Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:

I am glad to report that the government is now reopened through a continuing resolution that lasts until February 15, 2019. But our work is far from over. I remain engaged in the process to prevent another shutdown, fully fund the government, and reach an agreement on border security. Government shutdowns do not solve government problems; they reveal the problems in our government. We have a great system of government when everyone works in good faith toward a solution.

We have had many government shutdowns over the years, but this was the longest shutdown in our nation’s history. I have developed two proposals to make the longest shutdown the last shutdown (more about those ideas below). It was a “partial shutdown” because around 75 percent of the government had already been fully funded, but the negotiation process broke down over the issue of border security as we worked to resolve the last 25 percent of the appropriations. Our federal families did not cause Washington’s dysfunction, but they certainly felt the consequences.

Before the shutdown began, I urged Members of the House and Senate to take up the remaining bills that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee (on which I serve). One of those bills, the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, passed with bipartisan support and included $1.6 billion in funding for additional border security.

There is no question that our nation has a rapidly accelerating humanitarian crisis on our southern border. Because of the fast-growing American economy and the lack of jobs in Central America, thousands of people are crossing the border seeking work, connection with family members, or a better future. But there are also some people crossing our border who are trafficking drugs or people. Our asylum process favors people coming into the US with a minor child. Many adults now travel long distances with young children, sometimes children that they are not even related to, just to improve their chances of entering the country.

This puts kids at risk and encourages people to try to enter the country illegally. The US has the most open immigration system in the world. Each year we naturalize more than a million people as legal US citizens. Each day, more than 500,000 people legally cross the border from Mexico into the US. We should address our border security and immigration laws so we encourage legal immigration and work visas, discourage child trafficking, and do not ignore the people who carry illicit drugs into the US.

In the past, border security was a non-partisan issue. The past four Presidents of both parties have built physical barriers on our southern border. Adding more border agents, getting due process faster in our immigration courts, increasing detection technology, improving our land ports of entry, and increasing barriers where they are needed should not be controversial.

My Democratic colleagues pushed the President to sign a three-week funding bill on the promise that they would agree to negotiate the full-year funding bills and border security after the government is open. The President agreed. We now have only two weeks left to see if everyone is actually willing to negotiate in good faith to finish the full-year appropriations package.

A Conference Committee was formed this week to specifically address funding for the Department of Homeland Security. The Committee held its first meeting on January 30th and will continue to work between now and February 15th on a solution to fund border security

CLICK HERE to hear more about these specific solutions to end government shutdowns in Washington, DC, and prevent harm to federal employees and their families.

CLICK HERE to watch the specific solutions I offered on the Senate floor to help resolve border security issues.

Ending Shutdowns for Good

Last year, I developed two proposals to prevent government shutdowns from affecting the American people and hold Members of Congress accountable for finishing their work. Unfortunately, my proposals did not pass last year. Obviously, I have released them again this year in hope that more Members of Congress will now be willing to stop shutdowns forever.

Here is a simple idea to eliminate the harmful effects of a shutdown and resolve our differences, if we cannot reach an agreement on appropriations:

  • Funding for the government would automatically continue at the previous year’s level and all federal workers would still be paid, but Members of Congress could not leave Washington until we find a resolution. If we want to hit Senators and Representatives where it hurts, we need to prevent Members of Congress and their staffs from traveling for any official business, including flying home. Congress and the White House staff could only leave when the work is done. Each day the House and Senate would remain in session.

  • Operational budgets in the House, Senate, and White House could be cut by five percent a week if the government shuts down. This would keep federal employees working and the government moving, but hold Congress and the White House responsible for failing to prevent the shutdown.

CLICK HERE for details on the No Budget, No Recess Act I helped develop to prevent future government shutdowns.

Standing up for Children

I recently had the honor of participating in the March for Life rally in Washington, DC. The March is an incredible display of compassion for the dignity of all human life. Forty-six years ago (January 22, 1973), the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, which mandated that every state had to allow elective abortion on demand. The Court’s decision did not settle the issue of when life begins, but it has forced us to decide whether life begins at birth or if birth is just one day in a life.

When you look at a sonogram picture of a child in the womb, it is self-evident that you are looking at a baby; ten fingers, ten toes, a beating heart, a beautiful face and a hopeful future. Science shows each child in the womb has distinct DNA that differs from the Mom or Dad. As a country, we believe that eagle eggs should be protected because we acknowledge the eggs have small living eagles inside of them. As a country, we require that health insurance covers pre-natal care for a pregnant mom because we know that if she is healthy, then her child has a much greater chance of being healthy. As a country, we require warning labels on cigarettes and amusement park rides for pregnant moms so they are aware that what they are doing could harm them and their baby. In our hearts we all understand that a child is alive, even if he or she is small.

In the past few days, New York State approved abortion until the moment of full-term delivery. The Commonwealth of Virginia also recently voted to allow abortion up to the moment of delivery, but that vote failed. There are only four countries left in the world that allow elective late-term abortions: China, North Korea, Vietnam, and the US. There is something important that we can learn about ourselves and our culture when we look at how we treat our children.

