Lankford Letter by Sen. James Lankford
Mike Seals - February 28, 2021 10:53 pm
Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:
It’s nice now, but last week, we all know that Oklahoma got a seven-day free trial of what is like to live near the North Pole. Oklahomans dealt with power outages, burst pipes, and damage to their homes due to the extreme weather. Now we are cleaning up and working on how we can prevent rolling blackouts in sub-zero temperatures and how can we keep utility bills low. I have stayed in close contact with our Oklahoma and regional energy partners to assess the risks, reasons, and response for the rolling blackouts. We have also discussed ways to protect consumers from major price spikes on their energy bill and maintain energy supplies for the future.
I’m grateful for the Oklahoma first responders, nonprofits, houses of worship, families, and businesses who once again lived the Oklahoma Standard to help their neighbors and the vulnerable during a tough week for many in our state. We still have work to do, but we will get through it together. It is clear we need to continue to prepare for future energy surges; assess the ongoing maintenance needs on our energy and water infrastructure; and learn best practices for future extreme weather events. Please continue to reach out to my office and your state and local public officials for assistance following the extreme weather. You can also call 2-1-1 to find organizations or nonprofits in Oklahoma that can help serve you and your family. Additionally, you can visit the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ “Be A Neighbor” site to find local neighbor organizations to help HERE.
UPDATE: Oklahoma Energy
On his first day in office, President Biden began his all-out assault on American oil, natural gas and other traditional energy. He started by issuing Executive Orders to revoke the cross-border permit of the Keystone XL pipeline, which effectively stops the ongoing work to complete the pipeline that should connect to Cushing, Oklahoma and move oil safely south. Ironically, a few days later President Biden lifted the pressure against the Russian natural gas pipeline (Nord Stream 2) to Germany that is a problem for the future of Europe. So, now it is official American policy to not move oil from Canada by pipeline, but to protect Russia’s pipelines to Europe. Hard to figure this out.
President Biden also announced a moratorium on energy leasing on federal lands, which will reduce federal royalties into the US Treasury and will eventually cause our nation to buy more oil from other countries. He also rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement.
Energy is not just a theory for Oklahomans, it is our economy and our jobs. All types of energy. As we saw last week, energy diversity and resilient base power must be at the heart of our energy strategy. You cannot just eliminate fossil fuels and still keep us warm and keep our lights on. Oklahoma produces nearly five percent of all the oil used in the country, nine percent of all the natural gas used, and more than 10 percent of the wind electricity. We are truly an all-of-the-above energy state with 45 percent of our energy coming from renewable sources. But, when our valuable wind turbines freeze up in sub-zero temperatures, the solar panels are covered in snow and our gas processing freezes up, we need every back-up option.
Three weeks ago, I was selected to join the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for the 117th Congress. I will continue to serve on the Senate Finance Committee, the Ethics Committee, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Committee on Indian Affairs. Serving on the Energy Committee will ensure Oklahomans have a seat at the table for conversations about how to move our nation forward with practical energy innovation, how to access rare earth minerals in America so we do not have to cater to the whims of communist China, and how to keep our air and water clean while fulfilling our energy needs.
CLICK HERE to read more about my opposition to President Biden’s immediate attack on Oklahoma’s traditional energy and the jobs associated with the industry that put food on our families’ tables.
CLICK HERE to watch my remarks on the Senate floor regarding President Biden’s call for unity at his inauguration and then immediately bullying energy-producing states like Oklahoma with his executive actions.
UPDATE: COVID-19 Funding through “Reconciliation”
I have been outspoken that Oklahomans are hurting from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. This is a time for action, not just talk. In the past year, Congress has passed four bipartisan COVID relief bills with over $3 trillion of aid. I helped write major sections of the CARES Act, which is still providing aid to millions of Americans. Any future aid should focus on targeted COVID relief to those who need it most, not partisan pet projects, earmarks, and slush funds.
For example, in December, I supported COVID relief that provided nearly $20 billion for testing and vaccine development, billions of dollars for schools, small businesses and direct relief checks. As of today, hundreds of billions of dollars from the December COVID bill has still not been spent, including funds for the CDC and NIH.
Adding more and more debt just to say we are doing something makes a bad situation worse, especially when billions of dollars in the bill are not even for the pandemic.
President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID spending bill currently has millions of dollars for a subway project in San Francisco, a bridge in New York State, billions of dollars for education projects that start in 2022 or later, and much more. Hundreds of billions of dollars in the proposal have nothing to do with COVID relief, they were just added to a COVID bill in a hope to get them passed without anyone noticing. We noticed.
Every dime of COVID spending is borrowed money. We need to borrow only as much as needed to survive the pandemic, but we should not borrow one dime more than what is needed because all of this debt will have a long term effect on our economic future.
CLICK HERE to read more about my amendment to protect houses of worship from discrimination during the pandemic.
CLICK HERE to read more on my amendment to prevent Democrats from using the gimmicky budget process of “reconciliation” to raise taxes on small business.
