given to live in the remarkable United States of America. I hope you give thanks for the people who protect us, including our men and women in uniform at home and abroad, who never truly stand down. I hope you give thanks for our law enforcement and those first on the scene during emergencies who, even on the most sacred holidays, are ready to respond. I hope you give thanks for people who work in stores, for farmers who provide our food and for energy producers who make sure we can heat and power our homes. 

Americans look after Americans. We depend on one another as a people. We lend a hand and come to one another’s aid in times of crisis, and we always end up stronger and even more resilient. And that generosity, desire to improve lives and willingness to help is extended to people around the world in incredible ways.

So as you count your blessings and say your prayers of gratitude, I hope you remember how lucky we all are to be Americans. May God bless you and your loved ones this Thanksgiving.

Cole, Kind Introduce Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) and Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) today introduced the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. This bipartisan legislation would change an existing policy that requires Medicare beneficiaries at rural critical access hospitals (CAHs) to pay more in coinsurance than patients who receive the same care at larger acute care hospitals.

“I am proud to join my colleague Congressman Ron Kind in introducing bipartisan legislation that improves access and affordability of hospitals for older Americans living in rural communities. Specifically, our commonsense bill, the Fairness for Rural Beneficiaries Act, brings needed parity for Medicare beneficiaries to the costs associated with receiving care, whether that is in a rural or urban facility,” said Congressman Tom Cole, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

“Critical Access Hospitals serve families across Wisconsin, especially in rural regions, but many Medicare beneficiaries are stuck paying higher prices just because of where they obtain care. The Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act will help right this wrong and make sure Medicare beneficiaries aren’t financially penalized for accessing care close to home,” said Congressman Ron Kind

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representatives Cole and Kind for introducing the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. Under current law, when a patient goes to a critical access hospital (CAH) they are billed 20 percent of the cost of charges submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In other hospital settings, because they’re reimbursed through a different fee schedule, patients are billed 20 percent of the reasonable costs determined by CMS for that procedure. Unfortunately, what this looks like on the ground is rural patients being charged more for coinsurance because of where they obtain care geographically. This is wrong. NRHA applauds Representatives Cole and Kind for introducing this important legislation to eliminate what is essentially a tax on patients seeking care in rural communities,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.

“The Oklahoma Hospital Association supports Rep. Cole’s introduction of the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. This is a commonsense approach for rural Medicare patients and their local critical access hospitals. This legislation levels the playing field for hospitals and patients in rural areas. No longer will rural patients be forced to pay higher out-of-pocket (co-insurance) costs for outpatient services that can be provided close to home,” said Patti Davis, President, Oklahoma Hospital Association.

“We support the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act to eliminate the out of pocket payment difference between acute care facilities and critical access hospitals.  Medicare patients in rural Oklahoma or rural Wisconsin shouldn’t have to pay more out of pocket at critical access hospitals.  This bill will level the playing field,” said Laura Kaiser, President and Chief Executive Officer, SSM Health. 

Bill text is available here.

An Invasion of Privacy

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In an attempt to pay for their irresponsible socialist spending package, Democrats have put forward a radical proposal that would authorize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to spy on the bank accounts of every American. This is an outrageous invasion of privacy and contradicts U.S. societal norms.

Following public outcry, Democrats recently revised their socialist regulatory surveillance plan. However, their “scaled back” version is hardly different in its real impact. Democrats’ snooping plan would require banks to monitor any accounts with more than $10,000 in annual deposits or withdrawals – including inflows and outflows made with physical cash, transactions with a foreign account and transfers to and from another account with the same owner. So along with weaponizing the IRS, Democrats want to turn local and community banks into new regulatory divisions, implemented with $80 billion added to the taxpayers’ tab.

While the Biden Administration claims this regulation would help the IRS identify tax cheats amongst high earners, the reality is that every American who pays rent or a mortgage would be targeted. Beyond rent or mortgage, hardworking American families could be opened up to surveillance simply by investing in a child’s college education, taking out a loan to buy farm equipment or start a small business, starting a part-time job to make some extra money or even transferring money from a savings account to a checking account or vice versa. Indeed, this surveillance scheme is not about preventing tax evasion of wealthy people or large corporations, it is about taxing blue-collar workers and family-owned businesses, farms and ranches, so Democrats can subsidize programs and fund tax giveaways in blue states. 

