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SOS Cuba

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In recent weeks, we have seen courageous Cubans flood the streets across their country. The Cuban people desperately desire to protest the tyranny and incompetence of the communist dictatorship that has ruled their country with an iron hand for 62 years. Their brave protests are demanding the very things most Americans take for granted – free elections, free speech and economic opportunity.

Cuba’s brutal communist regime has been quick to respond to the demonstrations of its own citizens. Protestors have been beaten in the streets, hundreds of non-violent demonstrators have been imprisoned, the internet has been cut off and media outlets have been silenced. Sadly, many western leaders and countries have ignored or soft-pedaled the plight of the Cuban people and the barbarity of the regime that rules this beleaguered island nation.

In our own country, apologists for the Cuban regime in Congress have actually blamed America for the troubles of Cuba. They claim the boycott of Cuba, maintained by multiple administrations of both parties for many decades, is the cause of the current demonstrations. In doing so, they ignore the brutality and ineptitude of the communist clique that has ruled Cuba for six decades. And they also turn a blind eye to Cuba’s efforts to spread its own brand of communism, called “democratic socialism,” across Latin America. Indeed, even as it faces demonstrations in its own streets, Cuba’s communist regime is helping to prop up despotic regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The struggle of brave and bold Cubans demanding freedom is a sobering reminder of the harsh and oppressive reality of socialism and communism. These seductive ideologies have failed time and time again when put into practice in countries around the world. When Fidel Castro came into power in 1959, Cuba was one of the wealthiest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Castro promised economic prosperity and freedom under the guise of “democratic socialism.” What the Cuban people got instead was economic stagnation and political oppression at the hands of a brutal, self-perpetuating communist dictatorship.

While many Cuban apologists on the American left blame the U.S. embargo for Cuba’s problems, the real culprit is its own communist regime. Indeed, as America’s own thriving Cuban community has demonstrated, when given political freedom and economic opportunity, Cubans, like other people, will thrive and prosper. Indeed, the contrast between the thriving Cuban community in Florida and the miserable plight of Cubans in Cuba itself is convincing proof of the superiority of democratic capitalism over the false promises of communist dictatorship.

I am disappointed that so many members of Congress have been oblivious to the drama taking place in Cuba just 90 miles off our shores. Rather than blaming American policy for the failures of Cuba’s communist regime, they should be encouraging the brave Cuban protestors and urging our government to do what it can to support their protests and rally the world to their cause. As the brightest beacon of hope for freedom and opportunity around the world, the United States must stand with the Cuban people in their fight for democracy. That is why I joined dozens of Republicans last week in urging world leaders to act in support of the Cuban people and their democratic aspirations.

The Cubans flooding their streets while waving American flags is a sobering reminder of the precious freedoms we enjoy and too often take for granted. Indeed, I am struck by the sight of Cubans celebrating the freedoms of America at a time when Americans turn their back on this global symbol of freedom. We should never take the freedoms we enjoy and that our flag embodies and symbolizes for granted. And we should never forget that as Americans we have a special obligation to offer moral and material support to those fighting for these ideals that our flag so proudly represents.

Cole Statement on Juneteenth Independence Day

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement in observance of Juneteenth, which was officially made a national holiday through legislation passed in Congress and signed into law by the president this week.

“On Juneteenth, we pause to remember a monumental moment in American history more than 150 years ago, and we celebrate its establishment as our newest national holiday. As we reflect on the rightful end of slavery in our country and the emancipation of African Americans held in bondage, we reaffirm our nation’s founding ideals of liberty and justice for all. Indeed, we should draw strength from Juneteenth’s role in liberating our history and further refining and defining what our great union was designed to represent for all – regardless of color or creed.”

Cole Congratulates 2021 Service Academy Appointees

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) this week congratulated four students who received and accepted appointments to attend one of the United States military service academies. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy all require a congressional nomination to be considered for appointment. Cole previously nominated these students for appointment consideration in December.

“I am delighted to congratulate Jonathan Kim, Elliott Kmetz, Elena Price and Nathan Wirth on receiving and accepting appointments to attend one of America’s esteemed military service academies,” said Cole. “Their selfless desire and willingness to answer the call to serve our country with their talents and intelligence is commendable, and I was honored to play a small part in their journey by nominating each of them for potential appointment. As they enter this next phase of their lives and education, I know these young leaders will continue to make their families, friends, communities and our state proud every step of the way.”