CLICK HERE to learn more about my vote to oppose the partisan budget resolution.
Oklahomans are rolling up their sleeves to show the Oklahoma Standard in a new way, by choosing to receive the vaccine. Most seniors in Oklahoma have already received the vaccine (in fact Oklahoma is one of the top states in the country for vaccine distribution), but now seniors want to know if they can get out and see their family after the vaccine. Earlier this month, I sent a letter to the Director of the CDC requesting scientific guidance for how people, particularly seniors, can reengage with their families and communities after they have received the vaccine. I specifically referenced the isolation senior adults have endured and how they need clear direction on how to balance preventative measures while getting back to some kind of normal life. Everyone can make their own decisions, but people are interested in the science. There’s no reason clear guidance isn’t already out there for Oklahomans from the CDC. I will keep pushing.
CLICK HERE to read more about the letter.
CLICK HERE to watch my speech to call on the CDC to provide guidance to seniors and their families once they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Conscience Protection Act
This week, I reintroduced the Conscience Protection Act to protect healthcare providers, including health care professionals, entities, and health insurance plans from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions or assisted suicide. No one should have to check their faith or moral convictions at the door when they enter their workplace. Unfortunately, many health care workers don’t have anyone protecting them if they decline to participate in a forced abortion procedure.
My bill gives doctors, nurses, and other health care workers permanent protection from being discriminated against by employers if they do not wish to perform, participate in, or provide an abortion or an assisted suicide. Many entered the healthcare profession to protect life; they should not be forced to take a life in order to keep their jobs.
CLICK HERE to learn more about our important bill to protect the conscience rights of Oklahomans.
This week, I had the opportunity to question President Biden’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, at a Senate Finance Committee hearing. I pressed Mr. Becerra on how he plans to protect the conscience rights of Americans and ensure faith-based individuals and entities receive fair treatment from the federal government.
This is important because in spite of existing federal laws protecting conscience rights for purchasers of healthcare plans, HHS under the Trump Administration declared that California violated federal law by forcing all its health plans to cover elective abortions. Xavier Becerra advocated for and enforced that law as the Attorney General of California. My Conscience Protection Act is necessary as a direct result of Attorney General Becerra’s actions to ignore the conscience rights of Californians and the possibility that he would ignore existing protections for all Americans if he becomes the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
CLICK HERE to watch my Q&A with Mr. Becerra at his nomination hearing.
I sent a letter, along with Arkansas’s Senator Tom Cotton and others, to President Biden asking him to withdraw Mr. Becerra’s nomination, citing his “lack of healthcare experience, enthusiasm for replacing private health insurance with government-run Medicare-for-all, and embrace of radical policies on immigration, abortion, and religious liberty, render him unfit for any position of public trust, and especially for HHS Secretary.” Mr. Becerra is a competent attorney, but the leadership of HHS during a pandemic should be someone who has medical, healthcare administration, or scientific experience.
CLICK HERE to read our letter.
CLICK HERE to watch our press conference.
UPDATE: Work to Stand for Life at All Stages
This year began with a strong showing of support from around the nation for the value of every child at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. Oklahomans and others from around the nation gathered virtually this year to celebrate the value of life and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Ahead of the March for life, I spoke on the Senate floor to support our friends and neighbors who continue to stand for the value of every child, not just some.
CLICK HERE to watch my floor speech in support of the lives of the unborn.
I have made no secret that I believe that every child is valuable. Here are some of the actions we have already taken this year to speak out for the most basic right to life:
- Led a letter to Senator Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer with 47 other pro-life senators to send a unified message that we have the votes to block any bill that would undermine the Hyde Amendment or any other pro-life protections. CLICK HERE to read more on our letter.
- Joined Senator Ben Sasse to reintroduce the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act, which would protect newborns that survive abortions by requiring appropriate care and admission to a hospital. CLICK HERE to learn more about our bill to protect abortion survivors.
- Joined Oklahoma’s Senator Jim Inhofe to introduce the Protecting Individuals with Down Syndrome Act, which would ban a doctor from performing an abortion being sought because the unborn child has Down Syndrome. CLICK HERE to learn more about ways we can protect these precious babies.
- Led 46 of our colleagues to reintroduce the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which would make permanent the Hyde Amendment restrictions on using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. CLICK HERE to learn more about our ongoing fight for this important bill.
- Joined Congressman Michael Cloud of Texas to reintroduce the bicameral Women’s Public Health and Safety Act, which gives states the authority to exclude abortion providers, like Planned Parenthood, from receiving Medicaid funds. CLICK HERE to learn more about our bill to prevent tax dollars from supporting abortions.
- Raised my concerns after President Biden’s Administration signed a Presidential Memorandum to repeal the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (PLGHA), often referred to as the expanded “Mexico City Policy,” that banned US taxpayer dollars from supporting international organizations that promote or perform abortion, as well as organizations that support other organizations that promote or perform abortions. CLICK HERE to read more on my views on this action.
