Mike Seals - April 12, 2021 11:00 pm
By Senator James Lankford
Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:
It has been great to spend the last two weeks seeing Oklahomans face to face to talk about your questions and ideas to solve the issues facing our nation. In the week before and after Easter, I have been in Tulsa, Bixby, Broken Bow, Idabel, Hugo, Yukon, El Reno, Chickasha, Muskogee, Oklahoma City, Enid, Seminole, Wewoka, and Norman.
We discussed a range of issues like the crisis on the southern border; the importance of maintaining the filibuster in the Senate; making voting easy and cheating hard; protecting religious liberty and life; protecting our Second Amendment rights; and finding the best ways to move forward as COVID-19 vaccinations increase.
I also remain very concerned with the out-of-control spending push from this Administration, almost all of which has been additional debt spending. There are a number of proposals, rumors, and speculation about what the Democrat majority plans to bring to the floor of the Senate. I wish I could fill you in, but they are not sharing information with Republicans or the American people. I will continue to keep Oklahomans up to date on what we’re working on in Washington as I get the information.
UPDATE: Exposing the crisis at the US southern border
We have a crisis at the US-Mexico border that President Biden and his team refuse to acknowledge. Over the last month, I toured the unfinished fencing at the Arizona border that was halted by the Biden Administration and the unfinished fencing and levy walls in South Texas. There is only one reason not to finish the border wall system under construction: because Biden wants an open border.
The border wall, which is strategically placed where border patrol agents have said they need more time to interdict illegal crossings, is about 95 percent complete. In many areas only the gates, technology, and access roads are needed to finish the system, which Congress has already allocated and approved funding for. It’s time to finish the wall.
CLICK HERE to watch the video I took of the wide gaps in the fence at the border in Arizona.
I also traveled to south Texas to see the issues near McAllen, TX. In the Rio Grande Valley region, our border law enforcement interdicts massive amounts of illegal drugs, and just this year they have encountered people crossing illegally from 56 different countries in that one narrow section of our border. In the past three months, illegal crossings have skyrocketed. Part of the reason for the massive increase in illegal crossings are the new policies put in place by President Biden.
As of January 20 of this year, when someone crosses the border illegally, they are often released into the United States within two hours and told to show up at a court hearing two to three years from now to request asylum. Once people started being released into the country, within hours, people all over the world starting coming.
In February of 2020 before COVID-19, we had just under 40,000 people detained at our southern border. One year later, in February of this year, we saw over 100,000 people detained in one month. I previously visited the Texas border in 2019 following the intense surge we saw in the spring months that year. I saw some stark differences. For example, one location I went to that was meant to house 80 people is currently housing more than 700. The only difference was the president and the policies of that president.
CLICK HERE to watch what I saw at the Texas-Mexico border.
We are a nation of legal immigration, but we are also a nation of laws. Securing the parts of the border that need a physical barrier is the first step to ensuring we can prevent illegal crossings and prevent coyotes from trafficking people over the border. The border and operations to control the flow of people crossing has been an issue for decades, and President Biden needs to close the border now. We are the greatest country in the world, of course people want to come here to live and work, but they should come legally.
At the beginning of the year, I was selected as the lead Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, which has oversight of our border security and immigration federal personnel and operations.
The great people who patrol our border have families and children of their own, they do not want to see this humanitarian crisis brought on by bad policy. I will continue to expose and demand Executive Branch action to stop the ongoing humanitarian and national security crisis at our southern border. We should finish the technology and infrastructure along the southern border and put policies in place that discourage, rather than encourage, illegal activity.
H.R. 1/S. 1, the “For the People Act”
Oklahomans I’ve met while on the road continue to ask me questions about the Democrats’ push to federalize our elections, which is exactly what H.R. 1/S. 1, the “For the People Act,” would do. This bill has been marketed to the American people as a way to “protect” elections and “preserve” democracy when in practice, it increases opportunities for fraud and voter intimidation. In America, it should be easy to vote and hard to cheat, but this bill makes it easy to cheat and hard to verify any election.
