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Tuesday, October 16, 2018
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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.

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, 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.”

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.

President Trump’s State of the Union

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After his first year in the White House, President Trump and his Administration have much of which to be proud. Their accomplishments have delivered actual results, and the country is continuing to reap the benefits of those changes. During his first State of the Union speech, the President reinforced those achievements – many of which will certainly be remembered as signature accomplishments of his Presidency. Looking forward, he outlined an optimistic future for our nation, with a strong legislative agenda for the next year.

There is no question that the spike in economic growth that we have seen in the past year is due in part to the Administration working with a Republican Congress to push tax reform and deregulation. The President’s efforts to cut red tape coupled with the passage of several Congressional Review Acts have allowed the burden of federal regulations and rules to be lifted from businesses small and large. Stock markets have closed at record numbers numerous times in the past year and unemployment levels have dropped dramatically. And the recently passed tax reform legislation is already spurring job creation, rising wages and generous bonuses at thousands of American businesses.

In addition to a strong economy, the President has made our nation safer by aggressively confronting our enemies across the globe, particularly North Korea and ISIS. North Korea has been challenged by the no-nonsense approach the President and his National Security leaders have employed. Furthermore, the President has played a large role in urging our European allies to increase their efforts to support our common defense.

Looking to the future, the President outlined an aggressive agenda for the next year. He and Congress will need to work on a comprehensive transportation bill to improve our railways, roads, bridges and airways. Even more timely, we will need to work together on an immigration plan that will address his four pillars of reform. We need to increase border security including a stronger wall, end the visa lottery system, reduce chain migration to the nuclear family and create a pathway to legal status for millions of eligible DACA recipients. A good, working immigration reform will need the contribution and support from both sides of the aisle.

Overall, the President delivered an optimistic outlook for our nation. He invoked the spirit of American ingenuity and laid out a vision for future prosperity.

There were many powerful moments throughout his speech that reminded us of the blessings we enjoy living in this great nation, and how we can all support the goals to make America great again. I believe that the President is right – the state of our union is strong.

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 Subcommittee Approves FY2019 Financial Services & General Government Appropriations Bill

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today chaired the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government and advanced a $23.688 billion funding measure that prioritizes national programs to combat terrorism financing, spur small business growth, maintain a fair and efficient judicial system, and target heroin and prescription drug abuse.

 

“This is a responsible bill that boosts our national economy, financial security, and government accountability, and I urge the Senate to pass it without delay,” Lankford “I’m pleased that we are moving forward on the appropriations process. Orderly and transparent appropriations is a core responsibility of Congress, and a place where significant government reforms can be implemented.”

 

The FY2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act provides $16 million above the FY2018 enacted level to fund the US Treasury Department, the Judiciary, Small Business Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and several other independent agencies.

 

The measure includes targeted funding increases for the Treasury Department to combat money laundering and terrorism financing; for the SEC and CFTC to oversee our nation’s securities, swaps, and futures markets; for the Federal courts to support the administration of justice; and for the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Buildings Fund. The bill will be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

 

Bill Highlights:

 

Treasury Departmental Offices – $208.751 million for Departmental Offices, an increase of $8 million above the FY2018 enacted level. Additional funds will allow the Department to manage a growing caseload associated with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, invest in information technology improvements, and hire additional staff to conduct economic analysis of tax regulatory actions.

 

Treasury Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) – $159 million for TFI, which combats terrorism financing and administers economic and trade sanctions through its Office of Foreign Assets Control. The FY2019 amount is $17.2 million above the enacted level and is equal to the President’s budget request.

 

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – $11.263 billion for the IRS. Of this amount, $77 million is dedicated to implementation of tax reform.

 

In addition, to ensure accountability and transparency, the bill includes:

  • A prohibition on funds for bonuses or to rehire former employees unless employee conduct and tax compliance is given consideration;
  • A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs;
  • A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights;
  • A prohibition on funds for the production of inappropriate videos and conferences.

 

Executive Office of the President (EOP) – $728 million for EOP, which is $2.6 million above the FY2018 enacted level.  The bill maintains the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities (DFC) programs within the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  The bill provides $280 million for the HIDTA program to combat heroin and prescription opioid abuse and $99 million for the DFC program.

