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Tom Cole Praises Passage of Farm Bill

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 2 – Agriculture Improvement Act. The legislation reflects the bicameral agreement reached to reconcile the differences between previously passed versions of the 2018 Farm Bill in the House and Senate.

“Through passage of the conference report for the 2018 Farm Bill, I am pleased that lawmakers showed bipartisan support for the continued success of our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” said Cole. “To maintain healthy crops and produce, farmers and ranchers greatly rely on the crop insurance, conservation and various other programs contained in the Farm Bill. While the reauthorization of these vital securities promotes a thriving agricultural sector, American families and consumers are also better off when certainty is provided to our food growers and producers.

“The 2018 Farm Bill builds upon the 2014 bill guided by Oklahoma’s own Frank Lucas. He also played a key role in crafting the current legislation. Oklahoma and rural America are fortunate to have such a skillful legislator working on their behalf.”

Senators Lankford, Perdue, Ernst: Political Self-Interest Prevented Changes to Broken Budget Process

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK –Senators James Lankford (R-OK), David Perdue (R-GA), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) provided comment on the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform:

 “The Joint Select Committee was our chance to make meaningful changes to Congress’ broken budget process—instead, it turned out to be a lost opportunity. This is completely irresponsible. Throughout the process we had bipartisan discussions of ideas that could have fixed the way Congress funds the federal government and addressed our debt. Several of these ideas were met with little disagreement in conversation but suddenly received major pushback when it was time to put the ideas into action. We offered amendments to end Washington’s addiction to continuing resolutions and to hold members of Congress accountable for finishing the budget job on time. This should have been commonsense, but yet again political self-interest stood in the way of significant results. After eight months of work, there is no excuse for settling for the status quo. We are committed to continuing our efforts next year to responsibly fix the federal government’s funding process.”

 Lankford, Perdue, and Ernst introduced amendments that would have achieved the following priorities:

 

  • Milestones with Consequences: Create a series of milestones for passing a budget and appropriations bills to keep Congress on track to fund the government on time. Coupled with changing the fiscal year, these milestones would provide more certainty for our military and other federal agencies. (Offered by Perdue)
  • No Budget, No Recess: If the Senate has not approved a budget and spending bills on time, then the Senate would be unable to adjourn for over eight hours; no funding would be available for official travel; and, two quorum calls would be held per day to prevent senators from leaving Washington. (Offered by Ernst and Lankford)
  • No Budget, No Travel: If the Senate has not passed budget and appropriations bills on time, then the Senate is prevented from taking any official travel (Offered by Ernst).
  • Change the Fiscal Year Ending from September 30 To December 31: Matching the fiscal year with the calendar year gives Congress more time to pass a budget and all of the appropriations bills. (Offered by Perdue)
  • Change Budget Committee Membership: Changes the membership of the Senate Budget Committee to be six members of the majority, five members of the minority, and the chair and ranking members of the Appropriations and Finance Committees. (Offered by Lankford and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO))
  • Establish Bipartisan Budget Resolution in Senate: Creates a separate path in the Senate for a bipartisan budget resolution. The resolution would be required to establish fiscal goals for the path of the debt- to-GDP ratio as well as a glide path for health care spending, tax expenditures, discretionary spending, and total revenues. (Offered by Perdue and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI))
  • Make the Budget a Law: Change the budget from a concurrent resolution to a joint resolution, requiring the signature of the President and carrying the force of law. (Offered by Perdue)
  • Require 60 Votes: Raise the vote threshold for final passage of a budget resolution in the Senate from 51 votes to 60 votes, which is 3/5 of all Senators. This forces bipartisanship throughout the entire budget process while retaining the privileged nature of the budget resolution and matches the 60-vote requirement of the appropriations process. (Offered by Perdue)
  • End “Vote-a-rama”: End vote-a-rama by requiring all amendments to be debated and voted on within 50 hours of consideration. This would expedite the passage of a budget by limiting frivolous messaging amendments. (Offered by Perdue)
  • Eliminate Gimmicks: Eliminate budgeting gimmicks by cracking down on the use of Changes In Mandatory Programs (CHIMPs) in the appropriations process that produce billions in hidden overspending. (Offered by Lankford)
  • Change the Reconciliation Process: Reconciliation is a powerful tool to get around the Senate filibuster. This amendment makesreconciliation a required part of the budget rather an optional part. (Offered by Lankford)

The Oak Ridge Boys Remember President George H.W. Bush

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What can we say that hasn’t been said or WILL be said about the loss of President George Herbert Walker Bush… That he was the 41st President of these United States…. That he was a selfless Naval pilot in the South Pacific… That he was an Ambassador to China… the head of the CIA… a Vice President… a leader… a hero… an example of being a gentlemanly force on the world stage… That he was fortunate enough to have been married to one of the most wonderful women who ever walked this planet? Yes, all of this has been said and will be alluded too with great respect over the next week or so, over and over, by dignitaries and everyday Americans such as ourselves. But how about the fact that he loved Country music and for decades we, The Oak Ridge Boys, were among his favorites.

