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Friday, December 14, 2018

Cole Applauds Passage of 2018 Farm Bill

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, with Cole’s support.

“Protecting our farmers and ranchers is essential to the agriculture community and our nation’s economy,” said Cole. “To maintain healthy crops and produce, farmers and ranchers need protection and stability. This year’s farm bill provides those securities.”

“I am pleased that this year’s farm bill includes provisions to preserve and strengthen crop insurance, which is crucial to protecting Oklahoma’s farmers and their harvests. Additionally, the Farm Bill will continue to maintain the Conservation Reserve Program, which promotes soil conservation and has been beneficial to Oklahoma’s farmers for decades.”

“Farmers and ranchers are the foundation for the vitality of our nation. I’d like to thank House Leadership and Chairman Conaway for bringing forward this comprehensive legislation that will preserve and protect our nation’s farmers and ranchers. I look forward to its passage in the Senate and enactment into law.”

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.

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 Supports Bill to Strengthen US Water Infrastructure

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today supported the passage of America’s Water Infrastructure Act, a bill to improve the nation’s water infrastructure. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 99 to 1. The bill will head to the president to be signed into law.

 “This is a commonsense bill that promotes good governance, removes cumbersome red tape, and addresses unnecessary spending while providing updates to the nation’s water infrastructure,” said Lankford. “Congress continues to prioritize US water infrastructure to maintain the critical infrastructure, which our families and our economy depend on. I’m specifically grateful to see the bill directs the Army Corps of Engineers to engage with everyone who is directly impacted by any new rule so they can provide valuable feedback on implementation.”

 Additionally, the bill directs the Army Corps of Engineers to provide a public online database of all its real estate assets in the US. In June, Lankford introduced a bipartisan bill to streamline the federal inventory review process to save taxpayer money by directing federal agencies to more frequently assess unneeded federal property.

 Lankford is a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water.

Ensuring Lasting Benefits from Tax Reform

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Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, the country has undoubtedly been better off as a result. Wages are steadily on the rise, unemployment has reached its lowest level in nearly 50 years, jobs are being created and the economy is booming. Since this historic tax relief and reform effort was enacted earlier this year, the benefits have not slowed or diminished. Certainly, the lasting impact continues to be felt by individuals, families, small businesses, entrepreneurs and indeed, by all Americans.

Using facts and figures to put reality into perspective, multiple accounts and reports showcase the positive results of tax reform across the nation, in our state and specifically, in the Fourth District of Oklahoma. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Oklahoma’s full-time workforce has expanded by 2,433 workers since tax reform was enacted, and over 10 years, that figure is expected to grow to approximately 13,758 new jobs. Also due to tax reform, the Heritage Foundation recently projected that take-home pay will increase by $16,654 in Fourth District households over the next 10 years.

Without question, tax reform is working. And to ensure hardworking Americans can continue to enjoy the benefits, the U.S. House of Representatives recently advanced legislation to build on and permanently keep in place some of the provisions. Through passage of three bills known jointly as Tax Reform 2.0, House Republicans voted at the end of September to ensure hardworking Americans can continue to enjoy the benefits of a fairer, simpler tax code.

Rightly so, Tax Reform 2.0 revisited the terms of the tax relief provided by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As the law currently stands, some provisions are eventually set to expire in several years—specifically, the lower tax rates now enjoyed by individuals and families across all income levels. Legislation recently passed by the House addresses this issue and appropriately makes tax cuts permanent for individuals, ensuring Americans get to keep more of their hard-earned money and can save more for the future. Similarly, the legislation promotes and supports long-lasting financial security for hardworking Americans by encouraging earlier and active savings for retirement, education, emergencies and other life events.

Because of tax reform, small businesses and the communities they serve are also better off. The set of bills rightly preserves tax relief for individuals and families, but the legislation passed in the House also empowers small businesses and encourages would-be entrepreneurs. According to the findings of a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, optimism amongst small business owners is at its highest level in recorded history. Due to much-needed tax relief, job creators on Main Street have been able to expand and invest more in their employees. In addition to making tax relief permanent for small businesses, Tax Reform 2.0 lessens some of the barriers to entry in the market – like startup costs – and encourages entrepreneurship and innovation.

