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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.

Congress Is At The Forefront Of The Fight Against Opioids

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In recent years, our country has been ravaged by a deadly epidemic that is destroying communities and families alike. The opioid crisis has been a devastating battle for Americans young and old, and combatting this epidemic has become one of the most significant challenges facing families and communities across the nation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 115 American die each day from an opiate overdose. That is one American every 13 minutes. In fact, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. Sadly, the most significant contributor to this alarming fact is the misuse and abuse of opioids. Prescription drugs like oxycodone, codeine and morphine have become readily available through illegal channels and are being distributed without supervision from a prescribing health professional. Addiction to opioids, as well as illicit use of heroin and fentanyl, have led to the deaths of over 50,000 Americans in just one year.

Congress has worked diligently to find multiple ways to combat this killer. Numerous pieces of legislation have been passed and signed into law to establish new sets of regulations and reforms for the medical industry. Additionally, many parts of passed legislation are aimed at creating new health programs to support communities nation-wide.

Significantly, the House Appropriations Committee has made it a priority to fund programs that target combating opioid abuse. Since Fiscal Year 2015, the Committee has made significant increases in federal funds directed toward opioid prevention and response programs. As Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked to ensure that the subcommittee secures substantial funding to address opioid and heroin abuse. In the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill, passed into law last December, the subcommittee allocated over $3.72 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services specific to combat opioid abuse. This includes supporting the numerous medical programs and research programs within the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health that are targeted toward treatment, prevention and care of opioid abuse.

We are fortunate in Congress to have a working relationship with President Trump on addressing this issue. The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has been a solid catalyst in bringing light to this issue to millions of Americans. And I am proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to combat opioid abuse from the ground-up. Collectively, our work can help promote education and policy solutions that can widen the scope and impact that Congress has on fighting the epidemic efficiently.

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.

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.

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.”

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, 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.

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.”

Oklahoma Policy Institute Releases Statement Opposing the 2018 Farm Bill Passed by House

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Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the U.S. House’s passage of a harsh and partisan farm bill:

The farm bill approved today in the U.S. House is deeply flawed. This legislation violates the bipartisan history of previous farm bills and would take away food assistance from two million struggling Americans, including children, seniors, and veterans. It is especially disappointing that all of Oklahoma’s House Representatives voted in favor of SNAP restrictions that put 97,000 Oklahomans and their families at risk of going hungry. SNAP brings nearly $1 billion per year to our state and keeps many of our communities from becoming food deserts. The food assistance provided by SNAP is crucial for many Oklahoma families and the Oklahoma economy.

Fortunately, the U.S. Senate has developed a much better, bipartisan option. Instead of punishing struggling Americans, the Senate bill would allow more states to participate in programs that help people find stable, good paying jobs. The Senate bill would also reduce the cost of SNAP by adopting new technologies to improve program efficiency and reduce error rates.

The bipartisan Senate bill is much better policy than the irresponsible and punitive House bill. We call on Senator Inhofe and Senator Lankford to protect SNAP and resist any amendments to the Senate bill that will make SNAP less accessible for struggling Oklahoma families.

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.

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