Tuesday, May 2, 2017
TRUMP’S FIRST 100 DAYS: PUTTING AMERICA FIRST
This past weekend marked President Trump’s first 100 days in office. After eight years of stifling overregulation, cuts to our military and open-border policies, President Trump is now putting America first.
President Trump has put together a top-notch team—including my friend and fellow Oklahoman Scott Pruitt at the EPA, and longtime friend Jeff Sessions as attorney general. I was also thrilled with his choice of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court and am pleased the Senate has already confirmed him.
A number of President Trump and our Republican-led Congress’s accomplishments have come from two important tools. The first is the executive order, which are policy changes that the President directs within the Executive Branch. President Trump has signed 33 major executive orders since he has taken office and has issued two dozen other presidential directives.
The second, lesser-known tool is the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to review and reject regulations within 60 days of being put in the federal register. Before President Trump was sworn into office, this tool had been used successfully one time in 2001. In February, President Trump signed his first CRA, which was one I authored repealing a burdensome Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulation impacting the oil and gas industry. Since then, Congress has passed a total of 13 CRAs and two more are in the works.
So far this Congress, the President’s executive actions and the Congressional Review Act have led to an estimated total of $67,022,960,000 in regulatory relief for Americans.
Below you will find a summary of what we have accomplished so far and how those accomplishments benefit Oklahoma.
Military Funding: President Trump has made it clear that following eight years of defense budget cuts, his administration understands that the time is now to rebuild our hollow forces. Readiness levels across all services are approaching historical lows, and the world situation is as dangerous as I have ever seen it. Trump’s commitment to increasing defense spending shows that he will prioritize the defense of our nation, as the Constitution clearly requires.
Airstrikes in Syria: Last month, President Trump responded to Bashar al-Assad’s indiscriminate and heinous chemical attack on Syrian civilians, authorizing the use of 59 Tomahawk missiles (TLAMs) targeting Syria’s Shayrat Airfield. This immediate and proportional airstrike was a justified and appropriate response to the Assad regime. Through this strike, President Trump signaled to Assad, Russia and the rest of the world that egregious violations of international law and norms of behavior will not go unanswered by the new administration. The United States, under the Trump administration, will play an emboldened leadership role worldwide; and as I have said before, the days where our enemies don’t fear us and our allies don’t trust us are over.
MOAB use in Afghanistan: In April, the U.S. military dropped a GBU-43B, a 21,000-pound conventional bomb—the largest U.S. non-nuclear bomb—in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan The decision to drop the MOAB sent a clear message that the United States is committed and determined to defeating ISIS and other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. This strike supports our Afghan partners and their fight against these terrorist groups.
Iran: In February, the Trump administration announced new sanctions on Iran which, according to UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR), is not to undertake activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. I have long been critical of the Obama administration’s treatment of Iran and while the country claims a ballistic missile test carried out in January is not in violation of the UNSCR, Iran has a history of violating international laws, treaties and the UNSCR. Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism and the Trump administration has shown that with these additional sanctions future UNSCR violations will not be tolerated.
Stopping Illegal Immigration: Because of Trump’s strong rhetoric for enforcing our laws, illegal border crossings have seen a decline of over 60 percent since the beginning of his administration. This country is and has been a place where those who wish to enter our country legally can find freedom and prosperity. In working to curb illegal immigration, Trump is protecting the rights of all Americans and legal immigrants.
Energy Independence Executive Order: For eight years, President Obama waged a war on fossil fuels and pushed a relentless agenda to regulate carbon dioxide. At the end of March, President Trump signed an Energy Independence executive order that directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to repeal Obama’s climate change legacy item, the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and address other burdensome environmental regulations. The Energy Independence executive order is a perfect example of the Trump administration’s efforts to reign in the regulatory stronghold on American taxpayers and industry and create an environment in which federal agencies are better able to work with, not against, industry.
Click here to watch my speech on undoing Obama’s climate legacy.
WOTUS Executive Order: President Trump has also signed an executive order that begins to repeal the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and reaffirms his commitment to the country’s hard working farmers and ranchers. The WOTUS rule is one of the worst examples of federal overreach and would have been detrimental to the farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma. I have long been working to repeal this regulation; seeing President Trump begin work to undo it was refreshing. I attended the White House signing ceremony for this occasion, and you can watch that here.
Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines Executive Order: President Trump signed an executive order in March to move forward with the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines. These pipelines will both significantly benefit domestic energy producers, our economy and our national security. Building out our nation’s energy infrastructure is a big win for Oklahoma.
Cafe Standards Executive Order: President Trump has begun to roll back the red tape that has hindered American innovation and economic growth in the auto industry by signing an executive order to ensure that EPA will participate in the midterm review of the CAFE standards with DOT as promised by the previous administration to automakers. By taking this action, Trump has prevented the loss of over one million manufacturing jobs.