Through passage of the bills associated with Tax Reform 2.0, I am pleased that lawmakers in the House voted in support of certainty and lasting benefits for hardworking Americans, families, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Cole Mourns Loss of Former President George H.W. Bush

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By Joseph Lozada. – U.S. Department of Defense [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2325714
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) mourned the loss of former President George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States.

 

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of former President George H. W. Bush. He was an inspirational American figure and principled leader, who devoted his life to public service and benefiting the greater good. He was not defined by his politics but always by compassion for others and love of our great nation.

“As a Republican State Chairman, the NRCC’s Executive Director and a GOP political consultant, I interacted with George H. W. Bush on many occasions during the 1980s and 90s. I found him to be invariably thoughtful, substantive, modest and polite. President Bush always cared about others more than himself. He was the most grounded and least egotistical politician I ever met. His sheer decency and profound wisdom were often overlooked because he refused to boast about his many personal and political accomplishments. President Bush personified the virtues of the so-called ‘greatest generation’ that won the Second World War and turned America into an economic powerhouse and a beacon of freedom that was the envy and hope of the world.

“Along with Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush led America to victory in the Cold War, consigning the old Soviet Union to the ash heap of history. When he departed office, he left the world at peace and America as the globe’s only and uncontested superpower. It was an amazing achievement that was unappreciated at the time.

“His legacy extends far beyond any office or position he held. First and foremost, he was a family man. George H. W. Bush was a devoted husband, beloved father and adored grandfather. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family as they mourn this incredibly difficult loss.”

Senators Lankford, Perdue, Ernst: Political Self-Interest Prevented Changes to Broken Budget Process

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK –Senators James Lankford (R-OK), David Perdue (R-GA), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) provided comment on the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform:

 “The Joint Select Committee was our chance to make meaningful changes to Congress’ broken budget process—instead, it turned out to be a lost opportunity. This is completely irresponsible. Throughout the process we had bipartisan discussions of ideas that could have fixed the way Congress funds the federal government and addressed our debt. Several of these ideas were met with little disagreement in conversation but suddenly received major pushback when it was time to put the ideas into action. We offered amendments to end Washington’s addiction to continuing resolutions and to hold members of Congress accountable for finishing the budget job on time. This should have been commonsense, but yet again political self-interest stood in the way of significant results. After eight months of work, there is no excuse for settling for the status quo. We are committed to continuing our efforts next year to responsibly fix the federal government’s funding process.”

 Lankford, Perdue, and Ernst introduced amendments that would have achieved the following priorities:

 

