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Thankful for Our Service Members

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Throughout Military Appreciation Month, we reflect on the tremendous sacrifices of our service members, past and present, and pay respects to them and their families. The United States of America is indebted to them for their service. Beginning in 1775, our precious sons and daughters have stood ready to fight for our freedom and the values of democracy at home and abroad. This month we say thank you.

As the son of a career Air Force veteran, I grew up seeing firsthand the sacrifices made by our military men and women. These brave individuals and their families undoubtedly understand the meaning of patriotism and know more of sacrifice than many of us will realize in a lifetime. In answering the call to serve, members of our military will miss weddings, funerals or the births of their own children. Others will even pay the ultimate sacrifice. Because of this, we must remain committed to providing current and past members of our military with the best resources and as a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in the House, that is always a top priority of mine.

This begins with ensuring our military is fully prepared and ready at a moment’s notice when called to action. We cannot let them down and must adequately fund our military to provide the best training, weaponry and other resources to keep them safe in the line of duty. Our nation’s defense, and in many cases that of our allies and friends around the world, depends on it. We owe each service member the best chance of success when they leave home to fight for us. 

Additionally, just as we prepare members of our military for their service, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and guardians should be able to do their job and know that their families are well tended while they are away. Military families need to have the best benefits, housing, schools and childcare facilities we can provide.

Finally, it is not enough to simply care for them while in uniform. Our veteran heroes deserve our support as they rejoin the communities they came from. This includes the right programs to assist them with the transition from the profession of arms into another meaningful vocation where they can provide for their families and enjoy a well-deserved quality of life. And while rejoining society, access to the right mental care, improving diagnosis of myriad ailments when they are most treatable and making sure our servicemembers can always get to a medical provider should be considered essential goals.

We can never do enough as a Congress and a nation to support the members of our military, and we honor the countless men and women who have selflessly answered the call of duty and in so doing pledged to relentlessly defend liberty and protect our homeland. Our fighting men and women are the best in the world and deserving of every bit of our gratitude. I certainly will continue fighting on their behalf in Congress just as they have done for us around the world. 

Cole Statement on President Biden’s Sanctions on Russia

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Moore, OK – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after President Joe Biden addressed the nation regarding Russia’s invasion of two regions in Ukraine and U.S. plans to impose sanctions.

“In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden was right to announce planned U.S. sanctions for this aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, I fear this action may be too little too late,” said Cole. “Indeed, Russia has been amassing troops and blood on the Ukrainian border for months now and flouting the limits of international law. While swift and severe sanctions on Russia are important for defending our NATO allies and preserving the order on the world’s stage, I am concerned that Russia is not intimidated or deterred.”

Lankford Holds IRS Accountable for Data Leaks, Targeting, Months of Backlogs

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), who serves on the Senate Finance Committee, today sent a letter to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig concerning the IRS’s ability to process Americans’ private information in a safe and timely way, and the many troublesome issues facing the agency. Lankford’s letter presses the IRS for answers about the ProPublica data leak, the targeting of religious organizations seeking tax-exempt status, IT security failures, return processing backlogs, and Democrats’ proposed billions in “enforcement” funds and ongoing attempts to force Americans to have their bank accounts tracked by the IRS.

Lankford wrote in his letter, “As we enter the tax filing season, it is important that American taxpayers believe that their privacy will be protected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and that all taxpayers will obtain unbiased treatment from the agency. Unfortunately, recent events have called into question assurances of privacy protection and fairness… As disclosures, security flaws, and backlogs continue, the secure, neutral, and efficient processing of taxpayer information must be prioritized.”

Lankford continues to be a leader in ensuring the IRS remains apolitical and receives and processes Americans’ tax information with privacy, data security, neutrality, and objective fairness at the forefront. Lankford joined Finance Committee Republicans in sending a letter to Commissioner Rettig for information on a recent collaboration with the non-profit group Code for America (CFA), a partnership aimed at helping Americans file for Democrats’ expanded child tax credits, to ensure that the appropriate privacy protections are in place for taxpayers.

Lankford has previously raised security concerns with the ProPublica data leak, which disclosed confidential, private, and legally protected taxpayer information. Lankford continues to remain concerned that the IRS and the Biden Administration are showing little regard about the chaotic handling of private taxpayer data. Lankford continues to protect Oklahomans against Democrats’ campaign to monitor Americans’ bank accounts, place taxpayer finances in a surveillance dragnet, and provide massive, additional mandatory funding to IRS for an army of IRS agents.

