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Dear Oklahoma Friends and Neighbors,
It was great to spend some quality time in the state during August to breathe the Oklahoma fresh air. August is the only month out of the year that Congress is not voting on legislation, so it allowed me to spend time traveling all over the state to hear the issues important to you and your families. The top issues I heard were about healthcare, education, terrorism, energy and federal rules that make it tough to run a business or find a job.
Tax money to the Iranian military
Last week, I sent a letter to President Obama to request details about the very unusual $1.7 billion in cash sent to Iran in January and February—money we now know was used to build up the Iranian military.
Americans deserve answers about how their hard-earned tax dollars were spent and the terms under which the money was exchanged. To read the letter and the 13 questions I asked the president, CLICK HERE. I will include in a future e-newsletter the president’s response.
This is a bigger issue than a single payment, no matter how large. The cash money sent to Iran changes our historic foreign policy of isolating Iran as the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, and it sets a new precedent for sending money to foreign governments from the long-established Judgment Fund. To deal with the long-term precedent, I authored a bill to limit the future use of the Judgment Fund and make sure no future president can transfer American tax dollars to a nation that sponsors terrorism.
CLICK HERE to read more about the resolution.
New regulation process for independent agencies
Last week, I chaired a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management hearing to examine the evolving regulatory guidelines for independent federal agencies, which are structured to be independent of political influence. Unlike executive branch agencies, independent regulatory agencies are not subject to the same basic requirements when writing federal regulation. Therefore, they are not held to the same standard to conduct rigorous cost-benefit analysis. That means if they are not held accountable, they can write rules that can cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars. During the hearing, all the legal experts agreed: we need better oversight and a change in how agencies make new rules.
Independent agencies are not independent governments free from answering to the public.
To read more about the hearing, CLICK HERE.
Broken budget process
I would love to tell you that the appropriations bills will be completed on time this year, but once again, they will not. The budget process to fund the federal government is broken. Since 1977, when the current budget process was adopted, there have only been four times that the budget process worked the way it was intended. Only four times in 39 years has the budget been adopted before the October 1 fiscal-year deadline. It is not a political party issue; it is a bad process issue, and it is time for Congress to fix the broken process.
This year, the Appropriations Committee passed all 12 bills with wide bi-partisan majorities to fund the federal government, which was a major improvement from previous years. Unfortunately, Democrats filibustered every Appropriations bill that came up on the Senate floor, and Congress will have to rely on another short-term extension of spending levels until December 9 called a Continuing Resolution.
The system needs to be reformed, which is why I have proposed specific solutions that will fix the issues with the current system, such as biennial budgeting, government shutdown prevention incentives and the elimination of budget gimmicks.
I will continue to encourage my colleagues that change is desperately needed, and that for the future of our country, that change needs to happen now.
Congressional trip to Guatemala
As part of my duties on the Homeland Security and Intelligence committees, I led a national security trip to Guatemala last month. The agenda of the trip was to meet with officials to discuss major challenges for America and our partners that included drug trafficking, immigration, national security and intelligence issues.
To read more about my trip, CLICK HERE.
Our country still mourns the many losses over the summer that have further divided our nation. After a number of tragic events in our country, Senator Tim Scott and I started asking our friends and neighbors a simple question: Have you ever had dinner in your home with a person of another race or culture —your family with their family in your home?
Race relationships will not be solved by saying we should have a “national conversation.” Race relationships are like all other relationships; they are built over time, trust and meals together. I believe that we will never get all the issues on the table until we put our feet under the same dinner table.
I encourage you to read this opinion piece I co-authored with Senator Scott about our idea to address the divisive issues in our nation by joining one another at the table. The whole world is watching America to see if we can set the example, I believe we can.
CLICK HERE to read the Time Magazine opinion piece.
Let’s respond to Zika responsibly
Zika is not a new virus, and for most people it is not harmful. But there is some evidence that the Zika virus can be very harmful for children in the womb. We can respond to the Zika virus in a safe, effective and affordable way. Just as families do in times of emergency, when a need comes up, we make hard choices to meet the new priorities.
Our country cannot afford to address the Zika virus using new “emergency” money, when the administration still has tens of billions of “unobligated” dollars at its disposal. There are millions of dollars in unused Ebola funding that can be used today, yet the administration is choosing not to. I have opposed a $1.1 billion emergency debt spending bill to direct more money towards the US Zika response because spending new taxpayer dollars when there is already money available is the very definition of irresponsible spending.
CLICK HERE to see my statement on why I opposed the fiscally irresponsible Zika bill last week. CLICK HERE to read the letter I sent to the Department of Health and Human Services to ask why they don’t redirect billions of dollars of available funds to the Zika response.
Keeping You in the Loop