  • Milestones with Consequences: Create a series of milestones for passing a budget and appropriations bills to keep Congress on track to fund the government on time. Coupled with changing the fiscal year, these milestones would provide more certainty for our military and other federal agencies. (Offered by Perdue)
  • No Budget, No Recess: If the Senate has not approved a budget and spending bills on time, then the Senate would be unable to adjourn for over eight hours; no funding would be available for official travel; and, two quorum calls would be held per day to prevent senators from leaving Washington. (Offered by Ernst and Lankford)
  • No Budget, No Travel: If the Senate has not passed budget and appropriations bills on time, then the Senate is prevented from taking any official travel (Offered by Ernst).
  • Change the Fiscal Year Ending from September 30 To December 31: Matching the fiscal year with the calendar year gives Congress more time to pass a budget and all of the appropriations bills. (Offered by Perdue)
  • Change Budget Committee Membership: Changes the membership of the Senate Budget Committee to be six members of the majority, five members of the minority, and the chair and ranking members of the Appropriations and Finance Committees. (Offered by Lankford and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO))
  • Establish Bipartisan Budget Resolution in Senate: Creates a separate path in the Senate for a bipartisan budget resolution. The resolution would be required to establish fiscal goals for the path of the debt- to-GDP ratio as well as a glide path for health care spending, tax expenditures, discretionary spending, and total revenues. (Offered by Perdue and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI))
  • Make the Budget a Law: Change the budget from a concurrent resolution to a joint resolution, requiring the signature of the President and carrying the force of law. (Offered by Perdue)
  • Require 60 Votes: Raise the vote threshold for final passage of a budget resolution in the Senate from 51 votes to 60 votes, which is 3/5 of all Senators. This forces bipartisanship throughout the entire budget process while retaining the privileged nature of the budget resolution and matches the 60-vote requirement of the appropriations process. (Offered by Perdue)
  • End “Vote-a-rama”: End vote-a-rama by requiring all amendments to be debated and voted on within 50 hours of consideration. This would expedite the passage of a budget by limiting frivolous messaging amendments. (Offered by Perdue)
  • Eliminate Gimmicks: Eliminate budgeting gimmicks by cracking down on the use of Changes In Mandatory Programs (CHIMPs) in the appropriations process that produce billions in hidden overspending. (Offered by Lankford)
  • Change the Reconciliation Process: Reconciliation is a powerful tool to get around the Senate filibuster. This amendment makesreconciliation a required part of the budget rather an optional part. (Offered by Lankford)

Honoring Our Veterans

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Throughout our history, hundreds of thousands of brave men and women have answered the call to serve in the United States military. For those who volunteer, this choice comes at a cost unlike any other. But it is because of their willing service and sacrifice on our behalf that we get to enjoy the benefits of living in a safe and secure nation. Without question, we owe a constant debt of gratitude to generations of veterans who have faithfully defended our precious freedom.

On Veterans Day, we rightly honor those who have selflessly served, but during this year’s observance, we also solemnly remember an important marker in history. More than a century has passed since the beginning of the First World War, which is often called the “war to end all wars.” Those who went into this fight likely expected adventure and newfound freedom—never imagining the extent of what was ahead. Instead, they ended up being involved in the deadliest conflict of all time and an unprecedented catastrophe that has shaped the modern world ever since.

It has now been 100 years since the tragic conflict ended through an armistice signed between Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918, at 11 o’clock in the morning. Exactly a year after this peace agreement, Allied nations honored the 10 million military deaths and approximately seven million civilian deaths by remembering the tragedy through Armistice Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law legislation that expanded the observance to “all veterans, veterans’ organizations and the entire citizenry (who) will wish to join hands in the common purpose.” As a result, Veterans Day rightly recognizes those who served in all past and present conflicts—including World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and in the Middle East.

Today, there are more than 21 million veterans living in the United States, including nearly 66,800 in the Fourth District of Oklahoma. Just as they volunteered to protect our nation both at home and abroad, so do we have a duty to them upon their return from combat. And we should always remember those who did not make it home, showing our support for their grieving families and loved ones in our communities.

Without question, promises to our veterans must be kept. Following their honorable service to our country, that fulfilled promise must include quality and reliable care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Looking back on the work of the current Congress, I am pleased to report that lawmakers worked together in a bipartisan manner to advance several pieces of legislation signed into law, ensuring our veterans receive the benefits they have earned.

While we dedicate special time on Veterans Day to remember the men and women who have shown the utmost patriotism and love of country, we should strive to honor them every day.

Confronting the Opioid Epidemic

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In too many communities across the nation, opioid addiction has destroyed and claimed lives, causing unexpected grief and loss for families. Without question, opioid abuse is a very real and rampant health crisis and one that is impacting individuals from all walks of life. In response to this widespread problem, I am encouraged that Congress offered solutions to combat the issue through a comprehensive piece of legislation recently signed into law by the president.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people fall victim to opioid overdose each day. In fact, addiction to once well-intended prescription medications like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine—as well as illicit use of heroin and fentanyl—have led to the deaths of more than 42,000 Americans in just one year. The unfortunate imprint on our own state is heartbreaking; in 2016, there were 813 Oklahomans tragically lost to overdose. Along with and likely due in part to the rapid rise in opioid misuse, the nation’s overall life expectancy has seen a disturbing decline in recent years as well.

