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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 Statement on President’s Decision to Withdraw From Iran Deal

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today made the following statement on the President’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called the Iran Nuclear Deal, and impose additional sanctions on Iran.

“The Iran nuclear agreement, designed and agreed to by President Obama, had major flaws from the beginning. The agreement gave permanent tariff relief to Iran in exchange for temporary restrictions on its nuclear weapons program. Iran has spent years designing nuclear weapons, but they needed more time to develop new missiles and more money to pay for their technology. The nuclear agreement gave Iran billions of dollars and it ignored the continuing missile testing in Iran. That is unacceptable.

“I support additional sanctions on Iran, as they are the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. The Iranian regime is expanding into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. The Middle East and the region cannot have peace with a threatening Iranian nuclear regime. I encourage the Trump Administration to immediately begin working with the international community, in close consultation with Congress, to find a solution that will ensure Iran never has access to nuclear weapons capabilities.”

On September 10, 2015, Lankford voted against the Iran deal, in the form of a resolution of disapproval. Before the vote, Lankford outlined his objections in an op-ed. After the deal went into effect, Lankford conducted oversight of the implementation of the deal. In April 2016, he introduced a Senate resolution to ensure that President Obama follows through on his commitment to reimpose sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear deal. In September 2016, Lankford and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) introduced the JCPOA Enforcement Transparency Act, which would increase oversight of the Joint Commission, a committee created under the Iran deal to monitor implementation.

Lankford serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

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.

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)

Cole Applauds Passage of 2018 Farm Bill

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, with Cole’s support.

“Protecting our farmers and ranchers is essential to the agriculture community and our nation’s economy,” said Cole. “To maintain healthy crops and produce, farmers and ranchers need protection and stability. This year’s farm bill provides those securities.”

“I am pleased that this year’s farm bill includes provisions to preserve and strengthen crop insurance, which is crucial to protecting Oklahoma’s farmers and their harvests. Additionally, the Farm Bill will continue to maintain the Conservation Reserve Program, which promotes soil conservation and has been beneficial to Oklahoma’s farmers for decades.”

“Farmers and ranchers are the foundation for the vitality of our nation. I’d like to thank House Leadership and Chairman Conaway for bringing forward this comprehensive legislation that will preserve and protect our nation’s farmers and ranchers. I look forward to its passage in the Senate and enactment into law.”

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 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.

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.

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

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.”

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