In response to this highly invasive proposal, I recently signed two letters to the IRS and U.S. Department of the Treasury expressing my opposition to any threshold for Americans’ bank accounts to be spied on. Additionally, I am a cosponsor of the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act, which would prohibit the Treasury from requiring any financial institution to report the ins or outs of any account maintained by the institution.

Aside from the intrusion of privacy, the proposal also raises very real fears related to cybersecurity, especially considering that the IRS is often targeted by cybercriminals and has experienced multiple data breaches in recent years. Allowing the IRS to collect sensitive and personal financial information could pose a very serious threat to millions of Americans if another breach were to occur.

I wish I could say that the Biden Administration’s desired overreach of private banking data ended here. Sadly, there is more cause for concern over his nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, Saule Omarova, whose confirmation hearings are currently underway in the U.S. Senate. This position oversees the charter, regulation and supervision of all national banks. A 1989 graduate of Moscow State University on the Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship, Omarova has applauded Russia’s economic system as superior. Even more alarming, she has written that the Federal Reserve should take over consumer bank deposits, end America’s current banking system and instead use Venezuela and China as models for our financial system.

In their ongoing quest to transform America into a socialist nation, Democrats are seeking to inherently change our financial system and spy on citizens, even without any accusation of wrongdoing. This is not only an astonishing breach of privacy that presents serious cybersecurity risks, it is simply un-American.

Cole Mourns Loss of General Colin Powell

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after learning of the loss of former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell.

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the unexpected passing of Colin Powell,” said Cole. “America has lost not only a great warrior and respected statesman but a genuinely wise and decent man. Secretary Powell was a role model and a patriot revered and respected by millions of Americans of every race, ethnicity and political persuasion.

“During my time in politics and in Congress, I had the privilege of interacting with Colin Powell. While we didn’t agree on every issue, I respected his perspective, his thoughtful approach to every issue, his deep patriotism and his long and selfless service to our country. 

“I extend my sympathy to the Powell family, including his wife of 59 years, Alma Powell, and his loving children and grandchildren. All America grieves with them in their loss. 

“In the words of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, Colin Powell spoke to ‘the better angels of our nature.’ His calm voice in these turbulent times will be greatly missed.” 

Providing for Our National Defense

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Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022. In arriving at this point in the process of advancing this comprehensive bill to authorize critical and sustainable funding for our national defense, I was proud of the manner in which members on both sides of the aisle worked together to deliver.

When this bill was reported out of the House Armed Services Committee, it passed by a nearly unanimous vote of 57-2. Considering that Democrats have primarily produced and passed partisan legislation this Congress with no input from or consultation with Republicans, this was a refreshing development. Indeed, this NDAA offered a clear example that the House can work together and pass bipartisan legislation for the good of the American people.

At a time when the Biden Administration’s proposed budget revealed an effective cut for our defense, I was pleased that the NDAA passed in the House rejected such action. Fortunately, in the House Armed Services Committee, the panel’s top Republican, Ranking Member Mike Rogers, successfully led a bipartisan effort to add $25 billion needed for modernizing our military, countering major and proliferating threats around the world and sustaining ongoing missions, including those at Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City and Fort Sill in Lawton, which are both located in the Fourth District of Oklahoma.

Along with several other important provisions, this bill rightly authorizes a 2.7 percent pay increase for service members and unprecedented investments, including an additional $15 billion in the procurement of new aircraft, combat vehicles, autonomous systems, missiles and ammunition and $6 billion in emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, hypersonic and autonomous systems.

Passage of this NDAA comes at a time when our adversaries such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are building up their militaries. Due to President Biden’s careless and completely botched withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, there is now a resurgence of terrorist organizations in the region. In response, the NDAA authorizes necessary tools and resources for our military to prevail in conflict with a wide range of potential adversaries.

Rightly so, this legislation includes more than 20 provisions to hold the Biden Administration accountable. These include requiring the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to submit a plan to Congress on how it will evacuate remaining American citizens from Afghanistan, conduct intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance missions and carry out counter-terrorism missions. It also includes language that prohibits DOD from providing any financial support to the Taliban.