Lankford led a letter to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George requesting a review of the IRS’s processes for making tax-exempt status determinations, and the apparent failure of quality controls in the case of the Christians Engaged religious organization. 

You can view the full letter HERE or below:

Dear Commissioner Rettig:

As we enter the tax filing season, it is important that American taxpayers believe that their privacy will be protected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and that all taxpayers will obtain unbiased treatment from the agency. Unfortunately, recent events have called into question assurances of privacy protection and fairness. I write today to express concern about the IRS’s ability to process Americans’ private information in a secure, neutral, and efficient fashion. 

On June 8, 2021, the media outlet ProPublica published an article titled “The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax.” This article, the first in a series of politicized articles identifying individual taxpayers’ identities, states that ProPublica has obtained a “vast trove” of IRS data on the returns of thousands of Americans, covering more than 15 years. Such information is legally protected and is supposed to be kept private and confidential by the IRS and the Treasury Department.

These articles, aligning closely with specific partisan objectives and targeting individuals by name, is sadly reminiscent of the IRS’s mismanagement and targeting of conservative nonprofit organizations during the Obama Administration. While the inappropriate targeting of applicants for tax-exempt status by IRS employees took place nearly a decade ago, the recent consideration of Christians Engaged’s tax-exempt status application has, yet again, called into question the neutral and respectful fashion of IRS reviews. While the IRS has assured my staff that applications for tax-exempt status are to be reviewed in a neutral fashion, void of politics or an agent’s personal beliefs, and with adherence to the law and facts of each application at the forefront, the perceived hostility towards Christians Engaged as they sought tax-exempt status and the continued publication of private taxpayer data has generated concern for the IRS’s impartial and secure consideration of taxpayer data. 

To date, Congress has not been provided any substantive data regarding the alleged massive leak of taxpayer information to ProPublica. While I understand that investigations into these publications are underway, the responses I have received from this Administration to date, including your agency, are unsatisfactory. Despite ProPublica’s consistent claims of having “secret IRS data,” the IRS has not been able to determine whether there has been a data breach or even a threat of a data breach. Our tax system of voluntary compliance relies on the American public’s confidence in a secure and impartial Internal Revenue Service. Unfortunately, this Administration’s appearance of causal indifference to this issue undermines such confidence and threatens the public’s trust.

I am also concerned about recent findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) showing that IT operational challenges and security flaws at the IRS are threatening the agency’s ability to complete its mission, and specifically, could risk unauthorized access to taxpayer information. For example, just recently, in TIGTA’s Annual Assessment of the IRS’s Information Technology Program for Fiscal Year 2021, TIGTA declared that “Until the IRS takes steps to improve its security program deficiencies and fully implement all security program components in compliance with FISMA requirements, taxpayer data could be vulnerable to inappropriate and undetected use, modification, or disclosure.” This is of great concern.

On top of this, I continue to hear from constituents experiencing refund delays and difficulty contacting the IRS, unable to get issues resolved. It is my understanding that as of December 31, 2021, the IRS had 6 million unprocessed individual returns, and that in some instances it may take 90 to 120 days to issue a refund. For amended returns, the wait is even longer. I understand the broad impact of COVID-19 on IRS operations, along with the slate of new responsibilities the agency has been tasked with, however, with the start of this year’s filing season on January 24, I am concerned about the difficulties taxpayers will face this tax season.

While Treasury officials, in reference to this tax filing season, warn of “enormous challenges” and a “frustrating season,” it seems clear that this Administration, instead of surveilling bank accounts and boosting audits, should instead prioritize the efficient and secure processing of taxpayer information. It is wildly inappropriate for this Administration to call for extensive financial account reporting requirements and billions in enforcement funds at a time when we do not have assurances that the taxpayer data the IRS already collects is secure or evidence that the IRS can process incoming data efficiently. Instead of sending agents after everyday Americans, improving taxpayer services, safeguarding taxpayer information, and eliminating backlogs should be the priority. 

