By Chris Casteel, The Oklahoman, Dec. 6, 2015
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WASHINGTON — Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation responded Sunday night to President Barack Obama's Oval Office address about fighting terrorism at home and abroad.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City: “It is right for President Obama to speak to the nation and try to assure all Americans that he has a strategy to defeat ISIL and keep the nation secure. The President proposed a surge in intelligence sharing with Europe, new Special Forces in Syria and a continuing commitment to political resolution in Syria, though the President did not state tonight that Bashar al-Assad must be removed.
“After years of expansion of ISIL and the growing threat to our homeland, I believe most Americans are impatient and confused about why it has taken so long to destroy ISIL’s oil business, why so many ISIL command and control facilities remain, and why Assad remains the leader in Syria. It appears that the Administration has only recently taken ISIL seriously.
“Our military and intelligence community do an outstanding job protecting the American people every day, but they need an effective strategy from the Commander-in-chief. Tonight, the President discussed small steps forward, but his approach still seems to be a strategy of containment. Those half-measures clearly have not worked.
“I agree with the President that Congress should revisit the Visa waiver program; it remains an obvious vulnerability for our nation. I also agree with the President that ISIL is a ‘cult of death,’ and that Americans should reject all forms of religious intolerance.
“But, the President stated months ago that he felt he already had the legal authority to carry out the attacks on ISIL, but he wanted an Authorization for the Use of Military Force to restrain any future President from using ground forces and to force a future president to withdraw from Syria within months of taking office.
“That kind of request is untenable in the face of the real threats we face today. Radical Islamic terrorism remains a threat to our nation and the world, as it did 15 years ago, and we need a clear, coordinated strategy to confront it.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa: “Our president has been in denial for too long on the evil of terrorism and radical Islam, starting with his attempt to downplay Benghazi, to calling ISIS a JV team, to most recently stating that ISIS is 'contained' just hours before the attack on Paris.
“No matter how many times this president tells America and its people they are safe, that ISIS is on the run, and that ISIS will be defeated, one simple fact remains - the country has lost trust in this president and his administration to protect America and its citizens.
“Tonight the president listed three military objectives to defeating ISIL and one objective of bringing a political solution to Syria. Objectives do not make a strategy, gun control will not stop terrorism, and climate change is not the greatest threat to this country. Obama's lack of commitment and a strategy in the Middle East created vacuums that were filled by ISIS, Iran and Russia.
“The president needs to provide this country with the strategy and goals for Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East, including what resources are required to accomplish that strategy, what the U.S. commitment to that strategy will be, what timeline is required to achieve that strategy and how we assess success along the way to achieving our strategy. My colleagues and I stand ready to undo the President's disarming of America.”
Rep. Steve Russell, R-Choctaw: “While I applaud the president for finally calling out a ‘dangerous ideology that has spread through...Islam’ a ‘cult of death,’ I am saddened that he has called on congress to take away the right of our citizens to defend themselves; has asked for authorization on the use of force he already has; and is tightening visa-waivers only after Congress has pressured him to do so.
“The president cannot continue to lead from behind. His four-point strategy is nothing new and fails to address how to accommodate the disenfranchised Sunni-Arab in the diplomatic effort.
“While I appreciate the president's strong statements on combatting discrimination and no religious tests for which Americans should have our liberties, I am not encouraged that the president has a capable strategy to defeat ISIS or protect the American people.”
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville: “From the beginning, President Obama has consistently underestimated the threat that ISIS poses to the United States. Our commander in chief did not outline an effective strategy for defeating ISIS and ensuring safety within our borders. Instead he politicized the recent terrorist attack in California, by pushing for policies that target the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.
“Known terrorists should not be walking our streets, period. The president needs to take action to identify radical extremists in the United States, give our law enforcement the resources and freedom to prevent terror attacks, and close our borders to individuals who wish to destroy our freedoms. The danger of Islamic extremism continues to grow and evolve, but the president’s rhetoric continues to stay the same.”
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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), today spoke on the senate floor about Obamacare’s disastrous roll-out, repealing of Obamacare through reconciliation and the need to vote to protect life.
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As prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, President Obama made many promises to the American people in 2010 about how Obamacare would improve healthcare for everyone. He said it was going to lower costs, expand access, and make healthcare more affordable for everyone. Yet, five years after this law’s passage, Obamacare has only increased premiums and deductibles, cut down employee work hours and threatened the religious liberty of many employers who are providing needed jobs in a slow economy.
Since Obamacare’s disastrous roll-out, I have listened to heartbreaking accounts of how Obamacare has negatively impacted middle-class Oklahoma families, whose budgets are taking the hardest hits. And the longer this law has been on the books, the worse the stories have become. Just like Oklahoman Fred Imel, whose premium is going from $1,100 per month, to $1,700. In fact it was just announced that next year, Oklahomans will see an average increase of 35.7 percent in premium prices – which is the highest in the nation.