Moreover, the legislation notably reverses President Biden’s proposed budget cuts to our missile defense systems and continues funding for nuclear triad modernization. Amid the ongoing crisis at our southern border created by the Biden Administration, the NDAA also declares that the record number of illegal crossings there is a national security crisis.

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committees favorably reported a bipartisan NDAA for future consideration in the U.S. Senate. This development was also the result of bipartisan cooperation and due to the leadership exemplified by Chairman Jack Reed and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe. Once the Senate takes up the legislation for a vote in the coming days, I am hopeful that it too will pass with strong, bipartisan support and that both chambers of Congress can then resolve any differences in conference and send a final bill to the president’s desk. While no bill is perfect, passage of a final and truly bipartisan NDAA is critical to strengthening our national defense and repudiating the Biden Administration’s effort to use defense to subsidize its bloated spending elsewhere. The conference process of reconciling the two versions of the NDAA is essential to further addressing and eliminating remaining concerns.

However, it’s worth nothing that in order for the priorities contained in the House-passed NDAA or the Senate Armed Services Committee’s reported bill to be fully accomplished, the authorized funding increase must be replicated in the appropriations process. At this point, Democrats have already established an effective cut in that annual appropriation. I hope they soon change course and finally adopt a bipartisan posture on that legislation, too. In fact, that must happen in order to receive my support.

In times like these, our national defense deserves our full support to counter threats of terror and hold the line on our strategic adversaries. In the days and weeks ahead, I remain committed to continuing this bipartisan process to rightfully provide for our common defense.

Cole Votes to Protect the Unborn

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), a member of the Pro-Life Caucus, issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3755. Although the legislation purports to simply codify in statute the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, it would in practice preempt any state laws regarding the protection of unborn life. Cole voted against the legislation.

“Make no mistake. H.R. 3755 is an abortion-on-demand bill masked by Democrats as legislation to strengthen women’s healthcare,” said Cole. “If enacted into law, this bill would effectively remove the rights of individual states to pass laws to protect the lives of unborn children. Indeed, this bill represents the greatest threat to defending innocent life that we have seen in the past 50 years.

“Instead of allowing commonsense regulations to protect the unborn, every single state in the country would be required to allow abortion on demand at any time up to the point of birth. States would also no longer be allowed to protect the conscience rights of Americans, to ban certain barbaric procedures such as dismemberment abortion or to prevent sex-selective abortions or abortions targeting fetuses with Down Syndrome, which 70 percent of American oppose.

“Defending life, particularly for the most vulnerable among us, is one of my highest priorities as a Member of Congress. As enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life is one of those unalienable rights endowed by our Creator. It is with that in mind that I strenuously oppose this bill and urge Democrats to change course.”

Earlier this week on the House floor, while managing rule debate providing for consideration of H.R. 3755, Cole made remarks in opposition to the legislation. Video is available here.

Cole to Host Telephone Town Hall

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) announced today that he will host a constituent telephone town hall to discuss and answer questions about the latest legislative news and updates from Congress.

“I look forward to connecting with my constituents again during another telephone town hall,” said Cole. “Between my travels across the Fourth District of Oklahoma, legislative business in Washington this week and the latest misguided actions out of the Biden Administration, there is a lot to discuss during this next phone call event.”

Details for participating in the call are below:

Date: Monday, August 30, 2021
Time: 6:00-7:00 p.m. CT
Dial In: (833) 305-1727

In addition, to sign up to be called directly or to listen to a live audio webcast of the event, constituents can visit cole.house.gov/telephone-town-halls.

For more information or questions, please call Cole’s Norman office at (405) 329-6500.

Cole Statement on the Disastrous Situation in Afghanistan

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Moore, OK – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, released the following statement in response to the ongoing and worsening situation in Afghanistan.  

“The unfolding and accelerating disaster in Afghanistan is a human tragedy and a severe threat to the long-term security and credibility of the United States,” said Cole. “No American should doubt that our enemies around the world are celebrating this defeat. The fact that even our own safe evacuation of the embassy is requiring the redeployment of U.S. troops underscores the Biden Administration’s lack of understanding of the situation on the ground. They were, unfortunately, taken completely by surprise at the Taliban’s utter and almost instantaneous reconquering of the nation. 

“More importantly, those adversaries will take the collapse of the Afghan government as a sign of American weakness and lack of resolve. We can expect our enemies to try and exploit this setback by challenging the United States on a range of fronts in a variety of ways. 

