Click here to open this e-mail in its own browser window   Click here to open a plain text version of this email


Dear Oklahoma Friends and Neighbors,

Congress continues to work on healthcare, tax reform, national debt, regulatory reform, job growth, national security, and a budget to fund the federal government.

Historically, the month of August is the only month during the year when Congress is not in session, but the Senate was still in DC this week to resolve a number of important issues such as funding for the Veterans Choice Program and confirmation of several important executive branch nominations. I look forward to connecting with you around the state in the days ahead. In the meantime, please contact my office if you have ideas or concerns about the topics Congress is discussing.

We cannot give up on fixing the healthcare problems in America

As many of you know, last Thursday and Friday the Senate worked into the early morning hours to repeal and replace the failed parts of Obamacare. I am deeply disappointed that the Senate fell one vote short to improve healthcare for millions of people. The vote last week was not the final product; it was only a vote to take the next step to provide access to healthcare for every American. The plan was always to vote on two separate bills in order to address the issues with Obamacare. The first bill, which was a partisan bill, was to eliminate the painful mandates in Obamacare law and to move insurance regulation back to the states. The second bill would have been a bipartisan bill to deal with the growing costs of healthcare. We can still move on to the second step, but without 51 votes we cannot eliminate the debilitating mandates.  

Obamacare did successfully cover a vulnerable population of Americans who previously did not have access to healthcare. But, provisions in Obamacare also forced millions to lose their health coverage due to very high costs and limited access to doctors and hospitals. Almost 100,000 Oklahomans pay the IRS individual mandate penalty each year for not having healthcare, and 81 percent of them making less than $50,000 a year. We cannot forget about our neighbors who pay a fine but still do not have access to basic health insurance. 

Several Committees in the Senate have already announced bipartisan hearings to focus on the problems at hand and discuss solutions to reform the broken government system. I have met with colleagues on both sides of the aisle this week to work on the next steps. I am still committed to eliminating the mandates and penalties for my fellow Oklahomans, while we also work on bipartisan solutions for health insurance.

To read my Facebook post at the conclusion of last week’s votes, CLICK HERE. I recorded a video about the process of last week’s votes to reform healthcare—CLICK HERE to watch. To read my statement on the Senate's failure to repeal and replace, CLICK HERE. During the final debate, I gave a floor speech—CLICK HERE to watch the video.

US sanctions Iran, Russia, and North Korea

Last week, Congress took steps to sanction three aggressive nations that are determined to intimidate their neighbors. Iran, Russia, and North Korea are oppressive regimes that must be confronted. The sanctions bill was passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate and was signed into law by the President.

Iran remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, Kim Jong-un from North Korea continues to threaten the world, Russia undoubtedly attempted to meddle in the 2016 elections and has murdered thousands of people in Ukraine. The United States cannot ignore these aggressive actions. Provocation from these regimes could eventually impact our homeland. We responded with clear words backed by decisive action.

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Confirmation of President Trump's nominees

Although Republicans have the majority in the Senate—52-48—Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has abused the procedural rules to slow down the Senate confirmation process. They have stalled simple, non-controversial appointments to important positions at agencies like the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. As of Wednesday of this past week, the Senate had confirmed just 48 out of hundreds of the President's nominees to agencies and only two of the 23 judicial nominations. 

To give you an example, last month the Senate confirmed a US District Judge for the District of Idaho by a vote of 100-0, yet Mr. Schumer stalled the vote for three days preventing other legislation or nominees to be considered during that time. None of the delay in the vote was used to debate the nominee; it was just delay. If we continued at that rate, it would take 11 years to confirm all the nominations.

After months of delays, the minority finally allowed a group of non-controversial nominations to be confirmed yesterday. I hope this is a sign that we can finally get the Senate back to work on the key issues we must address.

I am concerned, like many of you, about the Senate rules and the future of genuine debate in the Senate. I have offered a proposal to update the Senate rules so we can get back to work. To read my op-ed on possible rule changes that was published in The Wall Street Journal this week, CLICK HERE.