SEC Rule CRA: The first piece of legislation that President Trump signed was a bill that I authored to help our Oklahoma energy producers. S. J. Res 9, a CRA resolution of disapproval, eliminating the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) rule on resource extraction issuers under section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which put U.S. energy producers at a disadvantage against foreign competitors.
Watch my floor speech on this CRA here. You can see the photo of President Trump and me at the signing ceremony here.
As promised during his campaign, President Trump made an outstanding pick in selecting Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s seat on the bench of the Supreme Court. I met with Gorsuch prior to his confirmation and he is beyond criticism both as a legal scholar and as a man. His respect for the high court and the Constitution is unparalleled and his educational background speaks for itself. I was truly pleased to vote for Neil Gorsuch to join the bench of the Supreme Court and applaud the President’s pick.
You can watch my speech in support of Gorsuch here. I also wrote an op-ed in support of Gorsuch, which can be found here.
Last week, President Trump signed an executive order that created Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs. As you in Oklahoma know, my commitment to our veterans has been unwavering and I am pleased to see that the president is prioritizing our veterans as well by creating this office of accountability. While this Congress I plan to introduce a number of pieces of legislation that will increase access to resources and care for veterans, I am glad to have a President who is already tackling this issue and making sure our vets are prioritized.
In response to wildfires in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas—which I saw firsthand—President Trump authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow the emergency grazing of cattle by ranchers who are facing the ruination of their herds due to lack of sufficient grazing land. The losses in this area of Oklahoma have been truly devastating for cattleman and ranchers and this measure on behalf of the Trump administration allows folks to move their herds to land that has not been badly burned and will allow these hard working Oklahomans to get back on their feet.
Teacher Shortage CRA: In March, the President signed a CRA resolution to block the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) final rule relating to teacher preparation programs under the Higher Education Act. Oklahoma has for too long suffered from high teacher shortages and this rule would have in increasing this number. By signing this CRA, Trump has protected both our students and our teachers from the effects of increasing teacher shortages.
CRA to Keep Accountability Standards Local: The President also signed a CRA to strike DOE’s rule regarding accountability and state plans. The rule would have forced state and local school districts to comply with a one-size-fits-all accountability plan and by signing this CRA, Trump has kept Oklahoma education in the hands of Oklahomans.
I am extremely happy with President Trump’s first 100 days in office and I look forward to seeing what the next 100 days will bring. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and with the administration to ensure that Oklahomans are reaping the benefits of our work here in Washington.
Monday, August 15, 2016
One of the many things Oklahoma does with excellence is taking care of our military – a fact known across the Department of Defense and the nation.
Because of the strong community support surrounding our five major military installations and our National Guard, Oklahoma is consistently being considered for new growth and investments from DoD and the defense industry, such as the new MC-12W mission at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base and Boeing opening an $80 million facility that will support new, well-paying jobs here in Oklahoma. And while the Obama administration has cut our military down to a dangerously small size – a size not seen since before World War II – Oklahoma has also remained an attractive place to base military units that are critical components for our national security.
A cornerstone of support for our military bases is the Military Construction (MilCon) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Appropriations Act that Congress should be sending to the president’s desk every year. This year, the Republican-led Senate worked to move this bill through regular order, a process meant to enforce transparency in how agencies are spending your taxpayer dollars and ensure funding is received before the end of the fiscal year.
In April, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the MilCon-VA Appropriations bill with full support of all 30 committee members, Republicans and Democrats. The Majority Leader then brought the bill forward in May, where the Senate debated and amended the legislation before passing it by a vote of 89 to 8. During this process, my colleagues adopted an amendment Sen. Lankford and I authored to redirect $18 million within the bill to the Veterans Integrated Services Networks (VISN) for the purpose of allowing VA directors to contract with outside entities to investigate and audit their VA medical facilities.
Since the U.S. House of Representatives had also passed its version of the MilCon-VA Appropriations bill, the two chambers went into conference. Conference is where Members from both the House and the Senate work out the differences between the two bills to achieve a final product. The conferenced MilCon-VA bill was introduced a few weeks later and faced a simple final vote in both chambers. Unfortunately, when that vote came up on June 28, Senate Democrats blocked the bill from progressing to final passage.
What does this mean for Oklahoma? Let’s take a moment to look at what was in the final legislation:
- Would include $77 million, as authorized in the Senate FY’17 NDAA, for military construction at Oklahoma’s bases:
- Altus Air Force Base: $11.6 million to complete the KC-46 Simulator Facility Phase 2
- Tinker Air Force Base: $17 million for the KC-46A Depot System Fuel Laboratory and $26 million for AWACS Mission and Flight Simulator Training Facility
- Ardmore, Okla.: $22 million for a new National Guard Readiness Center
- Would include a 4.1 percent funding increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which would be put toward improving benefit claims processing, provide for more inspections of VA medical facilities, and increase veterans’ access to quality care.
