Current Issues

This webpage serves as a resource of information for current issues being debated in the United States Senate, as well as information about where Senator James Lankford stands on the issue. This webpage will be updated on a regular basis as the Senate debates important topics.

REAL-ID
  • The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety recently announced that the state received an extension from the US Department of Homeland Security through September 18, 2020, for Oklahoma to comply with the federal REAL ID requirements for our state-issued IDs, i.e. driver’s license.
  • The extension ensures Oklahomans can continue to fly domestically using their OK driver’s licenses and enter federal buildings that require IDs. However, the final deadline for state-issued driver’s licenses to be REAL ID compliant is October 1, 2020. On that date, you will not be able to fly domestically with a non-compliant license.
  • To avoid the impending rush of Oklahomans who choose to get the REAL ID compliant state-issued ID in advance of that October 2020 deadline, it is recommended that Oklahomans get or renew a passport. You can go to Travel.State.Gov for instructions on how to apply for a passport.
  • Having a passport book (passport cards only provide for domestic travel or to Canada/Mexico by car) will ensure that regardless of a person’s Oklahoma ID status, he or she can fly (domestically or internationally), enter federal properties that require an ID, and travel internationally. All alternative forms of identification for the purpose of travel can be found here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification
  • Oklahomans who have a valid state driver’s license that expires sometime after October 2020, may still use that license combined with a US Passport to meet the REAL ID requirements (and obtain an Oklahoma REAL ID at their regular renewal time).
  • If you have questions going forward go to: https://www.ok.gov/dps/REAL_ID_Enforcement.html for more details.
Immigration and Border Security 
  • Senator Lankford serves on the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which have jurisdiction for oversight and funding of the Department of Homeland Security, the primary border security agency in the US government.
  • Senator Lankford remains actively involved in bipartisan conversations and negotiations surrounding proposals to repair the faulty immigration and broken border security policies in our country. 
     
  • Immigration:
    • On September 5, 2017, President Trump rescinded the 2012 Obama Administration initiative Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). While he agreed that DACA recipients should receive protection, it is inappropriate for any president to create the program through executive action. 
    • In February 2018, before DACA was set to expire, the Senate opened the floor for proposals to debate and solve our nation's immigration issues, including a solution for the DACA-eligible population. 
    • When President Trump rescinded the program, he set the effective end date to be March 5, 2018, which gave Congress six months to provide legislative permanency for these individuals and time to include provisions to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future. 
    • Last Congress, several groups of Senators proposed a variety of plans to provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients. The plan Senator Lankford supported, included the necessary reforms in the White House framework and could have received enough votes to also pass the House. Each of the four bills debated in the Senate received bipartisan support, but none of the bills received the 60 votes needed to proceed to a final vote.  
    • The SECURE and SUCCEED Act would have appropriated $25 billion for a variety of border and entry security; provided necessary methods of enforcement, such as the permanent authorization of the voluntary electronic employment verification system (E-Verify) and the enactment of Kate's law; and would have provided an opportunity for 1.8 million DACA-eligible immigrants to earn naturalization in 10 to 12 years.
    • Under DACA, recipients were not granted legal immigrant status, were not put on a pathway to citizenship, and did not have the right to vote in our elections. Additionally, they are barred from receiving any federal public benefits, which would continue while the individual has conditional permanent residency.
    • On January 8, 2019, Senator Lankford spoke on the Senate floor for the 11th time since he began serving in the Senate about the need to finally solve our immigration issues. 
    • In addition to the problems mentioned above, the nation is facing a migrant crisis because individuals are able to take advantage of our country’s broken asylum system to gain access into the country.
    • Individuals and family units at our borders and ports of entry will often claim asylum, even if they don’t have a valid case. In fact, at least half who make a credible fear claim do not actually apply for asylum.
    • Only about 12 of every 100 credible fear claims result in a grant of asylum by an immigration judge.
    • However, individuals are able to disappear into the interior of the United States because they are released while waiting for their case to be heard due to a lack of detention space and court rulings that prohibit families from being detained together while waiting.
    • These precedents also encourages adults to smuggle children to the border who have no familial relation to them.
    • There are more than two million individuals currently living in the country who have made asylum claims. While seeking asylum is legal and should be encouraged for individuals who truly need it, our broken laws have created a years-long backlog, making it more difficult for genuine asylum seekers and easier for individuals taking advantage of the system.
    • On May 16, the President announced his intention to address legal immigration reform and enhanced border security. While specific details of the plan have not yet been released, Senator Lankford looks forward to continuing to work with the administration to develop immigration policies that best fit the economic and security needs of our nation.
       