Appropriations Committee working on budget solutions

Last week—yes, we worked on other issues besides healthcare—the Senate Appropriations Committee passed three appropriations bills that prioritized funding for US departments of Commerce, Justice, Science, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. The Committee also passed the Legislative Branch appropriations bill. This year, I have the honor of serving as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. In a year with limited resources, it was the Committee’s goal to make thoughtful decisions to prioritize spending. We recommended allocating resources in a responsible way to maintain current services and allow for critical investments in security, information technology modernization, and government transparency. 

To read more about the Legislative Branch Appropriations priorities, CLICK HERE. To read about the other appropriations bills, CLICK HERE

Veterans Choice program

The Veterans Choice Program is an important step to reform the way we provide healthcare to our veterans. Choice has allowed an increasing number of veterans the ability to choose their own doctors and healthcare providers. Though this program is new it is the future of veterans' healthcare. This program has allowed veterans in Oklahoma increased, timely access to healthcare providers. I support removing the expiration date of the Veterans Choice Program as well as making the program a permanent part of the way the VA delivers healthcare to our veterans. We owe access to healthcare to the men and women who have fearlessly protected us. 

A Day in the Life 

Oklahomans frequently ask what a typical day looks like for me when I am in Washington, DC. Here is a short video that chronicles a normal Wednesday:

CLICK HERE to watch the video.

Keeping You in the Loop

  • This week, I joined three of my colleagues to introduce the bipartisan Student Loan Servicer Performance Accountability Act. The legislation would temporarily suspend the US Department of Education from awarding a servicing contract to a sole provider for all student loans owned by the US Department of Education. After the bill was introduced, the Department of Education announced that they would not limit the amount of servicers. To read my full statement, CLICK HERE
  • Last week, President Trump announced his nominee for Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Governor Sam Brownback. I applaud the President’s choice as the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2017 report claims that many countries continue to imprison, torture, and persecute religious minority communities. Whenever necessary, we should advocate for human rights and the right of all people to live their faith peacefully and freely. CLICK HERE to read more. 
  • President Trump has tapped another Oklahoman to serve. Lance Robertson, currently serving in Oklahoma's Department of Human Services, was nominated to be Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Aging. On Wednesday, the Committee supported Lance’s nomination, and he was approved by the full Senate on Thursday. 
  • It was an honor to have Dr. Hance Dilbeck of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City to serve as guest chaplain of the Senate and to lead us in the opening prayer. CLICK HERE to watch a fellow Oklahoman's opening prayer.
  • On July 19, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, on which I serve, held a hearing with a panel of witnesses to discuss campaign violations by US Postal Service employees during the 2016 campaign. To watch my Q&A with the witnesses, CLICK HERE
  • This week, the Senate voted on a bill that will reauthorize the Food and Drug Administration to collect fees from drug and device makers. The agency will use these fees to help streamline the process to approve new products. It cost the agency over a billion dollars and years of time to approve new drugs and devices. If we can keep the process safe but reduce the time and cost, we can have less expensive life-saving and health-enhancing treatments. 
  • Earlier this month, I met with Colonel Christopher Hussin, Commander of the Tulsa District US Army Corps of Engineers. Colonel Hussin oversees one of the largest civil works missions in the USACE, with 240 parks and 6,000 campsites as well as the construction and management services for two Army and four Air Force installations. I am grateful for his service to our nation and to Oklahoma.
  • Save the date! My office will host a Service Academy Information Day on Saturday, September 9, 2017. There will be one event in the morning in Muskogee and one in the afternoon in Lawton. Oklahoma 8th-grade through rising high school seniors interested in applying for a United States Service Academy will have an opportunity to meet representatives from all academies and learn more about the application process. For more information, CLICK HERE.


Stay Connected! 

If you would like more information on these topics or any other legislation currently before the US Senate, please do not hesitate to call my DC office at (202) 224-5754. My Oklahoma City office can be reached at (405) 231-4941 and my Tulsa office at (918) 581-7651. You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram for updates on my work in Congress.

Notice: If you wish to stop ALL electronic communications from my office, visit this link to opt out permanently from this list. If you have any questions about this Notice or your right to decline future electronic mail from this office, please contact us at United States Senate, 316 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510.