The Lankford Letter
Mike Seals - May 23, 2021 10:23 pm
Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:
Terrorists are once again attacking our friend and ally, Israel, and threatening their capital city, Jerusalem. Cindy and I continue to pray for peace and an end to the tremendous loss of life. The United States must be clear in our continued support for Israel and ensure that we lead from a position of strength.
This week, on my podcast, I spoke to the former US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. He explains the conflict, the history, and the opportunity for peace in the region. He is a remarkable leader and friend. Take a few moments to listen, CLICK HERE.
This week, I voiced my support of Israel and my opposition to the Biden Administration’s weakened approach and renewed negotiations with Iran. CLICK HERE to watch a video of my remarks.
The Iranian regime continues to sponsor terrorism while oppressing the people of Iran. Our nation should speak up for the people in the region who live under the rule of leaders who use terrorism to control and oppress.
I recently joined 42 Republican senators to urge President Biden to stand with Israel and condemn terrorism since the Biden Administration is currently negotiating and potentially offering sanctions relief to Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, which is also currently sponsoring the attacks in Israel. President Biden’s actions with Iran are causing instability in the whole region. CLICK HERE to read more about our letter.
Last week, I cosponsored the Israeli Sovereignty Reassurance Act of 2021 (ISRA), which would bar the State Department from reversing our recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. CLICK HERE to read more about the bill.
Economic Impact of Democrats’ Partisan “COVID” Bill
At the start of the pandemic, Congress came together to pass the CARES Act to address the real needs of Americans. We supported those who were out of work due to the shutdowns across our state and the nation. Today, Oklahoma is open, is safe, and businesses are hiring. But in my travels around the state, I’ve heard over and over again that businesses are hiring but they can’t get people to come back to work because the latest partisan “COVID” bill pushed through by Leader Chuck Schumer, which extended bonus unemployment benefits through September 2021. Right now, we have the highest number of job openings we have ever had in our state.
This week, Governor Kevin Stitt announced as of June 26, 2021, he would suspend federal unemployment in Oklahoma and instead offer a cash incentive to the first 20,000 Oklahomans who return to work. You can read more about Governor Stitt’s announcement about his Return to Work Incentive on the Governor’s website HERE.
I support Governor Stitt’s plan to end the extra federal assistance for unemployment in the next six weeks. We can continue to support high-risk Oklahomans, but we should encourage healthy adults to return to work. We are Oklahomans. We work hard. Even our state motto is “labor conquers all.”
CLICK HERE to watch my speech on the Senate floor discussing how DC Democrat policies have kept Oklahomans from returning to work.
UPDATE: China Bill
The Chinese Communist Party and their supporters remain a significant threat to the US and to our allies. They continue their hacking attempts and intellectual property theft, and China maintains a strangle hold on the supply chain for critical minerals we use in electronic devices like smart phones. That’s in addition to numerous human rights abuses against religious minorities and against people who work in Chinese factories, including abused children. China wants central government control to continue to spread throughout the region as they seek to take our place as the world leader.
This week, the Senate started debate of United States Innovation and Competition Act, a bill some say is intended to help increase research to make the US more competitive with China in key technology and technology components. The US and our allies have an opportunity to take the lead on responsibly sourcing these materials and moving that supply chain in a stable direction, but some in the Biden Administration want to limit US energy and mineral production. They prefer we rely on Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia for energy and critical minerals.
I plan to offer several amendments to this bill as we continue to debate through next week. As of now, I am skeptical this bill does anything more than put the US more in debt to China and further attempt to centralize our research, development, and technological innovation in the federal government rather than in the private sector. Additionally, the current version of the bill does not address our ongoing trade and tariff issues, China’s hold on the critical mineral supply chain, or cyber-security.
I will be able to provide additional updates on my website and social media next week when we have more information on how the final bill turns out. We need to confront the real threat from China, but we need to be smart in the process.
CLICK HERE for more information on how the US can expand our minerals supply by using our own critical minerals and those of our allies.