We started to sing for him in 1982 when he was VP, and we have been singing for him ever since. We have performed our songs on Air Force One, in Kennebunkport many times, and at his home in Houston, whenever we were in the area. We have performed at the White House and several of his key birthday celebrations. But more than any of that, he was a friend. A good friend … a dear friend… we would even call him and sing to him when he wasn’t feeling well and Barbara swore that we had a healing effect on our FRIEND. To say he will be missed is an understatement so let us just say that we will miss our friend. We have laughed together, shared tears together, fished together, hiked together, shared a lot of lobster together, and sang together. Yes… he fancied himself to be quite the bass singer. We loved George Bush #41. Our families loved him. We are better people and, yes, better Americans for having ridden with him. We WILL sing for him again one day. THIS is ASSURED!

Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, Richard Sterban, Joe Bonsall
The Oak Ridge Boys

Today, when I put on a clean t-shirt, getting ready for our Christmas show in Cheyenne, WY, I did not notice that the words on the shirt read, “Bush Protection Secret Service, Houston.” It was one of 31 t-shirts in my closet.

When we got off stage, and announcements were all over TV, a huge empty feeling consumed my heart. I remembered how much I had wanted to go fishing with him… And then that happened many times. He took me out into the ocean about 20 miles “where the big blues run,” and we caught so many fish I quit counting. When a big one broke my line, he handed me his rod and reel and said, “Use mine. I will put you on another lure.”

He was like a daddy figure to me, and he was all about making everyone around him have a good time. The sting of death always hurts, but I have so many memories to make me smile. The Oak Ridge Boys have sung “Amazing Grace” for him on Air Force One, in Kennebunkport, at the White House, and over the phone when he was in the hospital. However, singing “Amazing Grace” at his funeral will be the most difficult assignment we will ever have.

– Duane Allen, The Oak Ridge Boys

 

Let me tell you about a prayer God answered for me once in the North Atlantic. President Bush 41 had screamed about five miles straight out into the ocean in his boat, Fidelity, before he shut her down to catch some bluefish. We were so far out that all that was visible was rolling blue water, and that, along with the fish smell, was making my stomach turn. I’ve had plenty of experience deep sea fishing, and I’ve also had plenty of experience hurling over the side of a boat at sea—and that was about to happen aboard a presidential vessel.

I was in the seat up front, out of his view, and I began to pray in earnest. “Oh God, please don’t let me be sick out here. I can’t blow chunks over the side in front of the president…please, Lord…please.” God answered my prayers, and my churning stomach calmed. I am forever grateful. I even caught a few fish before 41 headed back to Walker’s Point. The sea breeze felt wonderful on my face on the trip back, and I was feeling pretty good about everything until the president turned to me and said. “You got a little green around the gills out there didn’t you, Joe?”

How could I even begin to think I could hide something like that from a former head of the CIA?

– Excerpt from ‘On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys’ by Joe Bonsall
About The Oak Ridge Boys:
The Oak Ridge Boys, who have sold over 41 million units worldwide, are synonymous with “America, apple pie, baseball, pop, rock, gospel and country music.” In addition to their awards and accolades in the country and pop music fields, they have garnered five GRAMMY® Awards and twelve GMA DOVE Awards as well as the Mainstream Artist of the Year Award at the ICM Awards. The group—Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban—have earned prestigious membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame (2015 Inductees) and Grand Ole Opry, and are known worldwide as one of recording history’s most extraordinary musical successes. They have charted single after single and album after album, celebrating one double-platinum album and one double-platinum single and more than 30 Top 10 hits, including No. 1 chart-toppers “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue,” “Thank God For Kids,” “American Made,” “Y’All Come Back Saloon,” among dozens more. For more information and to view upcoming tour dates for The Oak Ridge Boys, please visit oakridgeboys.com.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Unmistakable Threads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honoring Our Veterans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confronting the Opioid Epidemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ensuring Lasting Benefits from Tax Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Lankford Supports Bill to Strengthen US Water Infrastructure

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

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

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

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

Cole Mourns the Passing of Senator John McCain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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