The students from the Fourth District of Oklahoma who received and accepted appointments are listed below:

U.S. Military Academy at West PointElena Price, Lawton – Eisenhower High School

U.S. Naval Academy
Jonathan Kim, Oklahoma City – Westmoore High School*

U.S. Air Force Academy
Elliott Kmetz, Norman – Norman High School *
Nathan Wirth, Norman – Norman High School

*Note: Jonathan Kim was also offered an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Elliott Kmetz was also offered an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

USDA to Invest in Supply Chain

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WASHINGTON, June 8, 2021 – Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. The new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind, and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain. Today’s announcement supports the Biden Administration’s broader work on strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance such as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Secretary Vilsack was also named co-chair of the Administration’s new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force. The Task Force will provide a whole of government response to address near-term supply chain challenges to the economic recovery. The Task Force will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions—large and small, public or private—that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints related to the economy’s reopening after the Administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts.
USDA will invest more than $4 billion to strengthen the food system, support food production, improved processing, investments in distribution and aggregation, and market opportunities. Through the Build Back Better initiative, USDA will help to ensure the food system of the future is fair, competitive, distributed, and resilient; supports health with access to healthy, affordable food; ensures growers and workers receive a greater share of the food dollar; and advances equity as well as climate resilience and mitigation. While the Build Back Better initiative addresses near- and long-term issues, recent events have exposed the immediate need for action. With attention to competition and investments in additional small- and medium-sized meat processing capacity, the Build Back Better initiative will spur economic opportunity while increasing resilience and certainty for producers and consumers alike.
“The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive disruption for growers and food workers. It exposed a food system that was rigid, consolidated, and fragile. Meanwhile, those growing, processing and preparing our food are earning less each year in a system that rewards size over all else,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Build Back Better initiative will make meaningful investments to build a food system that is more resilient against shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds. I am confident USDA’s investments will spur billions more in leveraged funding from the private sector and others as this initiative gains traction across the country. I look forward to getting to work as co-chair of the new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and help to mobilize a whole-of-government effort to address the short-term supply challenges our country faces as it recovers.”
The Build Back Better Initiative will strengthen and transform critical parts of the U.S. food system. As it makes investments through this initiative, USDA will also seek to increase transparency and competition with attention to how certain types of conduct in the livestock markets and the meat processing sector have resulted in thinly-traded markets and unfair treatment of some farmers, ranchers and small processors. Among other investments in the food system and food supply chain, Build Back Better will specifically address the shortage of small meat processing facilities across the country as well as the necessary local and regional food system infrastructure needed to support them.
Funding announcements under the Build Back Better initiative will include a mix of grants, loans, and innovative financing mechanisms for the following priorities, each of which includes mechanisms to tackle the climate crisis and help communities that have been left behind, including:

  1. Food Production: Food production relies on growers, including farmers and ranchers, workers, and critical inputs. But a diminishing share of the food dollar goes to these essential workers. USDA will invest in the current and future generation of food producers and workers throughout the food system with direct assistance, grants, training and technical assistance, and more.
  2. Food Processing: The pandemic highlighted challenges with consolidated processing capacity. It created supply bottlenecks, which led to a drop in effective plant and slaughter capacity. Small and midsize farmers often struggled to compete for processing access. USDA will make investments to support new and expanded regional processing capacity.
  3. Food Distribution & Aggregation: Food aggregation and distribution relies on people working together throughout the food system and having the right infrastructure to gather, move and hold the food where and when it is needed. This system was stressed during the pandemic due to long shipping distances and lack of investment in local and regional capacity. USDA will make investments in food system infrastructure that can remain resilient, flexible and responsive.
  4. Markets & Consumers: The U.S. spends more on health care and less on food than any other high-income nation; yet the U.S. has higher rates of diet-related illness and a lower life expectancy than those nations. At the same time, many socially disadvantaged and small and mid-sized producers do not have equitable access to markets. USDA will support new and expanded access to markets for a diversity of growers while helping eaters access healthy foods.

USDA will continue to make announcements through the Build Back Better initiative in the months to come. Today’s announcement is in addition to the $1 billion announced last week to purchase healthy food for food insecure Americans and build food bank capacity, putting the total announced thus far at more than $5 billion.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

Cole Announces 2021 Congressional App Challenge for OK-04

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) today encouraged middle school and high school students in the Fourth District of Oklahoma to participate in the 2021 Congressional App Challenge. This annual competition is designed to promote innovation, engagement and excellence in computer science through student development of an application (“app”).