 

Judiciary – $7.251 billion in discretionary funding for the federal judiciary, which is $140 million above the FY2018 enacted level.  This will provide sufficient funding for federal court activities, including timely and efficient processing of federal cases, court security, and defender services.

 

Small Business Administration (SBA) – $699.3 million for the SBA to provide assistance to small businesses, expand the economy, and increase job growth for unemployed and underemployed Americans.  The bill fully funds business loans at $159.2 million.  The bill also funds several valuable programs, including $130 million for Small Business Development Centers, $31 million for microloan technical assistance, $12.3 million for veteran’s outreach programs, and $11.5 million for SCORE, formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

 

General Services Administration (GSA) – The bill allows GSA to spend $9.63 billion out of the Federal Buildings Fund.  This level will provide funding for rent payments for privately-owned office space leased by the government, and operations and maintenance costs for buildings owned by federal government agencies across the nation. Of this amount, the bill provides $1.08 billion for construction, and the measure fully funds the requested levels for Major Repairs and Alterations ($424.7 million) and Basic Repairs ($373.6 million) to continue addressing the backlog of repairs and renovations needs across the federal government.

 

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – $1.695 billion for the SEC, which is equal to the FY2018 budget request and includes $37 million for the potential relocation of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.  The bill provides targeted funding for economic analysis within the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis.

 

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – $281.5 million for the CFTC, which is equal to the FY2019 budget request. The bill includes increased funding to boost the CFTC’s analytical expertise, cybersecurity capabilities, and financial technology to maximize the Commission’s ability to oversee the nation’s swaps, futures, and options markets.

 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – $309.7 million for the FTC, which is equal to the FY2019 budget request.

 

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – $333.1 million for the FCC, which is equal to the FY2019 budget request.

 

Other Oversight, Accountability, and Noteworthy Provisions:

  • A prohibition on funds for an increase in pay for the Vice President and other senior political appointees;
  • A prohibition on funding for grants or contracts to tax cheats and companies with felony criminal convictions;
  • A requirement that all departments and agencies link contracts that provide award fees to successful acquisition outcomes, and prohibit the use of funds to pay for award or incentive fees for contractors with below satisfactory performance; and
  • A pay increase for civilian federal employees of 1.9 percent in calendar year 2019, equal to the 2018 increase.
  • A prohibition against the use of funds to paint portraits of federal employees, including the President, Vice President, Cabinet Members and Members of Congress;
  • A requirement that agency inspectors general have timely access to agency documents and records;

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma Opposes Cuts to Hunger Relief in House Farm Bill Calls on Rep. Lucas to put Oklahomans facing hunger first

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(OKLAHOMA CITY) – April 17, 2018 – The following statement is from Katie Fitzgerald, Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma:

 “The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma expressed dismay at language included in the 2018 Farm Bill by the House Agriculture Committee that would significantly reduce food assistance to Oklahomans living with hunger. Particularly, the deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be devastating to the clients we serve, and there is no way charities like ours can make up the difference.

“Our food bank is part of the fabric of central and western Oklahoma and feeding neighbors in need is a shared responsibility. Each day we see the partnership reflected among our community-based partner agencies, volunteers and donors in the 53 counties we serve. But the nonprofit sector cannot do this alone — for every one meal provided by Feeding America’s network, of which the Regional Food Bank is a member, the SNAP program provides 12. SNAP is a cornerstone federal nutrition program and vital to addressing hunger in Oklahoma and across the country.  It is also critical to our state’s economy, generating business for retailers and related jobs.

“While we understand that a piece of legislation like the Farm Bill involves compromises and competing priorities, ensuring that Oklahomans and all Americans have the ability to put food on the table should be considered fundamental. Any reductions to the SNAP program whatsoever should be deemed unacceptable by Congress.”

About the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the state’s largest hunger-relief organization and a member of Feeding America’s network of Food Banks. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit provides enough food to feed more than 136,000 hungry Oklahomans each week through a network of more than 1,300 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Since its inception in 1980, the Regional Food Bank has distributed more than 613 million pounds of food to feed Oklahomans living with hunger. For more information, visit http://www.regionalfoodbank.org; find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/regionalfoodbank or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rfbo.

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.

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