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Senators Lankford, Shaheen, and Tillis Introduce Bill To Stop Transfer of Fighter Aircraft To Turkey

Bill Comes As Turkish President Erdogan Continues To Imprison Dr. Andrew Brunson

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced a bill to prevent the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey. The bill would also block Turkey’s role as a maintenance depot for the aircraft. Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey was expected to purchase more than 100 aircraft.

“Senators Shaheen and Tillis have worked diligently with me and others in Congress to address America’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Turkey,” said Lankford. “I applaud our State Department for their ceaseless work to improve the US-Turkey relationship, but President Erdogan has continued down a path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law. Individual freedoms have been increasingly diminished as Erdogan consolidates power for himself, and Turkey’s strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, US interests. These factors make the transfer of sensitive F-35 technology and cutting-edge capabilities to Erdogan’s regime increasingly risky. Furthermore, the Turkish government continues to move closer and closer to Russia, as they hold an innocent American pastor, Andrew Brunson, in prison to use him as a pawn in political negotiations. The United States does not reward hostage-taking of American citizens; such action instead will be met with the kind of punitive measures this bill would enact.”

 “Given my steadfast commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance, it is with regret that our relationship with Turkey has reached a point where we must consider severing defense and business ties in order to free American hostages held in Turkey,” said Shaheen. “Turkish President Erdogan’s choice to take hostages and imprison innocent Americans, to try to gain leverage over the United States, is egregious and unlawful. Erdogan and his government must abide by the rule of law within his own country and abroad, and release Pastor Andrew Brunson and other Americans unlawfully held in Turkey. There must also be an immediate end to the harassment and detainment of locally-employed staff at the U.S. mission. Until that occurs, I’ll continue to join with Senators Lankford and Tillis to call for punitive action, including blocking the transfer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

 “America is not going to forget about Andrew Brunson and the other Americans who are being wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish government,” said Tillis. “Turkey has long been a vital NATO ally and America understands the unique national security threats it faces; however, denying the rights of law-abiding Americans undermines the relationship between our two countries. The Erdogan government should understand that Congress will pursue measures to protect the interests of American citizens, including stopping the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey.”

On April 19, Lankford and Shaheen announced their decision to pursue targeted sanctions against Turkish officials in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill. On April 20, Tillis and Shaheen led a 66 Member letter to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, demanding the release of Andrew Brunson.

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.”

Sen Lankford’s Statement on North Korea

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) made the following statement on today’s South Korean announcement regarding the possibility of North Korea denuclearization:

“The US wants a world safe for all families, including the people of North and South Korea. Currently the people of North Korea live under the oppressive reign of a dictator that has been determined to threaten the world with a nuclear weapon. I welcome any conversations that could lead to a path to denuclearization, but I am also acutely aware that North Korea has deceived the international community about its nuclear program in the past. We should maintain sanctions and tenaciously verify any ‘promise,’ but remain open to potential paths to denuclearization.”

Senator Lankford visited South Korea and the Korean Demilitarized Zone last winter. Lankford serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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.”

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.

Continuing Achievements

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As Congress reaches the final stretches of its 115th session, the House can reflect on a long list of accomplishments it has achieved since the beginning of the session. Despite the constant discussions that partisan gridlock may be the new norm, it has been quite the opposite. Since the beginning of the 115th Congress, the House has passed 598 bills – 470 of which are sitting in the Senate with no action. That means almost 79% of all legislation passed thus far have yet to see the Senate Floor or the President’s desk. However, since President Trump took office, we have worked in concert with the Administration to advance good legislation that will support America’s economy and wellbeing.

One of the first legislative initiatives that Congress approached was the successful work to deregulate harmful government regulations and Obama-era federal rules. Congressional Review Acts served as the catalyst to end the many bureaucratic red-tape practices that have slowed industrial growth, regulated thousands of workers and hampered American ingenuity. So far, Congress has passed, and the President has signed, 15 Congressional Review Acts. Regarding deregulatory action alone, no Congress and Administration have done more than the current ones.