As disclosures, security flaws, and backlogs continue, the secure, neutral, and efficient processing of taxpayer information must be prioritized. As a Member of the Senate Finance Committee, with oversight over the IRS, I ask that you please provide my staff and I continued updates on all of the issues I have outlined above. 

Thank you for your attention to these matters.

In God We Trust,

INHOFE STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF IMPROVING LAKES, WATERWAYS AND FLOOD CONTROL SYSTEMS IN OKLAHOMA

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WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, questioned witnesses at a hearing on the Water Resource Development Act Oversight: USACE Implementation of Water Infrastructure Projects, Programs and Priorities.

Witnesses included: the Honorable Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Inhofe: First, let me thank Senator Capito for allowing me to take place in this order. I have had occasion to spend some time with both the gentlemen, Spellmon and Michael Connor, and we are in agreement about so many different things; it’s so important for my state of Oklahoma. I have to share with the rest of the people here about how serious of a flood that we had in 2019. The only ammunition we had at that time was the Tulsa Levee and West Tulsa Levee system. Now, this actually was at a time, it was put together, it was actually when I was four years old. It far exceeded its service life. So, we had the levee system. And when our flood came, in 2019, more people – professionals – believed that we were going to be breaking the levee and really having a disastrous situation. It did perform, and I can remember actually being personally down there when the water was coming through, and nobody thought that it was going to be able to hold. We put in emergency things right after that, and now, we are in a situation that certainly Secretary Connor is familiar with as something that is serious, and I know you are aware of the seriousness of this thing. So, we have this levee system, and we are hoping and doing everything we can to ensure that we are going to be able to hold this out in the event of another one. It was a close call, a very close call.

The other thing I wanted to make sure I had time to mention is our MKARNS. You know people don’t realize that we are navigable in Oklahoma. We are the most inland navigable system in the country, and it’s something that people don’t realize. We have more miles of fresh-water shoreline than any other of the 50 states. Now, there’s a reason for that. Because ours are all man-made lakes. Man-made lakes give you a lot of shoreline because they have a dam down and they go across a lot of it. People are not aware, but that is something serious. The other thing that is of concern is that we are navigable in terms of having the capability to take care of the things we need. For example, our navigation way coming to the state of Oklahoma is 98 percent 12-foot channel. That means that we have two percent that’s not a 12-foot channel; it’s a 9-foot channel. That’s one of the things that’s been on our list for a long period of time. It’s been authorized, and I just want to make sure that I take this opportunity, Mr. Connor, reminding you of what you and I have talked about before and the seriousness of what we are facing now with these two projects. One being, of course, the levee system; that it would hold up for not another hundred years, but start working immediately with top priority. I believe that it has that along with the deepening of the MKARNS.

Would you share your thoughts on those two projects?

Connor: Senator Inhofe, thank you for the conversations regarding these projects and the ongoing dialogue. I think they represent two very high priority aspects of the overall Army Corps of Engineers program. That is, obviously, in respect to the levees, our need to maintain, rehabilitate and do any new construction with an eye towards resilience; particularly given the 2019 flooding situations. We know what extreme events can bring, and so that brings a focus to move forward with your project in west Tulsa. The inland waterways issue with the 12-foot navigation channel, I think I remember during my confirmation process, I mentioned that I had done some background in preparation for talking with you. I saw the Port of Tulsa, and I was really was taken aback at the Port of Tulsa. My first trip out of the box here was on the Mississippi River, Illinois River, seeing the dam and locks system and talking with the folks involved in our navigable inland waterways and moving commerce on that system and the need for reliability, the benefits that exist from efficient delivery, arguably, and our need to maintain and improve that system so that it continues to be an important part of our commerce system. Part and parcel, that’s one of our priorities is shoring up the supply chain, and so from that standpoint, I am with you in the importance of those projects, sir.

Inhofe: And I appreciate that very much. The last thing I would mention is on our lakes development. I never knew why it was this way, but it always seems that they were concerned with navigation and flood control but not recreation. We have so many great opportunities for recreation, and that is something that we are looking at for the first time. I actually, I was chairman, I guess, of this committee during the ’07 WRDA legislation. We made some advancement at that time and again in 2020, but I would like to say that we have all changed in our priorities on the lake system that we have. We recognize that recreation is a very important opportunity for us in our state of Oklahoma. I would hope that you would agree that that is an area that we need to concentrate on for everyone’s benefit.