- Would include $900 million to modernize VA hospitals to the standards of private hospitals, if it isn’t already, and to provide for new construction to increase access to care.
I have been an outspoken proponent of improving veterans’ care and holding the VA accountable for the services it provides. The MilCon-VA legislation is a step in the right direction for our veterans as well as for supporting our military bases in Oklahoma and our military families across the nation.
When the Senate returns in September, we will be weeks away from another fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats will likely get another chance to change their unreasonable opposition to this MilCon-VA funding bill. I hope they will vote like they first did back in May, when we had a showing of strong bipartisan support for our military and our veterans. Time to put the election season aside for a moment and do what is in the best interest for our nation and for the men and women who have served and continue to serve to make it great.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
When I returned as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee this Congress, my top priority was to pass a long-term transportation bill in order to update our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges. The FAST Act, which was signed into law last December and fully paid for, provides approximately $300 billion for the nation's surface transportation programs over five years and $3.6 billion just for Oklahoma. The law also supports American job creation, promotes safety, and preserves our global economic standing.
Funding our nation’s roads and bridges is one of Congress’s primary constitutional duties, and I am proud that my colleagues and I were able to accomplish this task. As we saw in the July jobs report, construction industry's pay rose at the fastest rate in seven years and the pool of unemployed, experienced construction workers shrank to the lowest level since 2000. Just as important, more than 4,400 jobs were created in the transit and ground transportation sector. The FAST Act has now given our states and local governments certainty in their partnership with the federal government to improve our nation’s vast transportation network, empowering the private sector to do what it does best – create jobs and stimulate our economy.
To further the efforts of the FAST Act, this past May the Senate passed the annual Transportation and House and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill. This bill affirmed FAST Act funding levels for the next fiscal year with strong bipartisan support, giving our states and local economies additional certainty in economy-boasting construction projects.
Specifically for Oklahoma, the THUD bill would appropriate $706.3 million for modernization of our roads and bridges in fiscal year 2017, as promised in the FAST Act.
It also includes a provision, at my request, that would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to update its regulations to ensure natural gas vehicles are treated equally to other vehicles unless there is a compelling safety reason not to do so. Currently, a number of DOT regulations make it more difficult for natural gas vehicles to be adopted into widespread use. This includes regulations concerning the placement of natural gas fuel tanks on public transportation buses. Some localities have also placed inappropriate regulations regarding the use of natural gas powered semi-trucks and buses on bridges and in tunnels that are inconsistent with federal interstate highway regulations.
The appropriations bill would also fund important aviation priorities in Oklahoma, to include fully funding the Contract Towers program. This program supports our aviation industry that accounts for more than 120,000 jobs across Oklahoma. These towers impact not just general aviation safety but also serve emergency medical and law enforcement operations and agricultural activities and connect a number of businesses across the nation to our state.
The THUD bill would direct FAA to also work with airports to replace aging control towers and specifically would encourage the FAA to enter into cost recovery leases with airports, which would provide Tulsa the funding certainty necessary to quickly build a new tower. Furthermore, it would direct FAA to prioritize grant funding for airports that need to replace runways that are no longer in compliance with safety standards, such as Bristow’s Jones Memorial Airport.
What’s next for this legislation? The House Appropriations Committee approved their THUD Appropriations bill in May, and it awaits action on the House floor. Once the House can pass its THUD appropriations bill, the two chambers will merge the bills’ priorities and take a final vote to send it to be signed into law. As this process continues to play out, and as Congress works to avoid a fiscal cliff at the end of September, I will be working to ensure Oklahoma’s priorities remain intact.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Earlier this spring the Senate passed the Energy and Water (E&W) Development Appropriations Act (H.R. 2028) with vast bipartisan support – by a vote of 90 to 8. Passing this appropriations bill was a welcome sign that the Republican-led Senate was making progress in its goal to fund the federal government through regular order, which culminates in Congress sending 12 appropriations bills to be signed into law.
The E&W Development Appropriations Act funds the Department of Energy (DOE) programs as well as critical infrastructure projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. This year, the E&W funding bill also provides added resources to strengthen the U.S. nuclear deterrence posture and prepare for existing and future nuclear threats. It also prioritizes America’s energy security and supports our economic competitiveness.