UPDATE: S. 1/H.R. 1
For now, the conversations on the Democrats’ proposed federal takeover of our elections in S. 1 and H.R. 1 have stalled, following the markup of the Senate version of the “For the People Act” in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee last week. I and many of my fellow conservative senators have spoken out on the significant problems with the bill. The more the facts have been public the more Americans are engaging with all senators to stop Washington, DC, from taking over state elections.
In a rare moment of agreement, both the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative Heritage Foundation have come out in opposition to S. 1 and H.R. 1. The other notable time I saw them both agree on something was when President Trump signed our major criminal justice reform legislation, the First Step Act, where I attended the signing ceremony when both praised the bill.
I remain firmly opposed to S. 1 and H.R. 1 and will continue to track any other legislation that might try to take elections out of the hands of Oklahomans and hand them to Washington, DC, to run. We know Oklahomans do a much better job at running free and fair elections where we make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.
CLICK HERE to read more about our bill, the Don’t Weaponize the IRS Act, which makes sure if proposals like H.R. 1/S. 1 are enacted, no Administration can use the Internal Revenue Service to intimidate or silence groups they disagree with politically, like conservative groups were targeted under President Obama.
To watch my speech on the Senate floor about the many reasons I oppose this dangerous bill, CLICK HERE.
UPDATE: Border Security
Last week, I finally had an opportunity to question Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing. I asked him several questions on why the crisis at the southern border is not being addressed, and I was extremely frustrated. He told the Committee that his Department had been successful in reducing the number of people in its custody by releasing them quicker. He is tracking success by saying the DHS has fewer children in custody without saying that there are still thousands of children still in the custody of the federal government, they have just been transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services. Other adults have just been released into our nation.
CLICK HERE to watch my Q&A with Secretary Mayorkas on why the Biden Administration has still not closed the southern border.
Our southern border remains dangerously open. Because wall construction was halted, there are physical openings in the wall where gates should be. They continue to say that they are “studying” the border wall. The Biden Administration has let at least 19,000 people into the US and asked them to self-report to an immigration office so they can be given a future immigration court date. So far, 87.5 percent of the people released into the country have not shown up at an immigration office for their mandatory check in.
In April 178,000 people were encountered at the southern border. That is a staggeringly high monthly number. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has been secretly recruiting a “volunteer force” of federal employees from NASA and the departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture to work at the border transferring migrants with very few training requirements.
CLICK HERE to read more about President Biden sending volunteer federal employees to help, but not to secure, the southern border.
CLICK HERE to watch the press conference I attended to call on the Biden Administration to secure the border.
In the past three months, I have been to the border areas three times to see first-hand what is happening. Unfortunately, the President and Vice President have not traveled to the area once.
Cyber-security and the Colonial Pipeline
I recently questioned top cyber-security officials during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing centered on the recent cyber-attack at SolarWinds and on how we can make necessary improvements to our cyber security infrastructure and protocols to ensure national security. I asked the panel about our cyber-security readiness, especially in the wake of ongoing threats from ransomware and other cyber-attacks, including the recent attack on the Colonial Pipeline, which increased gas prices and reduced availability in the southeast US.
CLICK HERE to learn more about our hearing on cyber security readiness.
The Biden Administration has shown that they want fewer pipelines and less traditional energy to move across the United States, but as this incident at Colonial Pipeline has demonstrated, fewer pipelines means hikes in prices at the pump and avoidable uncertainty. This is the “ghost of Christmas future” for pipelines, if the Biden Administration doesn’t approve new permits and get new, safe pipelines in the ground to address our future energy needs. CLICK HERE to watch more on my belief that pipelines are our best and safest way to transport energy.
CLICK HERE to learn about my letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about the need to immediately approve permits to bring new pipelines online.
Make no mistake, we face thousands of cyber-attacks every single day in the US, and we do not hear about most of them because our national security personnel prevent them from achieving their goals. But we must continue to do all we can to stop nations like Russia, China, North Korea, and other bad actors from snooping, stealing, or committing other cybercrimes. In 2018, President Trump established a National Security Strategy to be sure we are prepared for, not just responsive to cyber-security threats. I supported the adoption of that strategy, and obviously our work continues as new and different threats emerge.
