Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:
During August since the Senate is not in session, I’ve been able to meet with Oklahomans and talk about the issues they face. In the last three weeks, I have visited with folks in Eufaula, Stigler, Poteau, Talihina, Wilburton, McAlester, Tulsa, Lawton, Oklahoma City, Kingfisher, Fairview, Okeene, Woodward, Beaver, Buffalo, Guymon, Hooker, Seiling, Wagoner, Muskogee, Okmulgee, Bartlesville, Sperry, Broken Arrow, Owasso, Stillwater, Enid, Waukomis, Midwest City, Mustang, Yukon, and Piedmont. I have heard perspectives from school superintendents, members of our Armed Forces, small business owners, manufacturers, food producers, meat packers, faith leaders, nonprofits, health providers, and many more Oklahomans.
Almost every day for the past three weeks, I have talked with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to work through the best approach for our economic recovery while ensuring we also focus on COVID-19 testing, treatments, and vaccines. Our nation’s health professionals continue to seek treatments and a vaccine for those who want to take it, and I am optimistic we will see successful vaccines and treatments this fall. Additionally, Oklahoma health centers and skilled nursing facilities were recently granted almost $45 million in August from the CARES Act to continue to fight COVID-19 and other health needs. CLICK HERE to read more about the grants.
While the COVID pandemic persists, I have remained engaged to serve all Oklahomans and fix broken government processes both related and unrelated to the coronavirus.
Targeted COVID-19 Relief Legislation
Oklahomans continue to utilize federal programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and funding for health centers, additional testing, and PPE made available through the CARES Act and other previous COVID bills. The $3 trillion of federal taxpayer money from the CARES Act and other COVID-related legislation so far this year is three times larger than our typical annual federal spending. Oklahomans, including me, are worried about where all these additional trillions of dollars are going to come from. Now congressional Democrats want another $3.9 trillion in “relief,” much of it to fund priorities that are completely unrelated to COVID-19 like the Green New Deal and a misguided push for universal mail-in voting for every election in the future. There is still a need for targeted assistance, but we should not spend money like there are no long-term consequences.
Future aid should focus on testing, vaccines, the hardest-hit areas of the country, hospitals, senior living, and nonprofits.
CLICK HERE to watch my recent speech to outline my priorities in any additional COVID-19 relief bills, including bolstering PPP access, providing additional funds for schools, continuing work toward treatments and vaccines, and more.
UPDATE: Homeland Security Committee
Last month, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held two critical hearings on the Post Office and the ongoing riots in Portland, Oregon.
One of the main issues discussed during this state work period is the USPS and ensuring that our mail carriers can handle a likely influx of mail-in ballots during this presidential election. Rumors swirled, propelled by false or misleading media reports. On August 21, I participated in a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to question Postmaster General Louis DeJoy about his work to address false rumors that Postal Service leadership were intentionally trying to prevent Americans from casting mail-in ballots for the 2020 presidential election. Postmaster General DeJoy was clear that the ongoing necessary reforms to the Post Office to ensure solvency, which are not new, will be halted for the duration of the 2020 presidential election.
Despite rumors that the Post Office lacks the funding to handle additional capacity for this year’s election, the USPS has more than $14 billion cash on hand, the largest amount ever. In addition, the USPS has a $10 billion line of credit from the CARES Act, just to make sure they do not have financial problems this year. The notion that the Post Office can’t handle an additional 100 million pieces of mail before the November election, ignores the fact that last year during the week of December 16, the Post Office handled over 2.5 billion pieces of first class mail in one week. That’s a lot of Christmas cheer in our mailboxes. The good folks at the Post Office can certainly handle a surge of a few million ballots this October and November.
CLICK HERE to watch my Q&A with Mr. DeJoy.
CLICK HERE to read my op-ed to debunk some of the Post Office rumors.
On August 6, the Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on federal law enforcement protecting federal buildings from the riots in Portland, Oregon. As we’ve seen in countless cities around our nation recently, peaceful, law-abiding protesters are soon drown out by violent mobs. Violent protesters in Portland caused more than 277 injuries to federal law enforcement officers including chemical burns and wounds from being hit with bricks, pellet guns, commercial-grade fireworks, and mortar rounds. Officers had laser pointers shot in their eyes to blind them. Those are not peaceful protests.
I asked Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf directly: Are you cracking down on peaceful protests? Under oath, he replied, “Absolutely not.” I asked him directly: Do you have federal law enforcement in Portland that are not labeled as police on their uniforms? He replied under oath, “Absolutely not.” It is important that we remain attentive to treating every person with respect and dignity, but we must also be sure that our law enforcement can do the job we ask them to do day in and day out.