H.R. 1 and S. 1 have several provisions I find very concerning. The legislation:
- Makes the currently nonpartisan Federal Election Commission follow the party of the sitting president, allowing any president to use the Election Commission for their benefit
- Requires the use of taxpayer dollars for all campaigns by creating a 6:1 taxpayer-funded campaigns, meaning if someone raises $100,000, they would get $600,000 from taxpayers, which would create even more costly campaigns and requires Americans to pay for all races for all parties
- Prohibits voter ID laws in every state. Same day registration on Election Day with no voter ID, no address verification and no way to verify a person has not already voted
- Requires the acceptance of mail-in ballots up to 10 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day and sets no ID requirements to obtain a mail-in absentee ballot
- Legalizes ballot harvesting which would allow anyone to return any ballot, with no limitation on how many ballots a person can mail in or put into a drop box
- Allows automatic voter registration based on other government benefits, many of which are available to people not legally present in the country
- Violates privacy rights by requiring nonprofits that spend more than $10,000 in an election reporting cycle to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more during an election cycle and must identify the organization. If the organization is a corporation, it must disclose its owners by names and address which invites people who oppose their stance to intimidate people into not giving.
Oklahoma has secure voter laws. We require identification to vote in person and by mail and other important safeguards, but as we saw in the 2020 election, many states lack even basic election processes and protections. I believe states should:
- Encourage every legal adult to vote
- Provide enough polling places and machines to make voting faster
- Allow early in person voting and verified mail in voting
- Work to instill trust and confidence in the election system and the results
- Prevent voting in more than one state and prevent deceased people from voting
- Have paper ballot backups to ensure auditable results
- Start counting mail-in votes before Election Day, finish counting by Election Day, and receive all ballots by the time polls close on Election Day
- Continue cybersecurity enhancements.
Safe and secure elections should be nonpartisan and noncontroversial. However, H.R. 1 and S.1 create more problems by opening up every election to fraud. I will strongly oppose either bill if it comes to the floor, but I will continue to support legislation that maintains states’ ability to run secure and open elections.
President Biden’s Massive Spending Bills
Oklahoma is hiring, but not enough people are applying. As I have traveled the state, employers have told me they have lots of openings, but many people will not take the jobs because they can make more on the additional unemployment benefits Oklahoma employers are frustrated that the only obstacle to getting their business going full speed again is the almost $2 trillion partisan “COVID” package passed by Congress a few weeks ago.
There were many reasons why I opposed the almost $2 trillion spending bill, the additional unemployment benefits in places where the economy is now stronger post-COVID is just one of them. When companies cannot hire more people, our supply chain breaks down and prices go up. We are already seeing prices rise because of our labor shortage and long delays for many materials. President Biden now wants to do a more than $2 trillion “infrastructure” package that he says is intended to create jobs and help our economy. In reality, it’s another grab-bag of campaign promises that is not infrastructure including:
- $213 billion for housing
- $174 billion for electric vehicles
- $35 billion for climate technology
- Billions for child care
We’ve already added more than $4 trillion to the national debt in the last 12 months. As this infrastructure package continues to take shape, I will bring light and transparency to what’s in these massive spending bills filled with pet projects that are causing continued reliance on the federal government.
Now that my Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act is law, we will be able to take a close look at how taxpayer dollars are spent in a full federal inventory.
CLICK HERE to learn more about my bill to ensure transparency of every federal program and Department’s spending.
Protecting Life & Religious Freedom
I recently opposed President Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services because I believe that during a pandemic we need a health care professional leading the Department of Health and Human Services. Former California Attorney General Becerra who has enjoyed a highly visible legal career of forcing faith-based organizations to promote abortion and suing groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor is not suited to lead the top health agency for the nation. We would not put a doctor leading the Department of Justice, so why did President Biden select a lawyer to lead Health and Human Services?
CLICK HERE to read more on my opposition to Mr. Becerra’s nomination.
Currently, if a healthcare provider, including insurance plans, refuses to provide abortions, the only recourse is to file a complaint with the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). I reintroduced the Conscience Protection Act to protect health care providers, including health insurance plans from government discrimination if they don’t want to participate in abortions.
CLICK HERE to learn more about my Conscience Protection Act.
I also joined Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina to introduce the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which would protect faith-based child welfare providers from being discriminated against for acting in accordance with their deeply held religious beliefs.
CLICK HERE to learn more about our bill to ensure faith-based child welfare providers remain eligible for state and federally funded child-welfare programs.
The latest “COVID” bill did not contain the long-standing protections that ensure tax payer funds will not pay for abortions. Senator Steve Daines from Montana and I introduced several amendments to the bill to bar the use of federal dollars to pay for an abortion. But, Democrats blocked our efforts to protect life. However, our fight for life continues, and I will work to reestablish Hyde protections so Americans who are morally opposed to paying for abortions are not forced to do so with their tax dollars.
CLICK HERE to learn more about our work to protect the Hyde amendment.
