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Tuesday, August 3, 2021
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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.”

A Vaccine in Record Time

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When this year began, none of us expected to face a global pandemic that would steal hundreds of thousands of American lives, inflict unprecedented damage on our economy, disrupt business as usual and uproot life as we know it. But although the United States certainly did not create the coronavirus crisis, our country has led in the mission to eliminate the virus and restore our way of life by seeking to deliver a vaccine in record time. As we celebrate Christmas this week and look toward 2021, I am grateful that vaccines are already beginning to reach frontline health care workers and the most vulnerable in our communities, providing hope for better days ahead.

I urge you not to miss how remarkable this achievement is for our country and for humanity. Historically, delivery of a vaccine has never been completed in less than a year. In fact, while the fastest a vaccine has been discovered and deployed is four years, the vaccine development process usually takes as long as 10-15 years. But thanks to Operation Warp Speed (OWS), two vaccines are now ready to aid in the fight against COVID-19, with more likely to be approved for emergency use in the coming days and months. 

As you might know, OWS was initiated by the Trump Administration in mid-May and established a public-private partnership between relevant federal agencies – including the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense – and pharmaceutical companies. Since it was created, OWS has not only supported some of the scientific vaccine research but it has enabled more rapid development and testing of vaccine candidates. This accelerated timeline is not from cutting corners or sacrificing safety. It is made possible by smart adaptations to the usual process. Notably, OWS has allowed promising vaccine candidates to undergo clinical trials at essentially the same time as regulatory approval and preparation for mass production. Moreover, OWS has led to the pre-purchase of hundreds of millions of doses. That means that once a vaccine candidate is deemed safe and effective and approved for emergency use, it can be distributed almost immediately.

Indeed, we have already begun to see this rapid distribution happen with the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and with Moderna’s soon to follow. Because the federal government pre-purchased hundreds of millions of vaccine doses months ago, manufacturing could take place at the same time as clinical trials. Since the testing and manufacturing steps in the process were simultaneous, that enabled the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to start shipping out immediately after receiving emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The first doses arrived in Oklahoma just a few days later and reached Lawton’s own Comanche County Memorial Hospital, where the ultra-cold freezer necessary is available and can serve as a safe and central storage site supporting distribution efforts in Southwest Oklahoma.

At the recommendation of the Office of the Attending Physician and to demonstrate my total confidence in our nation’s vaccine efforts, I received my first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine over the weekend. While vaccinations are a personal decision, defeating this terrible coronavirus is a war we must fight and win together. We can all do our part by taking the free-of-charge vaccine as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, please continue taking the same practical precautions we have learned this year to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please continue to wear a mask, social distance and frequently wash your hands. For details and ongoing updates on Oklahoma’s four-phase vaccine distribution plan, please visit oklahoma.gov/covid19/vaccine-information.

We Still Give Thanks

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This has been a very trying year, filled with challenges and difficulties none of us expected to face. While I wish the trials had reached their end, we must hang on and continue to persevere. But as we do, we should also find some comfort in the blessings that exist even in such dark circumstances and recognize the hopeful light at the end of the tunnel. For in times of great abundance or of great hardship, Americans find strength when we come together to give thanks.

Indeed, the unifying American tradition of giving thanks has been woven into our history since before our nation came to be. However, it’s worth noting that Thanksgiving was made a permanent national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln during a period of extreme difficulty and crisis for the United States: The Civil War. In fact, President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation came just a month and a half before delivering his famous Gettysburg address halfway through the war and amid great uncertainty, uneasiness and what were feared irreconcilable differences. 

As we continue to navigate and seek to overcome the coronavirus crisis of our own time, our Thanksgiving celebrations will look different than we’re used to. Whether we gather around a smaller table or see our loved ones virtually, I hope you’ll join in gratitude not only for each other but for the courage and commitment of those continuing to selflessly serve on the front lines of this awful pandemic.

We are truly indebted to those who have gotten up each day, left their houses and gone out to fulfill several key roles. We’ve seen it in our doctors, nurses and health care workers, who have risked their own lives every day to treat COVID-19 patients as well as those with other illnesses and ailments. We’ve seen it in those transporting essential supplies and making critical deliveries. We’ve seen it in our farmers and ranchers monitoring our food supply, along with workers in food processing facilities, meat packing plants and grocery stores, who are ensuring we have food to eat. We’ve seen it also in our military service members, who are still in the field protecting us at home and abroad. And we’ve seen it in our teachers, who have creatively adapted to educate our children in undesirable circumstances. 

All the while, our incredibly talented scientists and researchers have been working around the clock to discover, develop and deliver a vaccine and life-saving treatments to defeat COVID-19 and restore our way of life. In just the last few weeks, very promising data has been released about the effectiveness of three potential vaccines, including one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, one by Moderna and another by AstraZeneca. In test trials for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, both vaccine candidates have shown to be more than 94 percent effective and the latest data from AstraZeneca’s vaccine developed by Oxford University reveals up to 90 percent efficacy, which is outstanding news. And thanks to Operation Warp Speed initiated by the Trump Administration in mid-May of this year, these companies already have contracts with the federal government to provide 100 million doses of their vaccines. That means that once the vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, they can immediately start reaching Americans and saving lives. 

Although we are not out of the woods of the pandemic yet and the losses of this year have been difficult to bear, there is still a lot to be grateful for as a nation this Thanksgiving.

The Work Left To Do

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As the end of the year draws nearer, unfinished legislative work remains for lawmakers in both chambers of Congress. In the coming days and weeks, it is critically important that members come together to tackle the pressing work left to do.