Connor: Absolutely, Senator. I have a long history at the Interior Department. I was glad to hear when I came over in this position that we have more campgrounds in the Army Corps of Engineers program than the National Parks Service. I understand the importance of that, particularly during the pandemic. We’ve seen how people have gone to recreate in federal facilities outdoors. It’s an important part of the portfolio because it serves those communities in which we exist.

Inhofe: Well, I appreciate that and thank you, Senator Capito.

Cole Leads Bipartisan Introduction of Medical Student Education Authorization Act

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-01), Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) today introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Medical Student Education Authorization Act, to authorize the Medical Student Education (MSE) Program for five years. The MSE Program provides grants to public institutions of higher education to expand or support graduate education for physicians in states with the most severe primary care provider shortages. First created in 2019 by Congressman Cole and Senator Inhofe, the MSE Program is currently subject to annual authorizations, which results in significant uncertainty over funding and long-term planning for funded institutions.

“When training is offered in medically underserved communities, physicians are much more likely to choose to practice there later in their careers, which directly benefits those living in those areas,” said Cole. “Authorization of the Medical Student Education Program for five years would allow community-based experiential training in tribal, rural and medically underserved communities to continue with long-term certainty. I am proud to join my colleagues across the aisle and across the Capitol in introducing commonsense legislation that is vital to training the next generation of providers and mitigating shortages in vulnerable areas.”

“I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan bill with my colleagues from Oklahoma, Mr. Tom Cole and Mr. Markwayne Mullin. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada, Reno medical schools provide needed care to our communities and these grants will make vital funding available to help them recruit and support physician education,” said Titus. “At a time when health care is paramount, training and retaining doctors in-state will help ensure Nevadans have access to high-quality care in the years ahead.”

“Often times, people in my district have to travel long distances to see their primary care provider at small, rural hospitals or IHS and Tribally-run facilities,” said Mullin. “Between the pandemic and shortages in our workforce, it’s getting harder for these facilities to recruit new physicians. The reauthorization of this program will help states suffering from primary care shortages and support an increase in physicians who are able to offer culturally competent care. Americans who live in rural and underserved communities deserve access to quality health care and that’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill.”

“Doctors play a critical role in the health and well-being of Oklahomans and individuals across the nation—as evidenced ten-fold by this pandemic,” said Inhofe. “I have always been an advocate for retaining the talent of the next generation of medical students in our state, which is why I am pleased to introduce the Medical Student Education Authorization Act alongside Rep. Cole. This bill will support medical student training in Tribal, rural and medically underserved communities, helping guarantee sufficient doctors in these areas for years to come and ensuring all Oklahomans can continue to have access to high quality health care.”

“Communities across Nevada and our country are in dire need of more health care professionals, and Congress must act to fill these gaps and ensure access to quality medical care,” said Rosen. “This bipartisan legislation would authorize the Medical Student Education program for another five years, and address the physician shortage for states like Nevada that have significant shortages by supporting the next generation of medical professionals.”

Upon introduction, the legislation received strong support from relevant individuals and organizations.

“The AHA commends Representatives Cole, Mullin and Titus and Senators Inhofe and Rosen for introducing this important bipartisan legislation to help increase the number of physicians across the country, especially in areas with the most severe provider shortages,” said Stacey Hughes, AHA Executive Vice President. “Having a talented, qualified, engaged and diverse workforce is at the heart of America’s health care system but many physicians and other health care professionals are exhausted from two years of being on the front lines battling COVID-19. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this critical legislation that will continue to help build the physician workforce pipeline, especially in medically underserved communities.”

“National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representatives Cole, Titus, and Mullin and Senators Inhofe and Rosen for introducing the Medical Student Education Authorization Act. Since the Medical Student Education (MSE) Program was first authorized in 2019, it has made a profound impact on training physicians in rural communities. We know that physician’s training experiences in rural communities result in higher practices rates is rural areas. Passing a five year authorization of the MSE Program, as this legislation does, will be helpful for stabilizing the depleting workforce in rural communities. As rural communities rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening the workforce is a top priority for NRHA. Programs like the MSE Program are critical to ensuring rural communities have the workforce they need to provide services for their residents,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.