“Americans should have no illusions about the nature of the evil regime about to take power in Afghanistan. The Taliban are enemies of America. They hosted and sheltered Osama bin Laden, and they maintain robust relations with the likes of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. They can be expected to impose a brutal, medieval fundamentalist Islamic regime that will oppress minorities and women. It will be the antithesis of the democratic and egalitarian values championed by the United States. 

“A disaster of this magnitude has many causes and involves multiple administrations and Congresses. However, there is no doubt that the Biden Administration’s decision to ignore the advice of military experts led to this precipitate and chaotic collapse on the ground. The president was warned repeatedly that the modest American force in Afghanistan that he chose to withdraw was critical to maintaining stability and holding the Taliban at bay. Unfortunately, the president ignored that advice in the interest of making a desired political point, and now he must accept his share of the responsibility for this humiliating national defeat and for the human tragedy that inevitably will unfold on the ground.

“Indeed, we can expect the Taliban and other terrorists and extremists to exploit this reckless abandonment of the people and principles we spent decades of blood and treasure to protect. We can expect them to challenge us on other fronts,” concluded Cole.   

SOS Cuba

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In recent weeks, we have seen courageous Cubans flood the streets across their country. The Cuban people desperately desire to protest the tyranny and incompetence of the communist dictatorship that has ruled their country with an iron hand for 62 years. Their brave protests are demanding the very things most Americans take for granted – free elections, free speech and economic opportunity.

Cuba’s brutal communist regime has been quick to respond to the demonstrations of its own citizens. Protestors have been beaten in the streets, hundreds of non-violent demonstrators have been imprisoned, the internet has been cut off and media outlets have been silenced. Sadly, many western leaders and countries have ignored or soft-pedaled the plight of the Cuban people and the barbarity of the regime that rules this beleaguered island nation.

In our own country, apologists for the Cuban regime in Congress have actually blamed America for the troubles of Cuba. They claim the boycott of Cuba, maintained by multiple administrations of both parties for many decades, is the cause of the current demonstrations. In doing so, they ignore the brutality and ineptitude of the communist clique that has ruled Cuba for six decades. And they also turn a blind eye to Cuba’s efforts to spread its own brand of communism, called “democratic socialism,” across Latin America. Indeed, even as it faces demonstrations in its own streets, Cuba’s communist regime is helping to prop up despotic regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The struggle of brave and bold Cubans demanding freedom is a sobering reminder of the harsh and oppressive reality of socialism and communism. These seductive ideologies have failed time and time again when put into practice in countries around the world. When Fidel Castro came into power in 1959, Cuba was one of the wealthiest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Castro promised economic prosperity and freedom under the guise of “democratic socialism.” What the Cuban people got instead was economic stagnation and political oppression at the hands of a brutal, self-perpetuating communist dictatorship.

While many Cuban apologists on the American left blame the U.S. embargo for Cuba’s problems, the real culprit is its own communist regime. Indeed, as America’s own thriving Cuban community has demonstrated, when given political freedom and economic opportunity, Cubans, like other people, will thrive and prosper. Indeed, the contrast between the thriving Cuban community in Florida and the miserable plight of Cubans in Cuba itself is convincing proof of the superiority of democratic capitalism over the false promises of communist dictatorship.

I am disappointed that so many members of Congress have been oblivious to the drama taking place in Cuba just 90 miles off our shores. Rather than blaming American policy for the failures of Cuba’s communist regime, they should be encouraging the brave Cuban protestors and urging our government to do what it can to support their protests and rally the world to their cause. As the brightest beacon of hope for freedom and opportunity around the world, the United States must stand with the Cuban people in their fight for democracy. That is why I joined dozens of Republicans last week in urging world leaders to act in support of the Cuban people and their democratic aspirations.

The Cubans flooding their streets while waving American flags is a sobering reminder of the precious freedoms we enjoy and too often take for granted. Indeed, I am struck by the sight of Cubans celebrating the freedoms of America at a time when Americans turn their back on this global symbol of freedom. We should never take the freedoms we enjoy and that our flag embodies and symbolizes for granted. And we should never forget that as Americans we have a special obligation to offer moral and material support to those fighting for these ideals that our flag so proudly represents.