- Joined Senator Lindsey Graham to reintroduce the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would provide common-sense protections for unborn children at 20 weeks after fertilization, a point at which there is significant scientific evidence that abortion inflicts tremendous pain on the unborn. CLICK HERE to learn more about our ongoing fight to move this bill to the finish line.
- Sent a letter to former US Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza to stop Planned Parenthood affiliates from receiving loans from the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is targeted to assist businesses with the highest need, while Planned Parenthood employs about 16,000 people nationwide. CLICK HERE to read more on our letter.
We still have much work to do to protect life, but moving these important policy changes will ultimately get us one step further toward our goal of valuing the lives of our nation’s unborn babies who deserve their right to life.
Vote to Acquit Donald Trump
On February 13, former President Trump was acquitted by the Senate. I simply could not support removing someone from office who is not in office, which is the vote I am required to take in impeachment proceedings. Holding an impeachment trial after someone has left office is unconstitutional. In fact, prior to the trial, I supported a point of order on the constitutionality of the trial, and he was acquitted by the Senate for the Articles of Impeachment presented by the House.
The US Constitution outlines the basic process for impeachment and trial of the president, but it says nothing about trying a former president: “The president…shall be removed from office on impeachment…” (Article II, Section 4) and “when the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” (Article I, Section 3, Clause 6) Additionally, “judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office.” (Article I, Section 3, Clause 7).
Originally four states in 1787 had impeachment clauses in their state constitutions that specifically allowed impeaching a former official, but when they wrote the US Constitution, they only allowed impeachment of current officials, nothing about former officials.
Focusing on Conservative Values
This morning, I spoke at the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to discuss our Bill of Rights, how it relates to our First Amendment right of religious freedom, and how Americans can live out our faith. That is one of my favorite topics. You can watch the full speech HERE:
Keeping You in the Loop
- The EQUALITY Act is once again in the news this week as the House announced it plans to pursue this misguided legislation with a good name. No one should be discriminated against for any reason. I believe each person is created in the image of God and has value and worth; every person deserves respect. But this bill radically guts religious freedom protections and changes labor law in America and will create endless lawsuits across the country. It actually allows a person that is not hired after an interview to sue the company for not hiring them based on the person’s “perception, even if not accurate” opinion of why they were not hired.
- Last week the Oklahoma Congressional delegation formally thanked our Oklahoma National Guard members, who kept everyone safe during President Biden’s inauguration. Cindy and I were able to directly express our by gratitude by showing them around the US Capitol. CLICK HERE to read the letter to our OKNG.
- February is Black History Month, and it offers us an opportunity to pause and recognize the contributions of our Black Oklahomans. I rose this year to commemorate the important work of Oklahomans like Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange and OK State Senator Maxine Horner CLICK HERE to watch my speech on the Senate floor to remember, honor, and thank the Black Oklahomans who have helped shape our state and nation.
- This month, I introduced the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would give employees more flexibility on how to use their overtime benefits. Allowing private-sector workers in Oklahoma the flexibility to choose paid time off or work over-time for extra pay is a good step to ensure the private sector and government remain competitive employers. We can and should continue to modernize our technology and our laws to give Oklahomans the opportunity to focus on their families and their careers. CLICK HERE to learn more about the bill.
- Communist China remains a threat to our national security and a threat to freedom-loving people worldwide from their communist regime’s oppressive actions. We can and should respond to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) anti-democratic national security law, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Earlier this month I joined a bipartisan group of senators to reintroduce the bipartisan Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act to protect Honkongers from Chinese oppression. CLICK HERE to read more about the bill. We also introduced a bipartisan bill to ensure that goods made with Uyghur forced labor—a Muslim religious minority in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)—do not enter the United States. CLICK HERE to learn more about our bill to prevent China from benefitting from just one of its horrible labor practices.
- At a recent Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Ms. Neera Tanden to serve as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Tanden several questions about her disparaging remarks previously on social media accusing people of faith like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who she said wielded their faith like a “cudgel.” I believe we should treat all people with value and dignity because they are created in God’s image. Oklahomans and people around the world should be able to freely have a faith. Living your faith is not wielding it. CLICK HERE to hear my full Q&A of Ms. Tanden.
- I was proud to join Senator Tim Scott to introduce a resolution declaring the week of January 25 as National School Choice Week. Every child deserves the opportunity to dream of a bright future regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic status. Students should not be limited in their educational opportunity as they wait for improvement in their local school. I support the right of every parent and student to have open access to the best classrooms that meet their educational goals. CLICK HERE for more information on our resolution.
- It was a great day for Oklahoma earlier this year when the US Navy announced that a future Navajo-class towing, salvage, and rescue ship will be named USNS Muscogee Creek Nation (T-ATS 10) to honor the self-governed Native American Tribe located in Okmulgee. The decision to honor our Muscogee (Creek) service members by naming a Navajo-class towing, salvage, and rescue ship the USNS Muscogee Creek Nation will help remind young people and future generations of the sacrifices made by the Nation for the entire country. CLICK HERE to read statements commemorating the day by the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation.
In God We Trust,
United States Senator for Oklahoma