In addition to this, Blue Cross Blue Shield notified 40,000 Oklahomans earlier this year that they will no longer offer their current plans and that policy holders will be forced to move to other plans in the two other networks in the state. Both plan options have fewer participating doctors, hospitals and other providers. In other words, access to care is going down for these people, all the while costs are going up.
At the same time, many other insurance companies are dropping out of the Affordable Care Act market altogether, leaving Oklahomans with even fewer choices, not more as President Obama had promised us back in 2010. In fact, nationwide, Obamacare offers, on average, 34 percent fewer providers than healthcare networks outside the exchanges.
But Obamacare isn’t delivering bad news just to Oklahoma. Across the nation, federally backed co-ops are going under due to Obamacare. On Oct. 16, the Wall Street Journal said that these cooperatives are “collapsing at such a rapid clip that some co-ops and small insurers are forming a coalition to consider legal action to try to change health-law provisions they blame for their financial distress.”
12 out of the 23 Obamacare established co-ops have gone under, leaving more than 500,000 currently insured Americans to find new insurance once again, or face a steep penalty from the federal government. These co-ops also received over $1 billion in taxpayer loans from the federal government, most of which will never get repaid.
Since the beginning of this Congress, I have cosponsored 12 bills to dismantle or fully repeal Obamacare, and my colleagues and I are committed to maintaining our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
This reconciliation bill is a step in that direction. The House passed reconciliation on October 23rd with a vote of 240-189. This bill repeals the major components of Obamacare, including: the individual and employer mandates. It also repeals the medical device tax and the Cadillac tax, which is a tax placed on certain high-value employer-sponsored health insurance plans.
The Senate reconciliation bill also takes repeal of Obamacare a lot farther by repealing $1 trillion in Obamacare taxes and will fully repealing the Medicaid expansion and all Obamacare subsidies by 2018.
Importantly, the reconciliation bill also prohibits federal funding for Planned Parenthood and instead uses the money that’s saved to increase funding for community health centers by $235 million in 2016 and 2017. With more than 9,000 community health centers, these facilities are better equipped to provide women with the health care they need when compared to the only 700 Planned Parenthood facilities nationwide.
This issue is of particular importance given the sting videos that were released over the last few months showing the lengths Planned Parenthood affiliates had gone to profit from the sale of fetal tissues following abortions.
Planned Parenthood is a private institution that largely serves urban areas. While abortion may not be the only service they provide, it is what they are primarily known for. Whether they have broken the law or not, the taxpayer money they currently receive would be better directed toward community health centers, where broader access is available to women anyway.
Life is one of the single most important issues we consider here in the Senate, and I am proud of what we have already done in this space this year. A few months ago, a majority of Senators voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Although the tally did not pass the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster, it did show more than a majority of Senators support ending subsidies to the largest abortion provider in America. More important than the Senate’s view of this, a majority of the American people support protecting the life of the unborn. It is very important to me and my constituents that we do anything possible to protect the sanctity of life and that is among the top reasons why it is necessary to vote for this reconciliation bill.
We have the chance to end the federal financing of an institution that has chopped up babies and negotiated the most profitable price for their organs. There is no moral gray area here. Life is life and we must vote to support it.
With that, I urge my colleagues to support the reconciliation bill to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal Obamacare so that we can begin the work of crafting real market-based healthcare reform that will actually lower costs and expand access by getting the federal government out of the healthcare business.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today spoke on the senate floor in response to Sen. Richard Durbin’s (D-Ill.) call to allow more Syrian refugees into the U.S. Inhofe instead argued that there needs to be a comprehensive strategy implemented to address the crisis in the Middle East as part of any plan to allow Syrian refugees in, particularly when legitimate security concerns exist.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today joined MSNBC’s Meet The Press Daily with Chuck Todd to discuss the Paris attacks and the Syrian refugee crisis. Inhofe highlighted President Obama’s lack of strategy in Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East.
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On Monday, Inhofe called for a “pause” in the United States’ acceptance of Syrian refugees until Congress can thoroughly review the Obama administration’s vetting process.
On Saturday, Inhofe released a statement on the terrorist attacks in Paris saying that the United States’ pinprick response in the Middle East and lack of overall strategy has failed. He called for improved intelligence collection capabilities with our allies, increased funding of the U.S. military, and improved border security in the United States. Inhofe closed by stating that “we cannot just degrade or contain extreme terrorist organizations like ISIS. It’s time the United States and the international community stands unified to defeat them.”
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about the Obama administration's expected announcement of its plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) and relocate detainees on to U.S. soil.
Click here to watch the floor speech
Today the Senate passed two bipartisan bills that prohibit the president from implementing his desire to move terrorists from the secure detention facility in Guantanamo to facilities in American communities. The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016 passed the Senate by a vote of 91 to 3. This bill has specific prohibitions against transferring terrorists from Guantanamo into the United States. The Senate also passed by a vote of 93 to 0 the bipartisan bill funding military construction and the Veterans Administration. This bipartisan bill prohibits the administration from building or retrofitting any prisons to hold GTMO terrorists in the United States.