“I am delighted to invite students living in the Fourth District of Oklahoma to participate in this year’s Congressional App Challenge. This educational initiative is a fantastic way for students to explore, sharpen and hone their coding and computer-based skills, which could inspire and prepare them to pursue potential careers in STEM fields. As this unique challenge gets underway, I look forward to seeing the new ideas and creativity of students.”

While this year’s Congressional App Challenge will officially launch later this month, interested students can already pre-register by visiting congressionalappchallenge.us. Beginning June 24, contest submissions will be accepted on the site’s portal with the final deadline of 11 a.m. CT on Monday, November 1, 2021. Following the submissions period, entries from the Fourth District will be judged and the winner selected by a local panel of relevant experts.

Questions can be directed to StudentSupport@CongressionalAppChallenge.us or by calling Cole’s Norman office at (405) 329-6500. Additional information can also be found atcole.house.gov/services/app-challenge.

Background on the Congressional App Challenge

Launched by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015, this national contest invites students to create an application (“app”) for desktop/PC, web, tablet, mobile, raspberry Pi or other devices using any programming language – such as C, C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby or “block code.” The competition is open to all students who meet the eligibility requirements, regardless of their coding experience. Winning apps from congressional districts across the country are eligible for display in the U.S. Capitol and featured on the U.S. House of Representatives’ website at House.gov.

More information is available at congressionalappchallenge.us.

Congressman Lucas Introduces Legislation Increasing Scrutiny of Foreign Investment in Agricultural Businesses

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Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) introduced the Agricultural Security Risk Review Act, legislation that would formally place the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary as a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The Agricultural Security Risk Review Act ensures that CFIUS is operating effectively and efficiently to determine if a transaction, including agricultural, threatens to impair the national security of the United States.
“Protecting America’s agriculture security is a critical part of our national security,” said Congressman Lucas. “CFIUS is authorized to ensure that our country’s national security isn’t threated by foreign investment, and with an increasing amount of foreign investment in U.S. agriculture, including the Secretary of Agriculture as a member of CFIUS is long overdue. I know firsthand just how important our agriculture industry is, which is why Congress must remove the hurdles that keep USDA from having a permanent seat at the table with CFIUS’ review of foreign transactions.” The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is an interagency committee that reviews potential national security threats of foreign investment in the United States. CFIUS consists of nine members, chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury, and includes the Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Energy, the United States Trade Representative, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. CFIUS members informally screen proposed foreign investments into the United States before launching a formal review. Currently, in order for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be included in investigations, the Secretary of the Treasury must designate USDA as a part of the review. Without this designation, USDA does not participate in any of the review process and is not consulted in the CFIUS recommendation to the President. Foreign ownership of U.S. farmland and agricultural businesses has steadily increased. The growing concentration of foreign investment in the U.S. agricultural sector should necessitate that expert analysis of this sector be available to the Committee. CFIUS has the authority to review food and agricultural transactions to ensure the safety and resiliency of U.S. food supply but lacks the agricultural expertise of USDA in the review process.

Cole Statement on President Biden’s Outrageous FY 2022 Budget Request

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after President Joe Biden sent a $6 trillion budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2022. Cole is the Vice Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee. 

“Looking at the price tag alone, President Biden’s budget request is utterly outrageous and unrealistic,” said Cole. “While Congress is ultimately responsible for providing the annual funding for the federal government, the Biden Administration has demonstrated yet again that its solution for everything is to tax, spend and then spend some more. Such misguided and unnecessary expansion of government is not sustainable for America’s future. Moreover, we simply cannot afford it.  

“Our country’s enormous and growing debt already exceeds an astounding $28 trillion. The last thing America needs is President Biden’s proposed tax-and-spend monstrosity. To be clear, navigating the coronavirus pandemic response and recovery greatly strained communities across the nation, which led to five bipartisan and massive packages to support emergency efforts. But the situation has changed dramatically since then. Communities are reopening. People are getting vaccinated. Life is starting to return to a relative normal. Rather than proposing trillions in spending on non-pandemic related programs and initiatives, the president should be focused on fostering the nation’s economic recovery.