First, Congress needs to provide full-year funding – also called appropriations – for the federal government. As you might know, annual appropriations support government programs that touch nearly every aspect of our daily lives as well as various facets of the economy – including national defense, operating national parks, law and immigration enforcement, health care research and a host of other activities. All of these activities should be funded through 12 annual appropriation bills passed by Congress and signed into law by the president before the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Unfortunately, that legislation has not been completed yet for fiscal year 2021. As a result, government operations are temporarily being funded by a short-term “continuing resolution” through December 11. I am encouraged that the Senate Appropriations Committee recently unveiled their version of annual funding legislation. However, it will ultimately require time, bipartisanship and good faith negotiation to ensure both chambers can pass and the president will sign any legislation into law.  

Along with continuing the government’s regular functions and preventing a shutdown, Congress still needs to act on additional coronavirus relief for the American people. Both chambers have already shown it’s possible to deliver relief in a bipartisan manner, as it did four times earlier this year. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has for months intentionally stalled progress on a fifth relief package even though bipartisan agreement exists on many things, such as extending the small business saving Paycheck Protection Program.  

Finally, another critical piece of legislation that awaits completion is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This annual legislation authorizes funding for the U.S. military and other critical defense priorities and ensures our troops and their families have what they need to defend our nation. The enactment of this complex legislation has been passed each year, for 59 years. In the coming weeks, I am hopeful that differences can be sorted out and we can send the NDAA to President Trump to be enacted to support our common defense and ensure protection of U.S. interests around the world.

Before the end of the year and the start of a new Congress, current members on both sides of the aisle and across the Capitol must work together to keep the government funded, act on another coronavirus relief package and authorize funding to support our common defense. I remain committed to finishing that important work, and I urge my colleagues to do the same for the good of all Americans.

Cole Mourns Passing of Ed Apple

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) today mourned the loss of Ed Apple, a devoted and longtime Duncan community leader, who recently passed away.  

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and a great Oklahoman, Ed Apple,” said Cole. “Ed was an amazing man — a Marine fighter pilot, a successful businessman, an impressive civic and political leader and a loving husband and family man. 

“I first met Ed in 1986 when I was Republican State Chairman, and he was running for State Representative. Most people thought a Republican couldn’t win solidly Democratic Duncan in that era. But win he did. When he did, he became the only elected Republican south of Moore in the entire state of Oklahoma.

“Ed went on to have an amazing public career. After eight distinguished years in the state House, he nearly won a congressional seat in 1994. In 1995, newly elected Governor Frank Keating appointed Ed to the Corporation Commission. He went on to be elected in his own right. He was an outstanding public servant.

“I extend my sincerest sympathies to Ed’s loving wife Betty and his wonderful children and grandchildren. Ed will be missed as a leader, a public servant, a friend to all who knew him and a devoted husband, father and grandfather who loved and cherished his family and friends above all else.”

The Need for Additional Relief

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Although there is broad bipartisan agreement in Congress that additional coronavirus relief is needed, I regret that the status of delivering relief hasn’t changed a lot since May. It’s even more disappointing since lawmakers already agree on how to approach several aspects of needed relief. 

As you might remember back in mid-May, the U.S. House of Representatives considered legislation deceptively packaged and promoted by Democrats as coronavirus relief. While there may have been a few worthy provisions, those items were greatly overshadowed by the unrelated-to-coronavirus policies stuffed into the more than $3 trillion package. Sadly, the substance of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s so-called HEROES Act looked more like using a crisis to advance a liberal wish list than a serious desire to help struggling Americans. That was made even more obvious by the fact that the legislation was crafted behind closed doors and without any Republican input whatsoever. Not surprisingly, that bill was never taken up by the Republican-led Senate or signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Since then, there have been scattered conversations between Speaker Pelosi and Trump Administration leaders that, at times, seemed hopeful. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has thus far refused to budge on both the total cost of the next relief package as well as her belief that we have to agree on everything before we can agree on anything. By contrast, the Trump Administration has shown a lot more willingness to negotiate something real. In fact, the president said himself that he would be willing to sign a bill totaling $1.5 trillion, if it didn’t have unrelated policies attached to it. Meanwhile, although many Democrats like to point fingers at the Senate for not bringing up a coronavirus relief bill of any kind, it’s worth noting that it was Senate Democrats who recently blocked consideration of one.   

Considering that both chambers managed to deliver four substantial and bipartisan relief packages to the American people earlier this year, the months long delay and lack of meaningful progress on a fifth makes me wonder if Democrats actually want to reach a deal. If so, last week’s activity in the House certainly didn’t help their cause.

Instead of bringing up measures with clear support in both chambers, Speaker Pelosi opted to revisit the same misguided approach on display in May by bringing up a supposedly revamped and lighter version of the HEROES Act. Unfortunately, HEROES 2.0 still included many of the same radical and unrelated provisions that couldn’t pass on their own merit. Moreover, Republicans were entirely left out in crafting the legislation again. In fact, it was such a nonstarter that it passed by only seven votes, and 18 Democrats even voted against it this time. 

The time wasted last week on a partisan bill is particularly disappointing when so many areas of bipartisan agreement already exist. Indeed, there are plenty of items that could pass both chambers separately and immediately – including a simple extension of the Paycheck Protection Program for struggling small businesses and their workers, aid to help schools reopen, additional unemployment aid and a second round of stimulus rebate checks.

As discussions continue between Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week, I remain hopeful for a breakthrough and that a bipartisan deal can still be reached – one that both chambers of Congress will pass and the president will sign. Indeed, it’s important for the American people that we do find agreement, and I remain ready to support such a measure.