CLICK HERE to learn more about my work to help further our cyber-security protocols and securing our cyber infrastructure.
By the way, in a moment of real irony this week, President Biden lifted sanctions on Russia to allow them to develop a new pipeline in the Atlantic ocean, while the Keystone Pipeline from Canada is blocked.
CLICK HERE to read more about the Biden Administration’s decision to waive sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline.
Work to Protect Life against Our Most Pro-abortion President
President Biden’s and the Democrats are obsessed with abortion. I joined Iowa Senator Joni Ernst this week to oppose the Biden Administration’s efforts to direct our tax dollars to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. I joined Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton to file an amicus brief in Rutledge v. Little Rock Family Planning Services, urging the Supreme Court to uphold Arkansas’s law to protect unborn babies with Down Syndrome.
CLICK HERE to read more on our letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to oppose his proposed changes to Title X funding to once again make it available to abortion providers.
CLICK HERE to read more about our amicus brief in the Rutledge v. Little Rock Family Planning Services case before the Supreme Court.
It wasn’t that long ago that then-Senator Biden was speaking on the Senate floor saying that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Now as President, he is moving as fast as he can to promote abortion and demand taxpayers pay for it. Health care is meant to save human lives, not take them, regardless of how small the human is.
The Supreme Court announced this week it would take up Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization this October, to consider the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on elective abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Court agreeing to take this case is a huge step forward in the work that has been done over decades to protect the life of every child starting in the womb. I hope you’ll join me in praying for the outcome that respects every human life.
Keeping You in the Loop
- Senate Republicans are working on an actual infrastructure proposal to see if we can prioritize construction and maintenance needs for our interstate highways, interstate waterways, energy infrastructure, and rural broadband deployment. CLICK HERE to watch my Q&A in the Senate Finance Committee where I discussed the dangers of the massive debt spending in the Democrats’ proposal and some of the infrastructure issues we need to work out.
- Last month, I, along with 20 of my colleagues, sent a letter to the head of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, questioning why Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, a documentary about the life of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was removed from Amazon’s streaming service during Black History Month when Amazon claimed to be amplifying Black voices, particularly “Black History Makers,” in our nation. We asked why Amazon removed the film, when the decision was made, and who made it. CLICK HERE to learn more about our letter to Amazon.
- I recently joined several senators to introduce the Record of Military Service for Members of the Armed Forces Act of 2021, which helps reserve component members of the US Armed Forces, including members of the Reserves and National Guard, receive the benefits they have earned following their retirement or completion of service by ensuring they receive the same DD-214 form as other members of the military. National Guardswomen and men and Reservists should have the same form recognizing their service at home and abroad as their active duty counterparts. I am honored to continue to support the women and men who have dedicated their lives to protecting our nation. CLICK HERE to learn more about our bill.
- I joined a group of more than 50 senators to introduce the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, which will expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, making telehealth flexibility permanent. The pandemic forced Oklahomans to adapt in many ways, but one positive change we saw was the expansion of telehealth access to help increase access to care and reduce the spread of COVD-19, particularly for senior adults. Telehealth primary care visits in Oklahoma increased by one-third during the pandemic, and it’s important to make this option permanent for Medicare patients who want to meet virtually with their doctor and health team. CLICK HERE to learn more about our bill to expand telehealth opportunities.
- Earlier this month, I joined our nation to recognize the tireless work of our public service employees during Public Service Recognition Week. I am grateful to the thousands of Oklahomans who work in public service roles and who help keep our cities, states, and nation moving, connected, and safe. Thank you for all you do.
- I joined Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse and other Republicans on the Finance Committee to call on Chairman Ron Wyden to open an investigation into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cover-up of New York’s nursing home death toll, following a New York Times report that the cover-up of the death toll numbers was far worse than had been previously known when Cuomo’s aides blocked state health officials from releasing the actual numbers of COVID-19 deaths. CLICK HERE to read more about our call for an investigation.
- On May 6, I was honored to have Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, join me to recognize the 70th anniversary for the power of prayer and its necessity for our nation and leaders. CLICK HERE to read our message.
In God We Trust,
United States Senator for Oklahoma