“This legislation would benefit Tribal health programs by increasing the number of Indian health providers and providing training to better serve American Indian and Alaska Native patients.  This bill provides grants to higher education institutions in states with severe health care provider shortages.  The emphasis on partnerships between these institutions and Tribal nations, integrating behavioral health into primary care, and addressing health equities will complement Tribal nations’ efforts to enhance their health care delivery systems.  We call upon Congress to pass this legislation and get it signed into law this year,” said Chairman of the National Indian Health Board, William Smith.

“Oklahoma’s physician residency programs are of the utmost importance right now, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the healthcare workforce. The Medical School Education Authorization Act will help solve the persistent primary care provider shortages in Oklahoma,” said Mary Clarke, MD OSMA President

“Because the vast majority of Oklahoma counties face a shortage of primary care physicians, the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine places a major emphasis on enhancing the primary care experience for our medical students. Through courses in our curriculum and community partnerships across the state, our students learn about and are exposed to the needs of people who live in tribal, rural and medically underserved areas. In addition, our success in recruiting and retaining students from across Oklahoma including underrepresented areas is helping to secure a bright future. We want to thank Congressman Cole, Congresswoman Titus, Congressman Mullin, Senator Inhofe and Senator Rosen for their leadership on helping us continue to grow these educational opportunities. In doing so, we anticipate an increase in primary care physicians practicing throughout the state, ultimately helping to improve the health and quality of life for all Oklahomans,” said John Zubialde, M.D., Executive Dean, OU College of Medicine.

“Our mission at the OSU Center for Health Sciences is focused on providing health care for rural and underserved communities throughout Oklahoma. Expanding our footprint in partnership with the Cherokee Nation to establish the first tribally affiliated medical school in the nation has been instrumental in fulfilling that mission. Support such as the MSE program makes this mission come to life, and ultimately will positively impact the health outcomes for everyday Oklahomans,” said Dr. Johnny Stephens, President, OSU Center for Health Sciences.

“The MSE program has been instrumental in our work to expand medical education and clinical training opportunities into rural and tribal communities in Oklahoma.  The new Cherokee Nation campus of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine has allowed for the expansion of OSU’s medical school class size by 50 students per year and created programs that support our recruiting from rural and tribal communities, educating future physicians on tribal land, and the expansion of clinical educational opportunities in these same communities,” said Dr. Natasha Bray, Interim Dean, OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.

“Many thanks to Congresswoman Titus for her efforts to secure stable funding for the next five years for the Medical Student Education Program. This type of forward thinking will help us train more medical students in the underserved communities of Southern Nevada, including our vast tribal lands. This will also help with recruiting a diverse group of medical students who will help care for our varied urban community,” said Marc J. Kahn, Dean of Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV.

“Nevada desperately needs primary care physicians. We rank 48th nationally and 67% of the state’s population reside in a primary care health professional shortage area. This grant program, if expanded, will allow UNR Med to use proven strategies to recruit and retain Nevada medical students to serve the rural and underserved communities in our state,” said Melissa Piasecki, M.D., Acting Dean- UNR Med, Chief Academic Officer- Renown Health.

Putin Continues to Test and Provoke

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For several months, an increasing and disturbing presence of Russian military troops and equipment has lined the Ukrainian border, heightening concerns that Russia intends to invade in the coming days. With tensions between these two countries expected to reach a boiling point, it is worth considering the gravity of the consequences of such conflict and why the danger facing our friends in Ukraine matters to the United States.

This isn’t the first time Ukraine has been the target of Russian aggression. As you might remember in 2014, Russian armed forces seized control of the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine. While Russia has held de facto control over that area since then, it is not recognized by the United States or other member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). At the time of the Crimean invasion, former President Barack Obama showed lackluster leadership and refused to help our Ukrainian friends or impose sanctions on Russia.

Amid another imminent threat facing Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly intending to gain control of the country, now is not the time for the United States to take a back seat on the global stage. President Biden should promise lethal aid, and lots of it, as well as the strongest possible economic, diplomatic and political sanctions. Indeed, it is vital that America and our NATO allies consider ways to assist Ukraine in this time of desperate need. 

Indeed, this unfolding situation requires strong and decisive action. Unfortunately, Putin and several other leaders around the world recognize the weakness displayed by President Biden, especially after his careless and disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August. Beyond the alarming situation of Russia testing and provoking the United States and our allies through its presence along the Ukrainian border, bad actors in other areas of the world are similarly becoming empowered to test their limits. We see this happening in areas of eastern Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Taiwan Strait.

