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Senator Lankford and Rep. Walker to Co-Host Black History Month Event to Honor J.C. Watts and Sam Brownback

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WASHINGTON, DC – In honor of Black History Month, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) will join Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James to co-host an event tomorrow that honors former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) and Ambassador Sam Brownback for their role in the creation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In 2003, Watts and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) introduced the National Museum of African American History and Culture Act, a bill to establish the Museumwithin the Smithsonian Institution. Former Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Max Cleland (D-GA) authored the bill in the Senate. It passed Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003. Watts retired from Congress in 2002, while Brownback went on to be Governor of Kansas, and was recently confirmed as the State Department Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom.

Tomorrow’s program is sponsored by INSIGHT America and will take place in the Oprah Winfrey Theater within the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Before the program, attendees will take a tour of the Museum. Photos will be available after the event.

The mission of the Museum is to provide an opportunity for those who are interested in African American culture to explore the history through interactive exhibitions; and to help all Americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by global influences.

In December of 2016, Lankford toured the Museum’s Tulsa Race Riot exhibit with one of the museum’s historians, John W. Franklin, son of the late historian, author, and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, Dr. John Hope Franklin. In Tulsa, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation is named in his honor. Lankford also serves on the bipartisan Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission.

Senator Lankford Statement on US Embassy Opening in Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

Senator Lankford Statement on 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.

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.

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.

The Mission for Better Care for Our Veterans

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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.”

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.

First Step Toward Peace

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What seemed to be once impossible, has finally come to fruition. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week. For the first time in history, a U.S. President and a North Korean leader met in an official capacity in an effort to strengthen ties and reach a peace agreement. President Trump has achieved something previous Administrations have not been able to do. Bringing North Korea to the negotiating table is an accomplishment, but it is one that has required extraordinary measures to do so.

North Korea is a top adversary to the United States and combating its aggression over the past few years has been a fight guided by resolve. Multiple nuclear tests, reports of human rights abuses and even the death of an American citizen were evidence that the regime of the Kim dynasty continues to be erratic and dangerous. But with continued economic sanctions from the United States and its allies, North Korea is feeling the strain of global pressure to end its tyrannical practices. Additionally, South Korea has been at the forefront of improving relations with North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un had met a number of times to set the course of dialogue with North Korea.

China, North Korea’s primary trading partner, has also stepped up in supporting dialogue with North Korea. In the past, China has not been reliable in exerting and implementing sanctions, but it has been essential in diplomatic engagement. The summit would not have been possible without China’s cooperation. It is reassuring to know that China has recognized the importance of putting pressure on North Korea.

The U.S.-North Korean Summit marks a new era of American foreign policy with the rogue state. Despite reservation and doubt, the President and his administration remained resolute in establishing an effective diplomatic framework. The summit was conducted with transparency and resolve. In the joint statement signed by both President Trump and Kim Jong-un, a set of provisions were laid out as a diplomatic framework. First, North Korea must commit to denuclearization. With this commitment, the U.S. agreed to suspend joint military exercise in South Korea. However, if North Korea continues with its nuclear program, the U.S. will begin full-fledged exercises again. Sanctions from the U.S. and the U.N. will also remain in place. Any potential failures from this historic meeting will be a result from North Korea deviating from their commitments.

This meeting has been a possibility for a long time, but the final push to bring North Korea to the negotiating table was the result of President Trump’s endeavors. As a whole, it represents the hope of future diplomacy and negotiation with Kim Jong-un. Although there is still much work to be done with North Korea, the door to a path forward has been opened.

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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