Dear Oklahoma Friends and Neighbors:

I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. This is an important time for our nation to stop and count our many blessings and refocus on serving one another and our communities. Our nation’s families are our greatest asset, so please take time to connect or reconnect with family during this wonderful time of the year. For those who have lost loved ones this year, I pray you will reach out to those around you to help you find joy this holiday season. Thank you as well to all those who are serving in our military or the families separated from their loved ones this season because of their service to our nation. Thank you for keeping the peace on earth.

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You can also CLICK HERE to watch my Christmas greeting to all of you.

Federal Funding and Border Security

Once again, there is drama over government funding. As we approach the end of the year and the end of the 115th Congress, the Senate continues the work to fund the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2019 (September 30, 2019). Months ago, we passed the bills to fund most of the government including Defense, Veterans, Education, Health, Energy, and more. But several more divisive aspects of the budget are still not complete, including border security.

The President has requested approximately $5 billion in funding for additional border security, including constructing more fence along parts of the southern border. Our nation already has more than 700 miles of fencing, but some of it is old and ineffective. Border agents recently told our team that the old fence had 10 people per day per mile getting through it, the new fence has only one per month. Border security used to not be a partisan issue, but now some want to abolish ICE, not construct any border fencing, and not restrict access to people illegally crossing our border. I support securing our southern border, adding technology, staff, and fencing where needed. We should be wise as we secure our border and address our national security.

CLICK HERE to read my recent op-ed in the Tulsa World on immigration.  It gives a more complete description of the issues we face and the reason we should address immigration in Congress.

CLICK HERE to view my floor speech on border security and immigration issues that Congress needs to resolve.

CLICK HERE to listen to a recent episode of my podcast, The Breakdown with James Lankford, on the immigration issues we face. 

Farm Bill

This week, I voted in favor of the Conference Report for the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill provides much-needed assurance to our Oklahoma farmers and ranchers as our Oklahoma agriculture community continues to face uncertainty from price fluctuation and related international trade agreements. The Administration has made significant strides to conclude trade talks, but there are still a number of negotiations that risk our global markets.

However, the bill was a missed opportunity to reform our food assistance programs. Americans are willing to help people as they get back on their feet, but most Americans want working age adults without children or disability to also work while they get food assistance. This bill could have helped reform the programs, but it only did minor employment training and coordination reforms. The Administration has stated that they will do what they can to improve the system. Requiring work or training is a blessing, not a curse. The only way a family escapes poverty, is through work. Assistance programs can help for a season, but they will never replace consistent income.

I am working on a legislative proposal that would allow US businesses to apply for tariff relief, especially when those businesses import products from China that cannot be imported from anywhere else. The tax on Chinese imports is expected to increase to 25 percent early next year, That is a cost that many companies, especially small businesses cannot afford much less the American families who rely on purchasing goods at a reasonable price. American families will bear the brunt of the tariff burden, and I am committed to working to ease the impact of this unnecessarily burdensome import tax.

CLICK HERE to view my remarks on the Senate floor In October to encourage the Administration to resolve trade negotiations as quickly as possible in order to restore certainty and pursue fair trade worldwide. 

First Step Act

As you have heard me say before, I believe all people are created in the image of God. All people have value and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. That principle of human dignity extends to law-abiding citizens and criminals. As a nation, we have a system of laws, and if someone breaks those laws and ends up in custody or prison, our nation still treats them with dignity.

Congress has finally heard the call from Oklahomans and Americans to address some important aspects of federal criminal justice reform by considering the revised First Step Act (S. 3649). The First Step Act makes modest reforms to federal criminal sentencing and makes our communities safer by providing recidivism-reduction programming to inmates in the federal system. The bill gives non-violent offenders the opportunity to be productive members of society when they finish serving their time. We should encourage job training and family connection for inmates so they will have the opportunity to leave crime when they leave prison.

The First Step Act improves the federal prison system by enhancing prison security and officer safety, allowing faith-based groups to participate in recidivism reduction programs, and prohibiting the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners (with reasonable safety exceptions). There is also a section on restricting the placement of juveniles in solitary confinement for extended periods, a provision for which Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and I personally pressed.

The First Step Act is truly that: a first step. It helps balance the need to keep our communities safe with honoring and protecting the lives and human dignity of the incarcerated. This bill gives our nation a venue to address the treatment of our nation’s family members while in our prisons. I look forward to the Senate considering this legislation over the next week.

CLICK HERE for a summary of the revised First Step Act.

CLICK HERE to read the full text of the revised First Step Act.

UPDATE: The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform

I have mentioned before that for months I have worked with a bi-partisan group to find a solution to our chaotic budget process. After months of work, I outlined the ways we can efficiently move through the budget, end the shutdowns, and have a process for addressing our debt. Unfortunately, in the final week, many members walked away from the negotiations, and the process failed. I have not surrendered. We continue to outline the solutions that can get our debt back on track, and we will keep working in the next Congress.