Although I remain concerned about President Biden’s shortfalls in leadership amid these ongoing tensions worldwide, I am proud that Congress is at least poised to deliver the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022 to his desk. Passed in the House last week and soon expected for a vote in the Senate, this vital piece of legislation authorizes the necessary resources and funding to provide a defense that can stand up to our adversaries, like Russia, while also sending support to our allies. Among many other things, this NDAA authorizes $300 million in security assistance and intelligence support for Ukraine, as well as up to $75 million in lethal assistance. It also continues to prohibit military cooperation with Russia and any recognition of Russian sovereignty of Crimea.

Unfortunately, at a time when our adversaries are becoming increasingly and alarmingly more aggressive, President Biden and many Democrats still stand by an effective cut in the current version of the annual defense appropriations bill. For the priorities contained in NDAA to be fully realized and accomplished, the authorized funding increase must be replicated in the appropriations process. Congress must not only authorize the resources our military needs but enact the related funding to ensure the success of our military, and I remain committed to doing just that.

During times of crisis, our nation needs a strong commander in chief to lead American military and diplomatic efforts to deter bad actors. This includes not only supporting our friends around the world in their time of need, but providing for our national defense to counter threats of terror and hold the line on our strategic adversaries.

The Blessing of Being American

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As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, I hope you will join me in reflecting on the incredible blessings we have – simply because we are Americans. Indeed, this annual tradition of joining together in collective gratitude transcends differences in political parties and points of view.

No matter one’s feelings on the state of affairs in our country, Thanksgiving is a reminder that we are still the most fortunate people on earth. We live in the greatest country in the world. We live in the freest country that mankind has ever seen. And we live in a country that provides more opportunity and more security for its citizens than any other nation ever has in the history of humanity.

I hope that as you give thanks with your family, friends and loved ones this year, you take a moment to remember how extraordinary the blessing we all have been given to live in the remarkable United States of America. I hope you give thanks for the people who protect us, including our men and women in uniform at home and abroad, who never truly stand down. I hope you give thanks for our law enforcement and those first on the scene during emergencies who, even on the most sacred holidays, are ready to respond. I hope you give thanks for people who work in stores, for farmers who provide our food and for energy producers who make sure we can heat and power our homes. 

Americans look after Americans. We depend on one another as a people. We lend a hand and come to one another’s aid in times of crisis, and we always end up stronger and even more resilient. And that generosity, desire to improve lives and willingness to help is extended to people around the world in incredible ways.

So as you count your blessings and say your prayers of gratitude, I hope you remember how lucky we all are to be Americans. May God bless you and your loved ones this Thanksgiving.

Cole, Kind Introduce Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) and Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) today introduced the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. This bipartisan legislation would change an existing policy that requires Medicare beneficiaries at rural critical access hospitals (CAHs) to pay more in coinsurance than patients who receive the same care at larger acute care hospitals.

“I am proud to join my colleague Congressman Ron Kind in introducing bipartisan legislation that improves access and affordability of hospitals for older Americans living in rural communities. Specifically, our commonsense bill, the Fairness for Rural Beneficiaries Act, brings needed parity for Medicare beneficiaries to the costs associated with receiving care, whether that is in a rural or urban facility,” said Congressman Tom Cole, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

“Critical Access Hospitals serve families across Wisconsin, especially in rural regions, but many Medicare beneficiaries are stuck paying higher prices just because of where they obtain care. The Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act will help right this wrong and make sure Medicare beneficiaries aren’t financially penalized for accessing care close to home,” said Congressman Ron Kind

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representatives Cole and Kind for introducing the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. Under current law, when a patient goes to a critical access hospital (CAH) they are billed 20 percent of the cost of charges submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In other hospital settings, because they’re reimbursed through a different fee schedule, patients are billed 20 percent of the reasonable costs determined by CMS for that procedure. Unfortunately, what this looks like on the ground is rural patients being charged more for coinsurance because of where they obtain care geographically. This is wrong. NRHA applauds Representatives Cole and Kind for introducing this important legislation to eliminate what is essentially a tax on patients seeking care in rural communities,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.