The most significant accomplishment of the 115th Congress so far has been the passage and implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reforms the current tax code and incentivizes businesses to invest into the American economy. This year, Americans filed their taxes for the last time under the antiquated tax system and will begin to reap the benefits of the new system’s individual tax brackets. Businesses have begun to reinvest in corporate expansion, and have awarded thousands of dollars in bonuses to employees. As a result, the passage of the tax reform bill is projected to contribute to economic growth in the United States in the years to come.

During this Congressional session, the federal government, unfortunately, faced multiple continuing resolutions and even a government shutdown. The House has been diligent in the past year by passing all twelve appropriations measures to send to the Senate promptly. However, it was ultimately the Senate that made it impossible for the bill to be sent to the President’s desk on time. The Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill, which funds the entire federal government, was finally passed by both chambers and signed into law by President Trump in March of this year. It is important to note that this year’s omnibus funding bill does not direct any funds to Planned Parenthood, and includes many provisions to protect the sanctity of life. Legislative amendments like the Hyde Amendment prohibit federal funds to be used for abortion, and the Weldon amendment protects doctors and nurses that do not want to perform abortions from discrimination.

Our national security has become a top priority in the past year as well. In the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus spending bill, the Department of Defense received its largest funding boost in 15 years, which will lift the military out of the harmful sequester. These investments in the military will bolster critical programs that support troop training, equipment, and facility maintenance, improving technology, research, and development and fulfill any readiness shortfalls. Furthermore, the funding increase will expand troop numbers, so that the U.S. military is a more robust and able fighting force.

Additionally, reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) systems has also been a significant accomplishment of the 115th Congress. A vast number of legislative reforms have been signed into law that are directed at creating more transparency and accountability at the VA. In the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus bill, the VA received the largest dollar amount increase in history. The Department of Veterans Affairs received $85.1 billion which will help care for 7 million patients. It will also address shortfalls at the VA by reducing patient wait times, improving electronic health records and addressing the disability claims backlog.

In addition to completing the Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill this year and in regular order, the House will still maintain a busy legislative agenda to finish before the end of the year. Many major actions, like the 2018 Farm Bill and the creation of stronger border security will need to be addressed. As we reach the home stretch of the year, it is imperative that the House, Senate, and the White House continue to successfully pass bills that will advance regulatory reform, economic growth, public health and wellbeing and ultimately, the American taxpayer.

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.

The Mission for Better Care for Our Veterans

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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.

National Security Superiority

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For decades, the United States has enjoyed uncontested and dominant military superiority. But just as we have come to depend on a rules-based security order, there are countries working to turn the tide and upend it. Global stability is in question with a rising China and a resurgent Russia, and provocative actions sponsored by North Korea and Iran.

Our world is now experiencing a return to a great power competition dynamic. While our military is strong, our competitive edge continues to erode as our challengers move to close the gap. We must meet these growing security challenges and fund the largest military modernization plan since the 1980’s. This is necessary in order to keep pace with technological changes and roll back the negative impacts to military readiness from years of budget gaps.

America’s military budget must be both robust and predicable. The recent bipartisan, two-year budget deal sets defense spending at $700 billion for 2018 and $716 billion for 2019, which is in line with the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018 and President Donald Trump’s budget recently presented to Congress. The budget deal also supports the President’s priorities defined in the National Security and Defense Strategies, which directs our military to protect the American homeland, promote American economic prosperity and advance American influence throughout the world.

The increase in the defense budget will provide the resources needed to fund the largest military modernization efforts. In Fiscal Year 2019, the Army active force will increase by 4,000 soldiers to 487,500 troops. The service will continue to increase its size by 4,000 troops each year to reach a force of 495,500 by 2021. Additionally, it provides for Long-Range Precision Fires and short-range air defense programs which are top priorities and key to missions at Fort Sill.

Additionally, the Air Force budget will fund 1.5 million flying hours at a cost of $8.7 billion. The modernization and recapitalization of key aircraft will support buys of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the KC-46 Tanker, as well as funding for upgrades to 4th Generation Fighters. In the near term, it will reduce the back long in aircraft maintenance and improve sustainment and logistics, which plays a critical role at Tinker Air Force Base. The size of the Air Force will increase by 4,700 military personnel to include Active Duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen.

In peace and war, America’s military has operated around the world protecting our homeland from attack and advanced our interests to include defending our allies from military aggression. The current bipartisan defense budget provides for a resilient and lethal military to keep peace: now and in the future, at home and abroad.

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