Especially since opioid addiction exists in most—if not all—American communities, confronting the epidemic has never been a partisan undertaking in Congress. And I am pleased that H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, demonstrates a truly bipartisan effort. Rightly so, the historic legislation reflects the concern shared by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and the desire in both chambers to effectively confront and end this national health crisis.

Made up of several bills introduced throughout this Congress to prevent and end the cycle of opioid abuse, H.R. 6 not only addresses symptoms of the problem but confronts underlying causes of the crisis. For those currently struggling with addiction, the legislation improves treatment and recovery options and ensures help is more readily available. To prevent addiction from taking root at all, the legislation supports non-addictive opioid alternatives for pain management and discourages the disturbingly high opioid prescription rate through better drug monitoring. The legislation also supports safer communities by empowering law enforcement to keep harmful drugs from coming in and by combating illicit use of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which is easily and often lethal.

In addition to this important effort, recent legislation to fund the government reflected the same commitment to confronting the opioid crisis. As part of a two-bill appropriations package that maintained many priorities first advanced by the subcommittee I chair, lawmakers directed $6.7 billion toward treatment and recovery programs for those battling substance abuse. This included a substantial increase for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. I am proud that the president signed this legislation into law at the end of September.

While it takes time to change the course of a national health crisis, I am encouraged that Congress and the president have taken critical first steps in slowing down the opioid epidemic. I believe that we can and will eliminate its hold on individuals, families, communities and our country.

Unmistakable Threads

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Existing throughout the fabric of our society are the unmistakable threads of Native American heritage. In Oklahoma, those threads are numerous and vibrant indeed.

As a member of the Chickasaw Nation, I am always proud that the month of November is set aside to draw national attention to the many contributions and significant achievements of tribal nations throughout history. Across the country, there are more than 530 federally-recognized tribes. In our state alone, there are 39 sovereign nations —including 11 located right in the Fourth District.

Growing up in Oklahoma, I was indeed fortunate to live in a state rich in tribal heritage. But my upbringing greatly influenced the distinct pride I will always carry. Throughout my life, I was surrounded by family members who were actively involved in tribal affairs and who sought to preserve our unique history and culture. My great, great grandfather served as the clerk of the Chickasaw Supreme Court, and my great grandfather was the treasurer of the Chickasaw Nation. My great aunt Te Ata Thompson Fisher was a gifted actress, entertainer and Native American storyteller whose talent took her all over the world; the story of her fascinating life was recently documented in a feature film. And my late mother, Helen Cole, was the first Native American woman ever elected to the Oklahoma State Senate.

I greatly treasure the example shown by my mother, who passed on the importance of knowing our heritage and our family’s compelling history. She taught my brother and me to recognize that it was a remarkable gift to be American, but as Native Americans, we also belonged to a special and unique group of people.

Because of my background, I have always considered it a privilege and honor to represent the interests and constitutionally-given rights of tribes in the U.S. House of Representatives. Along with my Oklahoma colleague Markwayne Mullin, I am proud to be one of two Native Americans currently serving in Congress. We will soon be joined by two others, who recently made history as the first Native American women ever elected to Congress. Indeed, this is an impressive achievement for tribes nationwide.

While the federal government has at times had a strained relationship with Indian Country, I am encouraged that efforts have been made to repair and improve it. As a co-chair of the Native American Caucus, I have worked with my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance legislation that respects tribal sovereignty and improves the lives of Native Americans. Earlier this year, I was pleased that the House passed the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which would restore authority previously afforded to tribes and respect their right to operate enterprises and govern effectively on their own lands. This summer, the House also passed legislation that would increase funding for the Indian Health Service, as well as vital programs at the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education.

Long before the United States came to be, tribes greatly influenced the land in which we live. For generations to come, I am confident that America’s tribal heritage will only become more vibrant

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