I understand that this is a controversial topic and that some readers of this Lankford Letter have personally experienced the pain of an abortion in their family. I have great compassion for the very difficult decision that a mom would make to have an elective abortion. But I also believe that we as a community should not shy away from respectful—but difficult—discussions like race, poverty, or abortion. Let’s honor each other enough to have another dialogue about our children.

CLICK HERE to watch my speech on the Senate floor about the value of life.

CLICK HERE to learn more about a bill I cosponsored, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which would make the Hyde Amendment permanent and government-wide and would end federal funding of abortions.

CLICK HERE to listen to my most recent podcast episode on pro-life issues.

UPDATE: Afghanistan

In late December, I had the opportunity to visit Afghanistan with Senators Richard Burr (NC) and Kamala Harris (CA) to conduct oversight of the ongoing US operations on the ground. This trip was a great chance to directly see the ongoing operations that are taking place in Afghanistan to continue to work toward peaceful reconciliation. Most of the fighting for the future peace in Afghanistan is being fought by Afghans, not Americans. While we encourage peace talks and a cease-fire, we should also take steps toward a long-term agreement that translates even more responsibility for national defense to the Afghan government, while America maintains a strong presence in the region to defend our interests.

CLICK HERE to hear more of my thoughts on the situation in Afghanistan and the need for the US to maintain a presence there.

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI): New Committee Assignments for the 116th Congress

My Senate committee assignments changed for the current 116th Congress. Now, in addition to the Senate Committees on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Appropriations, and Indian Affairs, I was selected to serve on the Senate Finance Committee. This Committee is front and center on tax policy, trade, and health care, all of which are top priorities for Oklahomans. I was selected to serve on the Subcommittees on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy; Health Care; and Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth.

There is an even greater workload on the Finance Committee because it has such a large jurisdiction, but it gives our state a seat at the table as we debate how to reduce the cost of prescription drugs; how to bring down the cost of health care; how to make sure people with pre- existing conditions can still get affordable health insurance; what our tax policy should be for individuals, businesses, and non-profits; how we protect our safety net; how we stabilize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; how we resolve our international trade differences; and how we grow our economy.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Senate Finance Committee.

ICYMI: Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform

Federal criminal justice reform has been long overdue, and I am grateful Congress and the President came together to pass and sign the widely bipartisan First Step Act. The First Step Act makes reforms to federal criminal sentencing, while also making our communities safer by incentivizing prisoners to improve themselves and rehabilitate while serving time in federal prison. I had two provisions that were ultimately included in the law. The first was an amendment I offered to ensure faith-based groups are able to provide job training and social and family development in the same manner as non-faith based groups. The second was a legislative proposal I worked on with Senator Cory Booker (NJ), the MERCY Act, to prevent long-term solitary confinement of minors. Every year, 40,000 federal prisoners will be released back into our communities. We should help them connect with their families and get job skills to increase their chances of staying out of prison in the future. Our communities will be safer if the felons leaving prison also leave their past history of crime.

CLICK HERE to read more on why I supported the First Step Act.

CLICK HERE to watch a quick video explanation of my support of the First Step Act.

Keeping You in the Loop

  • I recently cosponsored the Congressional Trade Authority Act, which would require Congress to vote on whether or not to continue applying the President’s steel and aluminum tariffs. These national security-related tariffs are a very big issue for businesses across our state, and I believe Congress should be able to weigh in on tariffs that affect Americans’ livelihoods. I look forward to the bill’s full consideration in the Senate. I also continue to work on a solution for the ongoing tariffs related to manufactured products from China. Tariffs affect our agriculture, our consumer prices, and our job growth in America.

  • I am proud to support the Future Farmers of America (FFA) in its mission to train young leaders. In January, I worked with several other Senators to reintroduce legislation to update and modernize the FFA’s charter. It is hard to believe that it takes “an act of Congress” to update the FFA charter and give them greater autonomy. CLICK HERE to read more about our work to support the mission and membership of FFA.

  • At the end of 2018 and the 115th Congress, Congress worked through a number of bills that affect our Tribal members. In late December, the Senate passed the Stigler Act Amendments of 2018 by unanimous consent, and the House passed it by a vote of 399-0. The bill adjusts the Stigler Act of 1947 to remove the ”one-half degree” requirement of Native American blood for the Five Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Muscogee Creek) and gives heirs an opportunity to continue ownership and use of the land while still maintaining the land’s restricted status. The Five Tribes were the only tribes in America with the “one-half degree” blood requirement. Congress also passed the Johnson O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act that updates the way the federal government calculates funding needs for tribal schools. CLICK HERE to learn more about the Stigler Act Amendments. CLICK HERE to learn more about the Johnson O’Malley program changes. 

  • Congratulations to the City of Durant on being named a top-ten finalist (out of 12,000 nominated towns across the US) for the Small Business Revolution competition! The winning city receives a $500,000 makeover. The top five cities will be announced mid-February, and the winner will be announced at the end of February. Durant worked very hard to earn this distinction, and I look forward to good news at the end of next month! Please join me in celebrating #MyDurant on social media.

  • Congratulations to Oklahoma’s new Governor, Kevin Stitt, and to all the new and returning elected officials in our state. If you do not regularly participate in the issues before our Oklahoma state legislature, I encourage you to visit to ensure you have your OK Representative and OK Senator’s contact information so you can contact them if you need assistance with a state agency or are interested in matters before our state government.

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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