CLICK HERE to watch my Q&A with Acting DHS Secretary Wolf.
Additionally, following approval, with my support, of a subpoena for members of Blue Star Strategies surrounding connections to corrupt Russian Burisma, the Committee is continuing to provide necessary oversight and pursue the facts surrounding potential mishandling by the FBI of its investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee I chair has also continued to fight burdensome federal regulations, ensure agencies are properly administering CARES Act programs and funds, and ensure federal employees have the resources they need to continue to serve Americans.
CLICK HERE to read more about my bipartisan bill to maximize telework flexibility for federal employees, following a July 28 Subcommittee hearing on private-sector best practices for teleworking. CLICK HERE to learn more about the hearing.
UPDATE: Pro-life work
I have also continued to fight for life during this state work period to ensure American taxpayers are not forced to fund abortions here and abroad. On August 7, I led more than two dozen senators to call on the Department of Treasury to investigate Planned Parenthood’s abuse of the taxpayer-funded PPP, and separately calling on the Department of Justice to expand its ongoing investigation of Planned Parenthood in the wake of new evidence of criminal activity. CLICK HERE to read our letter. I also joined a bicameral letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to call for new regulations to end tax breaks for abortion under the guise of health care. CLICK HERE to read our letter.
To help protect life abroad, I sent a bicameral letter to the Acting Administrator for the US Agency for International Development John Barsa to urge him to protect American taxpayer dollars during this pandemic from funding pro-abortion lobbying or advocacy efforts in other countries via the United Nations. This practice is in violation of the Siljander Amendment, which prevents State Department funds from being used to lobby for abortion. CLICK HERE to read our letter.
Keeping You in the Loop
Last week, I was proud to join Representative Kevin Hern, State Senator Kevin Matthews, and Deputy Tulsa Mayor Amy Brown to present the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park with its official membership into the US Department of the Interior’s African American Civil Rights Network. This long overdue designation formally recognizes the historic and national significance of the tragic Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 and Dr. John Hope Franklin’s work to advance the African American civil rights movement. This was a great day for Tulsa.
Communist China remains a dangerous threat around the world and to American values and freedoms. One subversive way Communist China has sought to influence and propagandize our nation’s students is through their Confucius Institutes on American college campuses. On August 13, Secretary of State Pompeo announced the State Department will require the Confucius Institutes to register as a “foreign mission” with the Department since the Institutes are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. CLICK HERE to learn more about the State Department’s actions to thwart Communist China.
On August 24, I helped introduce the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act, to streamline forgiveness for PPP loans of $150,000 or less if the borrower submits a simple, one-page attestation form to their lender. CLICK HERE to read more about the important bill to help Oklahoma lenders and small businesses.
Last month, I moved to place my Prevent Government Shutdowns Act directly on the legislative calendar for consideration by the full Senate. This bill will force Congress to do its job of funding the government and hold Members of Congress responsible. I look forward to swift consideration of my bill on the floor before we face another unnecessary and unproductive shutdown fiasco. CLICK HERE to read more about my bill to prevent government shutdowns.
Oklahomans know well the importance of our rural hospitals. They help reduce long commutes to receive even basic access to care. COVID-19 has placed an even greater burden on our already threatened rural health systems in Oklahoma and around the country. Senator Dick Durbin, Democratic Senator from Illinois, and I have joined together to help work on solutions for our nation’s rural health providers to ensure they are able to continue to serve their communities. In late July, I spoke on the Senate floor to press the Senate to include our Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act in any additional COVID relief package. Senator Durbin and I also penned an op-ed in The Hill to urge our colleagues to support our bill. CLICK HERE to watch my speech on the need to include our bill. CLICK HERE to read our bipartisan op-ed on the bill to give relief to rural hospitals.
In July, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill offered by Senator Inhofe and me along with Democratic Senator from Michigan, Gary Peters, to strengthen our national security by extending the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program for three years. The program, created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ensures that facilities holding high-risk chemicals have security measures in place to reduce the risk of chemicals being stolen or weaponized by terrorists. CLICK HERE to learn more about the important new protections.
The CARES Act provided federal dollars to help ensure Americans economically affected by COVID-19 would not be evicted from their homes or face utility turn-offs. In August, the Federal Housing Administration extended its foreclosure and eviction moratorium through December 31 of this year for homeowners with FHA-insured single family mortgages covered under the CARES Act. The CARES Act also offered programs and temporary assistance to help pay for phone bills, medical bills, and other expenses. CLICK HERE to visit the Current Issues page of my website or call my office to learn more about how to access ongoing help.
In God We Trust,
United States Senator for Oklahoma