“Despite promises made on the campaign trail not to raise taxes on those with low and middle income, the president’s budget would let existing tax cuts expire, which would immediately increase the tax burden on hardworking Americans. As individuals, families and small businesses continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, such levels of unprecedented spending and taxation would only lead to inflation, slowed economic growth and the highest national debt level in American history.

“In his earlier budget outline, President Biden prioritized programs to appease the far-left faction of his party, such as vastly expanding Medicare, while also proposing effective cuts for our national defense. Now more than ever, we should be bolstering our common defense as our adversaries such as China and Russia are growing their militaries by the day.

“Fortunately, for the American people, Democrats do not have the majorities capable of passing this level of expansive programs on their own. Moreover, Congress holds the purse strings. In the days and weeks ahead, it is my hope that Congress can negotiate spending that is actually reasonable and won’t lead to financial disaster.”

The Supreme Court is Not a Political Tool

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Earlier this month, Democrats in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate introduced legislation to add four justices to the bench of the Supreme Court. Ushering in such a drastic change to one of our nation’s most fundamental institutions would represent an outrageous power grab and set a precedent of using our nation’s highest court as a partisan political tool.

While true that the Supreme Court has been expanded and shrunk at different points in U.S. history, that has not been the case for some time. In fact, it was 1869 – more than 150 years ago – that lawmakers stopped this practice to ensure the Court would remain an apolitical institution for the American people. Moreover, the majority of Americans are against expanding the Court since it is seen as a way for Democrats to rubber stamp their progressive policies. 

Structurally changing the Supreme Court, as proposed in recent legislation, is something also previously opposed by past and present left-leaning justices. For example, the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once stated, “Nine seems to be a good number. It’s been that way for a long time.” In addition, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who currently sits on the bench of the Court, recently said in a lecture that institutional changes would lead to severe distrust in the Court and cause it to no longer be viewed as a fair institution by the American people

In 1983, then-Senator Joe Biden adamantly disapproved of packing the Supreme Court, calling it a “bonehead decision” and “terrible, terrible mistake.” Those previous statements made by now-President Biden makes his newly established Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, tasked with studying reform of the Court, hypocritical and misguided. Make no mistake, when Democrats talk about reforming the Supreme Court, they mean they are attempting to expand it. 

While Democrats may claim that former President Trump “packed” the Court by putting forward a nomination when a vacancy came up, let’s be clear. There is a difference between filling a vacant seat and adding extra justices to politically sway decisions. Moreover, this could trigger a terrible precedent of either expanding and shrinking the Court whenever shifts in power in Congress and the White House occur in the future. This would inherently erode the checks and balances our Founding Fathers created to ensure that minority parties, but more importantly, the American people are protected from one party gaining too much control. We must keep the nine. 

Cole Votes Against D.C. Statehood

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act. Passed along party lines by a vote of 216-208, Cole opposed the legislation related to granting statehood to the District of Columbia. 

“At its core, H.R. 51 has nothing to do with ensuring proper representation for the residents of the District of Columbia and everything to do with Democrats hoping to seize more favorable power in Congress,” said Cole. “But more alarming, the action outlined by the legislation is unconstitutional and would undermine the 23rd Amendment, which describes a District – not beholden to any state – to serve as the seat of our nation’s government.

“While it is certainly important for all Americans to feel fully represented in their national government, there are other solutions for the District of Columbia’s residents that are both fair and, more importantly, actually constitutional. For example, in 1846, Congress reinstated Virginia’s control of Arlington and Alexandria to provide representation to citizens living in those areas. The same could be done now if areas of D.C. were to become part of the nearby state of Maryland. However, that sort of constitutional solution wouldn’t deliver the intended power grab Democrats are hoping to achieve in their push to make D.C. the 51st state.”

Cole Remembers Oklahoma City Bombing on 26th Anniversary

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement on the 26th anniversary of the bombing that occurred at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

“Twenty-six years ago today, our state and country experienced one of its most solemn tragedies,” said Cole. “In an act of senseless terror, 168 innocent people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured or had their lives forever changed. As we pause today to remember those taken, we also grieve with the many families and loved ones left behind. I vividly remember that day, and although it was tragic, I was extremely proud of the outpouring of heroism and support from every first responder, government official and bystander who worked together in rescue and recovery for the hours and days afterward. Indeed, communities across the state, through their outpouring of support, set the Oklahoma Standard.”