“The Oklahoma Hospital Association supports Rep. Cole’s introduction of the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. This is a commonsense approach for rural Medicare patients and their local critical access hospitals. This legislation levels the playing field for hospitals and patients in rural areas. No longer will rural patients be forced to pay higher out-of-pocket (co-insurance) costs for outpatient services that can be provided close to home,” said Patti Davis, President, Oklahoma Hospital Association.

“We support the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act to eliminate the out of pocket payment difference between acute care facilities and critical access hospitals.  Medicare patients in rural Oklahoma or rural Wisconsin shouldn’t have to pay more out of pocket at critical access hospitals.  This bill will level the playing field,” said Laura Kaiser, President and Chief Executive Officer, SSM Health. 

Bill text is available here.

An Invasion of Privacy

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In an attempt to pay for their irresponsible socialist spending package, Democrats have put forward a radical proposal that would authorize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to spy on the bank accounts of every American. This is an outrageous invasion of privacy and contradicts U.S. societal norms.

Following public outcry, Democrats recently revised their socialist regulatory surveillance plan. However, their “scaled back” version is hardly different in its real impact. Democrats’ snooping plan would require banks to monitor any accounts with more than $10,000 in annual deposits or withdrawals – including inflows and outflows made with physical cash, transactions with a foreign account and transfers to and from another account with the same owner. So along with weaponizing the IRS, Democrats want to turn local and community banks into new regulatory divisions, implemented with $80 billion added to the taxpayers’ tab.

While the Biden Administration claims this regulation would help the IRS identify tax cheats amongst high earners, the reality is that every American who pays rent or a mortgage would be targeted. Beyond rent or mortgage, hardworking American families could be opened up to surveillance simply by investing in a child’s college education, taking out a loan to buy farm equipment or start a small business, starting a part-time job to make some extra money or even transferring money from a savings account to a checking account or vice versa. Indeed, this surveillance scheme is not about preventing tax evasion of wealthy people or large corporations, it is about taxing blue-collar workers and family-owned businesses, farms and ranches, so Democrats can subsidize programs and fund tax giveaways in blue states. 

In response to this highly invasive proposal, I recently signed two letters to the IRS and U.S. Department of the Treasury expressing my opposition to any threshold for Americans’ bank accounts to be spied on. Additionally, I am a cosponsor of the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act, which would prohibit the Treasury from requiring any financial institution to report the ins or outs of any account maintained by the institution.

Aside from the intrusion of privacy, the proposal also raises very real fears related to cybersecurity, especially considering that the IRS is often targeted by cybercriminals and has experienced multiple data breaches in recent years. Allowing the IRS to collect sensitive and personal financial information could pose a very serious threat to millions of Americans if another breach were to occur.

I wish I could say that the Biden Administration’s desired overreach of private banking data ended here. Sadly, there is more cause for concern over his nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, Saule Omarova, whose confirmation hearings are currently underway in the U.S. Senate. This position oversees the charter, regulation and supervision of all national banks. A 1989 graduate of Moscow State University on the Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship, Omarova has applauded Russia’s economic system as superior. Even more alarming, she has written that the Federal Reserve should take over consumer bank deposits, end America’s current banking system and instead use Venezuela and China as models for our financial system.

In their ongoing quest to transform America into a socialist nation, Democrats are seeking to inherently change our financial system and spy on citizens, even without any accusation of wrongdoing. This is not only an astonishing breach of privacy that presents serious cybersecurity risks, it is simply un-American.

Cole Mourns Loss of General Colin Powell

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after learning of the loss of former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell.

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the unexpected passing of Colin Powell,” said Cole. “America has lost not only a great warrior and respected statesman but a genuinely wise and decent man. Secretary Powell was a role model and a patriot revered and respected by millions of Americans of every race, ethnicity and political persuasion.

“During my time in politics and in Congress, I had the privilege of interacting with Colin Powell. While we didn’t agree on every issue, I respected his perspective, his thoughtful approach to every issue, his deep patriotism and his long and selfless service to our country. 

“I extend my sympathy to the Powell family, including his wife of 59 years, Alma Powell, and his loving children and grandchildren. All America grieves with them in their loss. 

“In the words of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, Colin Powell spoke to ‘the better angels of our nature.’ His calm voice in these turbulent times will be greatly missed.”