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Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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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.

Senator Lankford, Senator Inhofe, and Congressman Cole Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Fort Sill

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK) recognized the 150th anniversary of Fort Sill. Lankford and Inhofe introduced S. Res. 11 today to recognize Fort Sill’s milestone. Cole introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“I am very proud of Fort Sill’s 150 years of important work to further our military’s mission and also train and equip thousands of our soldiers and Marines,” said Lankford. “Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence are pivotal to our military and the surrounding communities, including and especially Lawton. I am grateful for our many Oklahoma communities who continue to serve the families who serve our nation. I would like to personally thank Fort Sill’s leadership for continuing to provide my office with important updates on activities at Fort Sill and for remaining engaged with me and my staff to help answer any questions and work through specific military legislative issues. I offer my congratulations and thanks to everyone at Fort Sill on this important milestone.” 

“I am proud to recognize Fort Sill as they celebrate their 150th anniversary,” said Inhofe. “Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence play a critical role in achieving the Army’s top priorities in military readiness and modernization by ensuring our soldiers are trained and equipped to fight and defend this country. The importance of Fort Sill’s mission, coupled with unparalleled community and state support, has resulted in continued growth for the installation and I look forward to their bright future. Congratulations to the men and women of Fort Sill and the community of Lawton on this significant milestone.”

“As the home of field artillery, Fort Sill’s contributions over the last 150 years have been numerous and long lasting,” said Cole. “The Army’s Fires Center of Excellence has greatly prepared service members and indeed increased the overall strength and readiness of our nation’s total defense. During my many visits while serving the Fourth District of Oklahoma, I have had the great privilege of observing firsthand the incredible role Fort Sill plays in the development and implementation of Air Defense and Field Artillery training for the Army of the future. In celebrating 150 years of excellence, I am confident Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence will remain a driving and pioneering force that prepares our military to successfully complete every mission.”

Senator Lankford Votes to Fully Fund the Government, Provide Border Security

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today voted to support a bill to fully fund the federal government for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year (ends September 30, 2019). The bill, which passed in a bipartisan vote of 83 to 16, includes funding for the Department of Homeland Security and related agencies after a Conference Committee negotiated the final version following passage of a continuing resolution on January 25, 2019. It also contains funding for the six remaining appropriations bills: Commerce, Justice, Science; State and Foreign Operations; Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development; Interior; Agriculture; and Financial Services and General Government.

“Finishing last year’s work in February is reprehensible, and it means we must immediately prioritize the funding plan for the next fiscal year,” said Lankford. “Though the funding bill public debate centered on border security, the funding package also included vital funding for 25 percent of the federal government’s operations. In addition to the vital provisions on border security fencing, the bill funds new immigration judges, increases border security agents, and maintains ICE’s ability to detain individuals who do not have legal status. The Democrats fought hard to restrict ICE’s ability to enforce key immigration laws, but the final negotiated bill demonstrates our commitment to the important work of ICE agents.”

Last Congress, Senator Lankford served as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government (FSGG). The bill that passed today contains the Senate-passed version of the appropriations bill his Committee offered last year, which received wide bipartisan support when it passed the Committee in 2018 for the first time since 2007. Lankford spoke on the Senate floor about the benefits to Oklahomans in the FSGG bill like funding for tax reform implementation, law enforcement support, and combating drug trafficking.  

Lankford now serves on the following Appropriations Subcommittees: FSGG; State and Foreign Operations; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Legislative Branch.

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.

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.

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.

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)

Lankford Commemorates Black History Month

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today praised the important work in the US Senate to honor Black History Month and to continue to address improving race relations in the US. This week, Lankford cosponsored a Senate resolution to formally commemorate Black History Month. Lankford also joined Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tim Scott (R-SC) to finally address the crime of lynching through theJustice for Victims of Lynching Act.

“In February, our nation pauses to reflect on the achievements of so many black Americans who have courageously, inspiringly, and often in the face of great adversity paved the future for our nation and helped heal the wounds of racism we still sadly face,” said Lankford. “As Americans, I believe we can and should highlight members of our communities who lead and serve others. In Oklahoma, leaders in the black community from businessmen and women to government leaders to teachers help improve our communities and work to inspire young Americans.

“Our work is ongoing even today to address the stain of racism on our nation’s history. Most of the issues associated with racism in our nation cannot be solved by legislation; they are heart issues. However, there are some areas in which government can and should step forward and provide a solution. I cosponsored the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act because I believe we should once and for all condemn and criminalize lynching as ‘a pernicious and pervasive tool’ that ‘succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States.’ This bill seeks to right a wrong and provide a tool that DOJ needs to fully prosecute this type of crime. I am grateful for the work of Senators Scott, Harris, and Booker to bring this bill to the floor.”

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.

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.

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