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Sunday, January 20, 2019

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;

Stigler Act Passes Committee; Could Help Native American Land Owning Familes

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after H.R. 2606, the Stigler Act Amendment of 2017, was passed by the House Natural Resources Committee. This legislation amends the Stigler Act of 1947, which restricts Native American allotted land to only persons of ½ degree of Native American blood.

The Dawes Act of 1887 authorized the federal government to survey tribal lands and divide them into allotted parcels for individual Native Americans. Title to these allotment parcels was set forth in the “Stigler Act of 1947.” The Stigler Act provides that, upon probate, if the heirs and devisees of an original allottee from the Five Tribes (Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee) have passed out of ½ degree Native American blood, the allotment loses its “restricted free” status. Restricted land is not subject to state taxation. Federal law does not dictate a minimum Native American blood degree requirement for any other tribe.

The Stigler Act Amendment of 2017 seeks to amend the original Stigler Act, and remove the ½ degree requirement of Native American blood. In doing so, it would provide the opportunity for heirs and devisees to take title to the land, and allow the parcel to maintain its “restricted” status. This legislation will also create parity in federal law in the treatment of Native American-allotted land by removing minimum blood degree requirement for solely the Five Tribes.

“I am pleased that the Stigler Act was agreed to and passed through the House Natural Resources Committee,” said Cole. “Amending the Stigler Act will allow for past precedent to be current with the realities of Native-owned land. By expanding the blood lineage degree, the amendment will support the preservation of the rights and legacies that Native Americans are entitled to, as well as their inheritance. I look forward to supporting the Stigler Act Amendment of 2017 on the House Floor for passage.”

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.

Senators Lankford and Klobuchar Submit Election Security Legislation As NDAA Amendment

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today submitted provisions from their Secure Elections Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The purpose of the amendment is to strengthen America’s election cybersecurity and protect against the possibility of future foreign interference by streamlining cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies and providing security clearances to state election officials.

“The security of our election systems is a major national security issue, and it is appropriate for this legislation to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Lankford. “This legislation will help states prepare our election infrastructure for the possibility of interference from Russia, Iran, North Korea, or a domestic hacktivist group. I’m grateful that our national security agencies have worked with states to make improvements, but this legislation is needed to help us better prepare for all election-related threats.”

 “Election security is national security and our intelligence officials have made clear that our election systems continue to be a target for foreign adversaries,” said Klobuchar. “We must do everything in our power to protect our democracy from future attacks. That is why Congress should pass our Secure Elections Act amendment that will improve information about cyber attacks so states can respond in real time. With only 151 days until the next election, we must act now.”

Along with Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lankford and Klobuchar originally introduced the bill in December. With the support of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), they worked with stakeholders to revise the bill and reintroduce it in March. The funding portion of the original legislation, $380 million, was included the Omnibus Appropriations bill that passed in March, however, the other provisions of the bill have not been passed into law yet.

Senator Lankford Statement on Announcement to Cancel August Recess

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) issued a statement following the announcement from Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to cancel the August state work period to continue the work the American people elected Congress to do:

 

“I appreciate Leader McConnell hearing our call to keep the Senate in session and continue our work to confirm pending executive branch and judicial nominees and to complete the appropriations process before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2018,” said Lankford. “Our work has been delayed, but it should continue through August until it gets done. We must get the President’s nominations caught up and we must complete the appropriations process on time to avoid another omnibus disaster.”

 

On May 11, Lankford joined 15 Senators in a letter to urge McConnell to expedite floor consideration of funding bills, even if the Senate must work nights, weekends, and through the August state work period. Lankford also introduced the ‘No Budget, No Vacation Act’, which would prevent members from traveling during August until the budget and appropriations process is complete. Lankford serves on the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Reform, which is a bi-partisan panel that includes members of the Senate and House.

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.

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.

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.

Senator Lankford Statement on President’s Decision to Withdraw From Iran Deal

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today made the following statement on the President’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called the Iran Nuclear Deal, and impose additional sanctions on Iran.

“The Iran nuclear agreement, designed and agreed to by President Obama, had major flaws from the beginning. The agreement gave permanent tariff relief to Iran in exchange for temporary restrictions on its nuclear weapons program. Iran has spent years designing nuclear weapons, but they needed more time to develop new missiles and more money to pay for their technology. The nuclear agreement gave Iran billions of dollars and it ignored the continuing missile testing in Iran. That is unacceptable.

“I support additional sanctions on Iran, as they are the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. The Iranian regime is expanding into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. The Middle East and the region cannot have peace with a threatening Iranian nuclear regime. I encourage the Trump Administration to immediately begin working with the international community, in close consultation with Congress, to find a solution that will ensure Iran never has access to nuclear weapons capabilities.”

On September 10, 2015, Lankford voted against the Iran deal, in the form of a resolution of disapproval. Before the vote, Lankford outlined his objections in an op-ed. After the deal went into effect, Lankford conducted oversight of the implementation of the deal. In April 2016, he introduced a Senate resolution to ensure that President Obama follows through on his commitment to reimpose sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear deal. In September 2016, Lankford and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) introduced the JCPOA Enforcement Transparency Act, which would increase oversight of the Joint Commission, a committee created under the Iran deal to monitor implementation.

Lankford serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

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