CLICK HERE to see a list of the recommendations Senators Perdue, Ernst, and I offered to solve some of our broken federal spending process.   

CLICK HERE to listen to my most recent podcast on budget reform.

UPDATE: Yemen Resolution

As the Administration continues to take responsive action to the murder of Saudi citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, we must remember that Saudi Arabia continues to commit many other human rights violations against its citizens. It is appropriate for the US to continue to engage with the Saudi government to share America’s values with them and tell them this is not acceptable. I continue to assess the facts and information provided to Congress by the CIA, DOD, and State Department concerning Saudi Arabia. We can and should consider the litany of options to respond to the alleged murder of Mr. Khashoggi. At the end of November, the Senate voted to advance a joint resolution to cut off US military support to the Saudi-led coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen who illegitimately and forcibly overthrew Yemen’s government in 2014. The joint resolution, introduced by Senators Mike Lee and Bernie Sanders, tried to pull the US out of Yemen during the current peace talks. Americans are providing millions in humanitarian aid, help for civilians and advice for the peace talks. Now is not the time to abandon the people of Yemen. 

This week, the Senate voted on final passage of the joint resolution and several amendments. I did not support the joint resolution. Despite my no vote, the resolution ultimately passed in a vote of 56 to 41. Following the vote, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution to condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and call on Saudi Arabia to hold accountable those responsible.

CLICK HERE for more information on where I stand on the Yemen Resolution.

CLICK HERE to watch my speech on the Senate floor on the situation in Yemen.

Keeping You in the Loop

  • As you may have heard, the Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the Carpenter v. Murphy case, whose outcome could ultimately affect a significant portion of Oklahoma. Originally a case about a murder that was tried in an Oklahoma State court, the appeal before the Supreme Court centers on whether or not the OK court had jurisdiction over this crime because the crime took place in an area previously considered the Muscogee Creek Reservation. The question is whether the Muscogee Creek land is actually still reservation land; Mr. Murphy’s legal team contends that the land was never disestablished as a reservation in the early 20th century. His crime would therefore fall under federal jurisdiction, and the State’s judgment against him would be vacated. Most Oklahomans have grown up under the impression that Oklahoma does not have Indian reservations but rather historic Indian land. This case may call that presupposition into question and could be a change for Oklahoma. We will continue to monitor the Court’s ruling.
  • I was blessed to have the opportunity to honor President George HW Bush and his family by attending a beautiful memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral last week. President Bush was certainly one of a thousand points of light for our nation, future generations, and world leaders with whom he worked. Although not everyone might have agreed with his political views, his love for his family and friends is legendary, and he has inspired generations with his touching lifelong love story with his late wife, Barbara. President Bush never missed an opportunity to bring joy and comfort to others. CLICK HERE to watch my Senate floor speech in memory of President George HW Bush.
  • Last week, The Hope Center in Woodward had its grand opening after many years of work and planning! This important regional food bank will provide food and necessary goods to needy families across NW Oklahoma. I am very grateful for the important work at The Hope Center to bring light and hope to families in six northwest Oklahoma counties. Thank you for how you serve our families!
  • On November 16, the Oklahoma Rural Water Association (ORWA) hosted a National Apprenticeship Week event to announce its intent to develop an apprenticeship program for the occupations of Water and Wastewater System Operations Specialists and to discuss the importance of utilizing apprenticeship for their industry’s future. This apprenticeship program will offer a solution to an industry that is expected to lose between 30 and 50 percent of the workforce to retirement this decade. Participating Oklahoma water and wastewater utilities will transfer a wealth of experience and knowledge to the next generation of operators through both related technical instruction and on-the-job training. The Oklahoma apprenticeship program will be developed by adopting the National Guideline Standards, created by the National Rural Water Association. The ORWA apprenticeship program will ensure that Oklahoma rural areas and small communities will continue o be provided with clean, affording drinking water and effective sanitation management. 
  • Right before Thanksgiving, Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson visited Tinker Air Force Base and announced that Tinker would be one of two AFBs in the US (along with Edwards AFB in California) to provide support and maintenance of the B-21 Raider aircraft. Specifically, Tinker will help coordinate maintenance and sustainment of the B-21. CLICK HERE to find out more information on Tinker’s role in the upkeep of the B-21 stealth bombers.
  • I was grateful for the honor of being selected to receive the first-annual Senior Executives Association (SEA) Congressional Public Service Leader Award regarding my work to solve some of the issues facing our federal workforce. Congress has an essential duty for oversight, and we should continue to improve processes and policies to make sure our federal government runs as effectively and efficiently as possible. Thank you to our nation’s federal employees for their service!


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.

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