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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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

President Trump’s State of the Union

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After his first year in the White House, President Trump and his Administration have much of which to be proud. Their accomplishments have delivered actual results, and the country is continuing to reap the benefits of those changes. During his first State of the Union speech, the President reinforced those achievements – many of which will certainly be remembered as signature accomplishments of his Presidency. Looking forward, he outlined an optimistic future for our nation, with a strong legislative agenda for the next year.

There is no question that the spike in economic growth that we have seen in the past year is due in part to the Administration working with a Republican Congress to push tax reform and deregulation. The President’s efforts to cut red tape coupled with the passage of several Congressional Review Acts have allowed the burden of federal regulations and rules to be lifted from businesses small and large. Stock markets have closed at record numbers numerous times in the past year and unemployment levels have dropped dramatically. And the recently passed tax reform legislation is already spurring job creation, rising wages and generous bonuses at thousands of American businesses.

In addition to a strong economy, the President has made our nation safer by aggressively confronting our enemies across the globe, particularly North Korea and ISIS. North Korea has been challenged by the no-nonsense approach the President and his National Security leaders have employed. Furthermore, the President has played a large role in urging our European allies to increase their efforts to support our common defense.

Looking to the future, the President outlined an aggressive agenda for the next year. He and Congress will need to work on a comprehensive transportation bill to improve our railways, roads, bridges and airways. Even more timely, we will need to work together on an immigration plan that will address his four pillars of reform. We need to increase border security including a stronger wall, end the visa lottery system, reduce chain migration to the nuclear family and create a pathway to legal status for millions of eligible DACA recipients. A good, working immigration reform will need the contribution and support from both sides of the aisle.

Overall, the President delivered an optimistic outlook for our nation. He invoked the spirit of American ingenuity and laid out a vision for future prosperity.

There were many powerful moments throughout his speech that reminded us of the blessings we enjoy living in this great nation, and how we can all support the goals to make America great again. I believe that the President is right – the state of our union is strong.

Putting More Pressure on North Korea

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After the recent closing of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, its neighbor, North Korea, continues to pose one of the most persistent U.S. foreign policy challenges which has spanned the past four U.S. administrations. It is the only country to have tested nuclear weapons this century and remains the greatest and most immediate threat in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area. The hope that North Korea will resume and continue talks with South Korea after the Olympics remains a question. Whatever the outcome, confronting the North Korean threat is critical, and the U.S. must be guided by a strong sense of resolve.

While North Korea’s weapons program has been the main focus of concern, illicit activities such as narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting, and human rights violations still abound. In a recent round of new sanctions, the Trump Administration announced that it will target the illicit shipping practices of at least 56 shipping and trading companies (including vessels) that have been complicit in supporting the development of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. In addition to already imposed economic sanctions, these maritime sanctions are some of the strongest put in place to hinder North Korea’s ability to work globally and expand its nuclear capability. Robust coordination between our allies and other countries in the region is essential to applying pressure to North Korea, and China plays a key role as well.

China has provided food, crude oil, and other essential lifelines to North Korea as its largest trading partner; however, North Korean exports to China have declined by nearly 30% in 2017. China still continues to control trade between the two countries as a way to put pressure on the Kim regime and prevent “chaos and war.” If open conflict was to occur, there would be catastrophic and significant refugee flow over the borders from the Korean peninsula into China, which would have destabilizing effects throughout the region. Some Chinese leaders see strategic value in preserving North Korea as a “buffer” between China and South Korea. For this reason, China has not been a reliable partner in exerting and implementing U.N. sanctions, although it remains essential to diplomatic engagement and economic sanctions. The United States continues to emphasize cooperation with Japan and South Korea, and U.S. diplomats continue to rally the international community to loudly condemn North Korea’s unacceptable behavior. With U.S. and international sanctions, China’s ability and willingness to pressure North Korea could not be more critical.

North Korea’s emphasis on strategic and military capabilities comes at the expense of its own people, who continue to struggle with a lifeless economy and international isolation. Reports by the U.S. government and private organizations portray extreme human rights abuses by the North Korean government over many years. These reports describe a system of prison camps that house approximately 100,000 political prisoners. However, one hopeful note is that North Korea appears to be losing its ability to control information coming into North Korea from the outside world. Defectors have revealed that growing numbers of North Koreans are wary of government propaganda and have ways to access outside sources of news.

The ongoing progress of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, provocative and destabilizing behavior, and a burgeoning biological weapons program are all reasons why engagement and the pressure of sanctions are essential. Peace will not be achievable without the complete cooperation and elimination of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and the end of its radical regime.

Cole Statement on the Passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the passage of H.R. 4, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. The bill was passed in the House by a vote of 393-13 with Cole’s support.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through 2023.

