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Monday, November 19, 2018

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cole 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.”

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.

Out With The Old Tax System, In With The New

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This week, millions of Americans will file their taxes under an antiquated system for the last time. What was once an onerous task will become a more simple, easier process in the years to come. Filing taxes for the past 32 years was done under a complicated, invasive tax code. The burdensome process grew and evolved under the changes of society, and we are left today with a system that allowed for many loopholes and unfair tax brackets. Now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is law, millions of Americans and thousands of businesses will truly begin to thrive financially.

The complex nature of the individual tax brackets had severely moved out of touch with regular tax filers in the past decades. Smaller paychecks make it harder for the average taxpayer starting a new job or for a family of five trying to sustain basic wellbeing. Now, larger paychecks and smaller taxes are no longer a far-fetched thought. When millions of hard-working Americans earn their paychecks this year, they will begin to see more money back into their pockets. Lower tax rates at all income levels and a doubled standard deduction ($12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families) will boost income and allow many to do things like buy a new home or save for college.

Along with reduced individual tax rates, there are more tax credits for families to apply for. The new code doubles the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000, supporting millions of parents trying to raise a family. Child and Dependent Care and Adoption tax credits are also preserved under the new law. To further help individuals, the law also eliminates the Obamacare individual mandate. This unfair tax will no longer force Americans to buy government-backed health insurance. Relief from the burden this tax brought on will allow people to have the freedom to choose their own health care.

Welcome announcements of employee bonuses have also become a large part of the good the new tax law has already done. Almost immediately, hundreds of companies awarded bonuses to thousands of their respective employees as a result of the new corporate tax rate. And it hasn’t slowed down. Companies big and small in Oklahoma have reaped the benefits of the new tax code, with many awarding bonuses, providing raises and expanding operations. Express Employment Professionals, based in Oklahoma City awarded $2,000 bonuses to its employees. Larger companies like Southwest Airlines and Lowe’s, which employ thousands of Oklahomans, also followed through with bonuses. In the long run, corporate investment back into the American economy will not only support the overall well-being of the economy, it will support families and consumers across the nation.

There is reason to celebrate Tax Day this year. As we say goodbye to the old tax system, we can anticipate the benefits of the new one next year. Even the IRS has updated its tax withholding calculator to reflect the new changes. Next year, Americans will have a fairer, simpler code to work with – making Tax Day a day we no longer have to dread.

Senator Lankford Urges Trump Administration To Resolve Trade Deals Soon, Warns Against Retaliatory Trade Action

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a floor speech on free and fair trade and the importance that international trade plays in supporting Oklahoma jobs. Lankford also reiterated the urgency needed for trade negotiations, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the US-Korea (KORUS) deal, to conclude expeditiously to provide stability to American workers and businesses.

 

During the speech, Lankford gave several examples regarding how free trade benefits Oklahoma farmers, manufacturers, and the oil and gas industry. While applauding President Trump’s willingness to confront China’s unfair trade practices, Lankford also cautioned the Administration about tariff and trade policies which would result in harmful retaliatory trade measures against the US economy.

Watch the video Here https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=rDQiv-EBex8

Excerpts:

 

(:06-1:04) Let me do a quick history lesson with this body. 1773, as colonies, we were getting more and more frustrated with King George, and we had a lot of issues that we had to raise with him, like a lot of taxes, things that were happening in the judiciary, things that were arbitrary that were coming down. Then it boiled to a head. In December of 1773, a group of American colonists went out to Boston infuriated with the tariff policy over tea. The British East India company had special access that no one else had. They had no taxes and everyone else had a tax – a tariff. And it pushed out all of the other companies except for the British East India company. And a group of American colonists went out to one of the ships, grabbed all the tea in the harbor, threw it overboard, creating the legendary Boston Tea Party.

 

(1:07-2:35) It was an argument about tariffs. It was an argument about international trade. It was an argument about can American companies trade fairly? And we still talk about it today. It’s interesting to note that in our letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1776, which we now call the Declaration of Independence, in the long list of grievances that we wrote out to King George, we included in it this line, “cutting off our trade with all parts of the world” as one of our big grievances. By the way, that grievance happened to be in between the British government allowing British soldiers to murder inhabitants in America and doing our taxes without consent. Right in between those was cutting off our international trade. We’ve been free traders as a nation since before we were even a nation, and we’ve been passionate about keeping it fair but keeping it free and keeping it open. Free trade is a big issue for us, and for some reason, it has become this big, national conversation again. Should we have free trade and fair trade? Should we continue to engage? What does it mean to have a deficit in our trade? Does it have to be equal with every country that they buy as much from us that we buy from them? Suddenly this has become a brand-new dialogue again.

 

(3:34-4:51) So let me walk through just a practical view of what it looks like. Charlie and Mary Swanson, they’re Oklahomans. They’re third-generation farmers and ranchers who live in Roosevelt, Oklahoma, a population of a whopping 241 in Roosevelt, by the way, if you want to know, but the agricultural products that they produce help feed the world. They raise wheat, cotton, cattle, and milo. Every year their crops are coming in and they use John Deere equipment. We look at that John Deere tractor and its beautiful green and we think that’s a great American company. Except for part of that equipment also comes in their tractor in its original form from Mexico. Part comes from India. Parts come from Germany and most of it is from the United States. They employ about 60,000 people in the United States. It is a great American company, John Deere is, but their calves are made in Germany, their hydraulic cylinders are made in Mexico. The castings are from Iowa, but the guidance products are from California. Some of the transmission electronic parts they actually come from India. Other parts are from Missouri. But we see that as a great American tractor.

 

(11:20-13:11) We had unfair trade in 1773 that we protested in the Boston Harbor. We still want fair trade agreements right now. But those trade agreements need to be resolved as fast as possible. Farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma cannot wait a year to find out what’s going to happen in our trade policy. Some of them are on the edge of the knife right now on bankruptcy. They can’t get anything on the future’s market to try to figure out what’s happening in the now to be able to do the basic investment they need to do for this year’s crop. Predictability helps you just like fair and free trade does. So while I understand full well the administration is engaging in trade negotiations around the world, I encourage them to move from talking about these trade agreements to settling them. Getting them resolved with Mexico and Canada, getting the best deal that we can have, resetting this agreement with NAFTA for another generation, as it’s being reset right now, to prepare us for the future. Let’s get that resolved. We need to get resolved our trade agreement with Korea, locking that one in and then finishing out all the area around Asia as well. Twelve of those nations have already resolved a trade agreement that they’re into putting us behind. Those nations are forming contracts now that we need to engage in as soon as we possibly can. There are big issues were China in trade. They have not been fair in all of their trade agreements. We need to resolve our trade agreements with China. And I’m pleased that this administration is leaning in to resolve a long-term issue with China trade. It is about time someone does it. But we also need to get it resolved. We don’t need retaliatory tariffs moving across every industry in our nation destabilizing what we’re doing in the economy. Let’s get these issue resolved. 

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