Most importantly, it includes many priorities for Oklahoma, such as improving water supply and quality in western Oklahoma and funding the Risk-Based Data Management System that supports Oklahoma’s FracFocus program at the Ground Water Protection Council. Here are those provisions in more detail:
Red River Chloride Control
Language in the bill directs the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize projects in drought-stricken areas that would alleviate water supply issues, including projects that focus on treating brackish water. Authorized in the Flood Control Act of 1966, the Flood Control Act of 1970, and the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, the Red River Chloride Control Project seeks to control chloride and sulfite brine emissions that naturally occur in the upper Red River basin of Oklahoma and Texas. By removing chloride salts from the tributaries to the Red River, water quality will be improved for use by local and downstream communities. With the recent drought in Western Oklahoma, all avenues to increase water supply need to be explored and utilized to ensure our communities and military bases have the water they need when the next drought comes.
Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS)
The appropriations bill would continue to fund the Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS) within the Department of Energy. RBDMS, managed by the Ground Water Protection Council, operates in state oil and natural gas environmental agencies allowing them to provide many services regarding public transparency of State oil and gas related data, including FracFocus which provides public access to reported chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing within their area.
Ground Water Protection Council – Gateway for the Energy Information Administration (EIA)
The appropriations bill would direct the EIA to use available funding to build the interface of the National Oil and Gas Gateway. The EIA is a quasi-independent agency within the Department of Energy established to provide timely, objective, and accurate energy-related information to Congress, the executive branch, state governments, industry, and the public. However, the EIA has not kept pace with state-run databases and interfaces to provide near real-time statistics on production of oil and natural gas and well integrity. The Natural Oil and Gas Gateway will work in concert with state-run databases providing accurate and accessible information.
McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System
Despite President Obama’s request to cut the Army Corps budget, the appropriations bill would fund key Corps projects, including 20+ lakes in Oklahoma that provide essential water resources for drinking and agriculture purposes. It also would fund the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which is essential to maintaining Oklahoma’s ability to export products ranging from natural resources like oil and coal, agriculture products, and manufacturing components.
What’s next for this legislation? While this critical appropriations bill passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, the House’s version is stalled due to House Democrats trying to add unrelated amendments onto the bill that advances their liberal social agenda.
Funding the government through 12 appropriations bills, passed by both the House and the Senate, is about enforcing transparency in how your taxpayer dollars are being spent. This has been our goal in the Republican majority and is what we will continue working towards in September as we quickly approach the end to another fiscal year.
I hope you will continue tuning in during the month of August to my e-newsletter series on the 12 appropriations bills the Senate is working on and the priorities that I am securing for Oklahomans. If you would like to encourage a friend to subscribe, click here and send along this link.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
FIVE: the number of times Senate Democrats have blocked the appropriations bill to fund the Department of Defense (DOD) this year. Despite the fact that this bill adheres to spending caps set into stone by the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, Democrats are holding up important national security resources until they get an increase in spending for their liberal priorities.
The Senate Republican majority has been working hard to fund the government through regular order with 12 appropriations bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Defense Appropriation Act out of committee unanimously – with the full support of both Democrats and Republicans on the committee – just a couple months ago. In fact, the top Democrat on the defense subcommittee even called this bill “a responsible approach to protecting our country.”
So why the change of heart? Why won’t Senate Democrats allow this bill to be debated and amended on the Senate floor?
First, what the bill does: The Defense appropriations bill would fully fund the DOD base budget and the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) at the levels requested by the president and in adherence with budget caps.
The Defense Appropriations Act would also provide funding to improve combat readiness, to support wartime efforts such as the president’s sustained military presence in Afghanistan and incrementally increasing number of troops in Iraq, and to support the training of our service members and maintenance of their equipment.
This legislation would provide an additional $150 million necessary for facility sustainment, restoration and moderation to assist all our military installations, to include Oklahoma’s five major installations.
In an effort to support our national security objectives, the Defense appropriations bill would block funding for detention facilities in the United States to house terrorists currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. It would also prevent the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States and prevent the transfer of detainees to foreign counties except in accordance with certification and notification requirements in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017.
It is our constitutional duty in Congress to provide for our nation’s defense. I firmly believe this. While I also believe our military needs more funding than this bill would appropriate, it's most important that the Senate can first even begin consideration of this vital piece of legislation that includes many provisions supporting our troops. It should be debated and given the opportunity to be amended on the Senate floor. We should be sending a signal to our all-volunteer force that we respect the sacrifices they have made for our nation. We owe it to them to show that they are prioritized and will be well-resourced for their missions.
My Democratic colleagues clearly think otherwise and are using this legislation to force unnecessary increased spending in other areas of the government. When Congress returns in September, they will have a small and narrow window to reverse course before we hit a fiscal cliff. As we continue to see instances of terrorism on the rise, it is unacceptable to put our national security, our citizens and our freedoms in jeopardy. It’s time to fund our defense needs and to do it through regular order.