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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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

The Mission for Better Care for Our Veterans

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Putting More Pressure on North Korea

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After the recent closing of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, its neighbor, North Korea, continues to pose one of the most persistent U.S. foreign policy challenges which has spanned the past four U.S. administrations. It is the only country to have tested nuclear weapons this century and remains the greatest and most immediate threat in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area. The hope that North Korea will resume and continue talks with South Korea after the Olympics remains a question. Whatever the outcome, confronting the North Korean threat is critical, and the U.S. must be guided by a strong sense of resolve.

While North Korea’s weapons program has been the main focus of concern, illicit activities such as narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting, and human rights violations still abound. In a recent round of new sanctions, the Trump Administration announced that it will target the illicit shipping practices of at least 56 shipping and trading companies (including vessels) that have been complicit in supporting the development of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. In addition to already imposed economic sanctions, these maritime sanctions are some of the strongest put in place to hinder North Korea’s ability to work globally and expand its nuclear capability. Robust coordination between our allies and other countries in the region is essential to applying pressure to North Korea, and China plays a key role as well.

China has provided food, crude oil, and other essential lifelines to North Korea as its largest trading partner; however, North Korean exports to China have declined by nearly 30% in 2017. China still continues to control trade between the two countries as a way to put pressure on the Kim regime and prevent “chaos and war.” If open conflict was to occur, there would be catastrophic and significant refugee flow over the borders from the Korean peninsula into China, which would have destabilizing effects throughout the region. Some Chinese leaders see strategic value in preserving North Korea as a “buffer” between China and South Korea. For this reason, China has not been a reliable partner in exerting and implementing U.N. sanctions, although it remains essential to diplomatic engagement and economic sanctions. The United States continues to emphasize cooperation with Japan and South Korea, and U.S. diplomats continue to rally the international community to loudly condemn North Korea’s unacceptable behavior. With U.S. and international sanctions, China’s ability and willingness to pressure North Korea could not be more critical.

North Korea’s emphasis on strategic and military capabilities comes at the expense of its own people, who continue to struggle with a lifeless economy and international isolation. Reports by the U.S. government and private organizations portray extreme human rights abuses by the North Korean government over many years. These reports describe a system of prison camps that house approximately 100,000 political prisoners. However, one hopeful note is that North Korea appears to be losing its ability to control information coming into North Korea from the outside world. Defectors have revealed that growing numbers of North Koreans are wary of government propaganda and have ways to access outside sources of news.

The ongoing progress of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, provocative and destabilizing behavior, and a burgeoning biological weapons program are all reasons why engagement and the pressure of sanctions are essential. Peace will not be achievable without the complete cooperation and elimination of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and the end of its radical regime.

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 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.

First Step Toward Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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