“The Federal Aviation Administration plays a critical role in the safety and transparency of our air travel, and I am pleased that it was passed today with broad support,” said Cole. “The FAA also has a significant impact on Oklahoma’s economy and workforce as one of the largest employers in the state.”

“Furthermore, I am pleased that the proposal to privatize Air Traffic Control (ATC) was not included in the final bill. A privatized ATC would be unfair and would endanger the transparency and standards of the aviation industry. Privatization would also pose harm to the federal workforce, especially to facilities like the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma, which employs 6,200 federal workers.”

“Congress has always provided key oversight of the FAA and ATC to keep our skies safe and efficient. Because of its balanced approach to regulation and operational standards, the FAA has made our skies the safest and most reliable airspace in the world.”

The Need To Reform The Drivers Of Our Debt

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There is no question Congress must put our fiscal house in order. The debate surrounding spending cuts and increases, fundamental budgetary reform, and raising revenue will only intensify in the face of an exploding debt.

Each February, the President submits a budget to Congress outlining spending proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. The President has just submitted the budget for fiscal year 2019 to Congress and the document includes some shared goals with the Administration, such as fortifying our borders, investing in infrastructure and combating the opioid epidemic just to name a few. Republicans have also supported the President’s goal for increased defense spending and improving our national security. The budget caps agreement recently passed by Congress allows for $700 billion and $716 billion respectively for defense in the next two years. This provides the necessary funding to restore readiness and improve war-fighting capabilities. President Trump’s recently submitted budget advocates for $686 billion for the Department of Defense, which is in line with the recently agreed-upon budget deal.

However, in light of our country’s mandatory spending and massive interest payments on the debt, I do have concerns long-standing on the budget. The White House budget proposal, sent to Congress last Monday, is projected to have $3.1 trillion in outlays in mandatory spending, including interest, out of the $4.4 trillion budget for fiscal year 2019. The Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says erasing the budget shortfall in a decade isn’t realistic, and our national debt continues to grow, eating into other budget areas.

We can all agree that we should make necessary cuts to programs that contribute to wasteful spending, but the only solution is to recognize and address the real drivers of our debt – major entitlement spending. Without reforms, areas like the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted by 2034 according to the latest Social Security Trustees’ Report.

My colleague Congressman John Delaney of Maryland and I have introduced bipartisan legislation to create a national, bi-partisan commission composed of 13 members from both the Executive and Legislative branches with the goal to reform Social Security. The commission’s purpose would be to develop solutions that could achieve 75-year solvency within 1 year of enactment and force Congress to consider it under expedited procedures. Appointed by leaders in both parties, any recommendation by the commission must reach a 9 out of 13 vote threshold. The, Congress would vote up or down, without amendment the commission’s recommendations. Every year that we delay addressing the issue, the solutions become more expensive and more painful, and continue to put our children and grandchildren even deeper in debt.

Last week, the House Budget Committee held a hearing to discuss the President’s budget with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. In his testimony, Director Mulvaney stated that the federal budget was just a ‘messaging tool.’ Indeed, the President’s budget requests have some good intentions, but Congress will have the final say with its own budget release in the coming months. It is in our hands to take the first step and finally do something about spending reforms and tackle the debate on debt. The long-term sustainability of mandatory spending programs like Social Security and Medicare is in danger if we do not make necessary reforms. Furthermore, it is imperative that any budget moving forward addresses the realities of mandatory spending and balances itself in the long term.

Senator Lankford, Intel Committee Unveil Recommendations To Secure Election Infrastructure

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Senate Intelligence Committee press conference to unveil Committee recommendations to secure America’s election infrastructure.

“It is vitally important that we secure our elections systems in America,” said Lankford. “This isn’t just about Russia – they were the ones to pursue these efforts in 2016, but it is just as likely that another state actor like North Korea or Iran or a hacktivist group will attempt these same things in 2018, 2020, and beyond. We must secure our infrastructure so that no nation-state or other actor has the ability to sow distrust or uncertainty to the very foundations of our democracy.”

In December, Lankford introduced the Secure Elections Act, a bipartisan bill that mirrors many of the Committee recommendations to strengthen election cybersecurity in America and protect against foreign interference in future elections. The original co-sponsors of the Secure Elections Act are Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

During the 2016 election, intelligence reports have established that Russia hacked presidential campaign accounts, launched cyber-attacks against at least 21 state election systems, and attacked a US voting systems software company. While there is no evidence that a single vote outcome was tampered with, this dangerous precedent should be a wake-up call going into the 2018 election cycle. To protect against these threats, the bipartisan Secure Elections Act seeks to fix the existing problems and aims to bolster election systems against future threats while protecting states’ primacy in running elections.

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