UPDATE: Supporting charitable giving
Non-profits are essential for our economy and our safety net to help the hurting, hungry and homeless. Last month I introduced the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act to extend the current deduction for charitable giving. Specifically, the bill would make available to taxpayers who do not itemize on their tax returns—for tax years 2021 and 2022—a below-the-line deduction for charitable giving on federal income taxes valued at up to one third of the standard deduction (around $4,000 for an individual filer and $8,000 for married joint filers).
Unfortunately, the latest “COVID” bill did not include additional incentives for Americans to give to nonprofits, but my bill would offer taxpayers the option of giving their hard-earned money to the charity or nonprofit they support and be able to deduct that support from federal income taxes. If you serve in a non-profit, thank you for giving your time and your energy to love your neighbor as yourself.
Keeping You in the Loop
- Congratulations, Altus! The community of Altus was recently named a “Great American Defense Community” by the Association of Defense Communities and USAA! It’s good to share the ways Altus is growing and expanding in and around the Base, and I’m proud to see this national attention paid to one of Oklahoma’s brightest lights. CLICK HERE to watch my video congratulating Altus.
- I continue to press for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to help ensure that as COVID-19 numbers remain on the decline and vaccinations increase we are able to safely return to normal activities and gatherings. Oklahoma updated its visitation guidelines in early March, following a CDC guidance update, to allow visitors who have completed state-certified essential care training to visit their loved one in a long-term care facility. In February, I sent a letter to the CDC director requesting CDC provide Oklahoma seniors with up-to-date guidance on when and in what ways it is safe to move forward with their daily lives now that they are completely vaccinated. CLICK HERE to hear more from me on pushing the CDC to update their guidelines.
- Tax filing for federal and state income taxes has been extended. The Federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year will be automatically extended from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. CLICK HERE for more information from the IRS. Note: Oklahomans now have until June 15, 2021, to pay their 2020 Oklahoma state individual and business income taxes, and their first quarter 2021 estimated income tax payments. CLICK HERE to read more from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
- Back by popular demand: I have joined Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky to reintroduce the Audit the Fed bill to prevent the Federal Reserve from hiding information on its operations from Congress. Since my Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act is now law, we will have opportunities to take a close look at the ways taxpayer dollars are spent through a federal inventory. CLICK HERE to learn more about this important bill that Oklahomans consistently have asked me to support.
- Last month, I testified against the Equality Act. The bill has a great name, but the text of the bill does not match its title. No person should be discriminated against in America. No one. That’s who we are; it’s a basic constitutional principle. We are all equal under the law. We don’t oppose equality, but we do oppose legislation that takes rights from one group and dismisses the rights of others. CLICK HERE to watch my testimony against the bill.
- In March, I introduced legislation to permanently ban earmarks from federal spending bills which allows powerful legislators to send everyone’s tax dollars to specific—usually non-federal priorities—in their home states and districts. Remember the “Bridge to Nowhere”? That was an earmark. Earmarks give money to projects without them going through a merit-based or competitive grant or grant-like process. In 2019, a Republican-controlled Senate banned earmarks, but talks continue to take shape to re-introduce the bad practice back to the House and Senate. CLICK HERE to read more about our important bill to ban earmarks and keep federal tax dollars for national priorities.
- Who else is annoyed by having to get all the clocks changed in your home and car because of a 100-year-old practice that is no longer necessary? You’re not alone. Senator Rubio and I recently introduced the Sunshine Protection Act to make Daylight Saving Time permanent and stop us from “springing forward” and “falling back” every year. We have many things to work on, but “locking the clock” ends an annual pain for every family. CLICK HERE to learn more about our bill.
- We need to turn the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic into best practices, which is why I introduced the Pandemic Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Act to help Congress update federal processes that kept us from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic quickly and effectively. We can take what we learned from COVID-19 and help make any future pandemic easier to navigate. CLICK HERE to learn more about our bill.
- On April 1, I joined 12 senators to send a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan to ask him to waive or reduce the renewable volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (known as “RFS”). We’ve all seen the “contains up to 10 percent ethanol” signs on the gas pumps and at some gas stations that read “100 percent gasoline.” The RFS requires fuel refiners to blend renewable fuels like ethanol into our gasoline. I have no problem with ethanol, but I do have a problem with the federal government mandating more and more ethanol being used. The problem is that some warranties are voided by using anything other than 100 percent gasoline, and some older engines cannot take blended fuel at all. Additionally, our refiners have had trouble getting enough renewable fuels to blend in order to meet the RFS requirements, which have been routinely waived rather than eliminated altogether. CLICK HERE to learn more about my work to continue to help our Oklahoma energy producers.
In God We Trust,
United States Senator for Oklahoma