As prepared for delivery:
On 22 January 2009, President Obama signed an executive order to close GTMO within a year.
On 3 February 2009, I introduced a bill to permanently prevent GTMO detainees from being relocated anywhere on US soil.
In May 2009, I authored bipartisan legislation with Senator Dan Inouye to block funding to close GTMO and move the detainees to U.S. soil – the amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 90 to 6 and was included in the 2009 War Supplemental Bill.
Every year since, Congress has blocked attempts by this president and his Administration to close GTMO or move terrorist detainees to the United States.
Every year Congress has passed laws that continue to limit transfer of these detainees to include the conferenced FY '16 NDAA bill prohibits transferring GTMO detainees to the United States through Dec. 31, 2016, and tightens restrictions on transferring GTMO detainees to certain foreign countries, language I strongly supported.
The FY '16 NDAA also includes language preventing closure of GTMO through Dec. 31, 2016.
However, this has not prevented President Obama from trying to empty GTMO, releasing these terrorist detainees to any country he can pay to take them and now threatening an executive order to bring them to the United States – to Colorado, Kansas and South Carolina - against the will of the American people.
This is not the first time this president has gone against the will of the American people or violated our laws.
The president violated the law last June when he transferred the “Taliban Five” from GTMO in exchange for Sergeant Bergdahl, failing to notify Congress 30 days before any transfer of terrorists from the detention facility and to explain how the threat posed by the terrorists had been substantially mitigated.
His failure to adhere to a law he signed placed our nation’s security at great risk for the foreseeable future as these terrorists try to reconnect with terrorist networks.
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 29 percent of detainees transferred out of GTMO have either been confirmed or suspected of returning to fight the United States and its allies. These individuals pose a direct threat to Americans at home and overseas.
GTMO is outside the sovereign territory of the United States, which means detainees held there do not have constitutional Rights, aside from habeas corpus.
Closing GTMO will result in terrorist detainees being sent to U.S. soil, gaining U.S. constitutional rights reserved for our citizens, and present an increased risk of terrorist activity in this country.
Federal courts have ruled that these detainees can be lawfully held until the end of the relevant conflict, whenever that might be.
But many cannot be criminally prosecuted because of evidence tainted by abusive interrogations, limitations in federal criminal law and other problems of fitting the demanding standards of criminal justice to the messiness of the terrorist battlefield.
We cannot assume Congress will be able to pass new laws to prevent terrorists from gaining rights reserved for American citizens, and ultimately being released into the United States.
Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote, “The question of what constitutional rights may apply to aliens in government custody is unsettled, but it is clear from existing jurisprudence that physical presence in the United States would be a significant, if not a decisive, factor.”
I am also concerned about the security of the people who will guard these terrorists, and their families.
When Thomson IL prison was discussed back in 2009, then Rep. Mark Kirk called the move “an unnecessary risk” and other Illinois members were concerned that the transfer of prisoners (some for trial and some for indefinite detention) could make the state a target for terrorists.
Mark was and is correct, prisons holding these detainees will become magnets and there is the very real possibility these detainees will recruit more terrorists and continue terrorist operations from inside.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said there is the very real possibility that the GTMO detainees will recruit more terrorists from among the federal inmate population and continue al Qaeda operations from the inside – this was how the New York synagogue bombers were recruited.
I have been to GTMO three times.
It is a state of the art facility that provides humane treatment for all detainees, fully compliant with Geneva Convention, provides treatment and oversight that exceed any maximum-security prison in the world – as attested to by human rights organizations, the Red Cross, former Attorney General Holder, and an independent commission led Admiral Walsh.
It is a secure location away from population centers with a $12M Expeditionary Legal Complex (ELC) that provides a secure location to try detainees charged by the U.S. government.
Key intelligence used to find Osama bin Laden was obtained at GTMO. CIA Director Panetta acknowledged that “clearly some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees...”
Members from many states have voiced concern with housing these terrorists in their states, especially now that ISIL has demonstrated the ability to call up sleeper cells to attack locations here in our country.
I disagree with those who think that closing the detention facility at GTMO will end the propaganda campaign being waged by our enemies.
The propaganda war will simply shift to whatever facility these terrorists are brought to in the United States, allowing them to engage in a whole new propaganda campaign against ‘GTMO North.’ The terrorists created GTMO’s image, not the actions at GTMO.
The attacks leading up to, including on and after 9/11, were not the result of holding detainees at GTMO.
Moving these terrorists held at GTMO to the United States will not stop future terrorist attacks against our homeland. We are at war; these are war criminals and need to be handled accordingly.
The president continues to want to deal with this threat through law enforcement.
Law enforcement alone is not enough to protect us.
Furthermore, the risk of a terrorist's release in the United States, or elsewhere, and the security risk to those living near the location selected to house these terrorists is too great in my opinion.
These terrorists want to destroy us and will use any means to accomplish that goal.
Bringing them to the United States is what these terrorists want – it brings them one step closer to accomplishing their goal of attacking America and its people.