  • Border security:
    • Every nation has the right to secure its borders and control its entry process for safety and economic development.
    • Our southern border is full of diverse terrain including mountains, desert, and the Rio Grande River. 
    • Senator Lankford does not believe a 2,000-mile fence alone is the best and most cost-effective solution. Technology like tethered drones, seismic sensors, and vehicle barriers are very effective in many areas of the desert Southwest.
    • Historically, border security has always been bipartisan. In 2006, Congress passed the Secure Fences Act, and President Obama consistently took steps during his presidency to add infrastructure at the border for security. However, recently border security has become highly partisan.
    • Senator Lankford believes all people are made in God's image and deserve dignity and respect. However, it is reasonable to expect those entering and living within our borders to obey the laws of our nation. 
    • In the most recent omnibus bill, Congress appropriated almost $1.4 billion specifically for fencing at the southern border because although we already have more than 700 miles of fencing, some of it is old and ineffective. Border agents continue to emphasize that the number of illegal immigrant entries in the new or replaced fencing areas has significantly decreased.
    • In addition to that funding, the President declared a national emergency and his intent to use funds from other accounts and agencies to address the crisis at the border. Senator Lankford supported the President’s declaration and spoke about his support for the declaration on the Senate floor.  
    • Moreover, in 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 127,000 immigrants with criminal convictions and 5,000 gang members. ICE was able to rescue more than 500 human trafficking victims and 1,000 victims of child exploitation. Additionally, ICE seized nearly 500 tons of narcotics and enough fentanyl to kill more than 537 million people.
    • Already this year (through April 2019), Customs and Border Protection has apprehended 460,294unaccompanied minor children, family units, and single adults at the southern border attempting to cross outside a port of entry.
    • Senator Lankford also reintroduced the bipartisan Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act,which requires HHS to keep better track of and care for unaccompanied alien children (UACs). This measure, which was first introduced in September 2018, will help both ensure the children’s safety and ensure they appear at their immigration court proceedings. A summary of the bill is here and the bill text is here.
    • It is past time for Congress to solve these issues. Senator Lankford remains engaged directly with the White House and members on both sides of the aisle to try to find a resolution to these and other issues in immigration.
       
Trade
  • Senator Lankford serves on the Senate Finance Committee, whose primary areas of jurisdiction includes reciprocal trade agreements and tariffs;
  • Senator Lankford joined the committee in January 2019 but has always been engaged on trade and how the negotiations affect Oklahomans.
  • Senator Lankford supports strong trade agreements with other countries that give the United States and Oklahoma a fair playing ground for international trade. If a current trade agreement is unfair to the United States, it is appropriate to reengage, create fair trading partnerships, and resolve them quickly.
  • Fair trading partnerships include a low- or no-tariff situation without any trade quotas.
  • Once existing trade agreements are updated, we should seek new markets to get American products around the world. It is good for the US and good for Oklahoma.
  • On May 22, 2018, Senator Lankford joined a letter to US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer to urge him to consult with Congress as he worked to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which would later become the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
  • On July 25, 2018, Senator Lankford met with President Trump at the White House to discuss the then-ongoing negotiations for the USMCA and to encourage the Administration to finalize negotiations to provide certainty to Oklahoma agriculture producers.
  • On July 26, 2018, Senator Lankford questioned USTR Lighthizer during an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the USTR’s goal to resolve existing trade negotiations and the continued work to open new trade markets.
  • On August 3, 2018, Senator Lankford released his first podcast on trade. This episode focused on trade as a whole and how the ongoing trade negotiations between America and other nations impact Oklahoma.
  • On October 3, 2018, Senator Lankford spoke on the Senate floor about the positive effects of the USMCA on Oklahoma agriculture producers.
  • On February 28, 2019, Senator Lankford introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Import Tax Relief Act to require the Executive Branch to create an exclusion process for List 3 (and any future list) of Chinese imports subject to Section 301 tariff imposition.
  • On March 13, 2019, Senator Lankford spoke on the Senate floor about international trade with China, including Section 301 tariffs.
  • On May 10, 2019, Senator Lankford issued a statement after the Trump Administration’s unproductive trade talks with China stalled.
  • On May 17, 2019, Senator Lankford recorded his second podcast on ongoing trade negotiations and the tariff situation with China.
  • Because of our state’s role in agricultural production and energy development, Oklahomans understand the importance of free trade.
  • Senator Lankford supports strong trade agreements with other countries that enable US exporters greater access to overseas markets. This supports high-paying jobs while helping bring wealth to our state’s economy.
  • Senator Lankford continues to meet directly with the White House and with USTR Robert Lighthizer to provide an Oklahoma perspective in trade talks.

Federal Budget and Spending Background

  • The fiscal year for the federal government begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.
  • Each fiscal year, the federal government is required by law to pass a congressional budget, use that budget to put together 12 separate appropriations (spending) bills, and pass those 12 bills in some form.
  • That process has only worked four times since the legislation put in place that requires it was enacted in 1974. That’s four times in 44 years. 
  • CLICK HERE to listen to Senator Lankford’s recent podcast on the broken budget and spending process.
  • Under the proper process, in February each year, the President offers his budget (which is never passed in Congress, but is simply used as a suggested proposal)and Congress (both the Senate and House or sometimes just one or the other) is supposed to follow suit and present a budget proposal and pass it to provide top-line numbers for the Appropriations Committees to begin work on setting the actual dollar values to fund all federal departments and agencies. However, even that process is broken since even agreeing on a budget (the first step in the process)  has been difficult for Washington over the years.
  • Next, both the Senate and House have corresponding subcommittees in the full Appropriations Committee to work through each of the 12 appropriations bills.
  • The 12 appropriations bill names originate from the federal agencies and departments they fund.  Some are combined with other agencies and some are separate. The 12 bills and their commonly used “Inside-the-Beltway” names are:
    • Agriculture (“Ag”)
    • Commerce, Justice, Science (“CJS”)
    • Defense (“DOD”)
    • Energy & Water
    • Financial Services and General Government (“FSGG”)
    • Homeland Security (“DHS”)
    • Interior
    • Labor-Health & Human Services-Education (“Labor-HHS-Ed”)
    • Legislative Branch (“Leg. Branch”)
    • Military Construction-VA (“Milcon-VA”)
    • State & Foreign Operations (“SFOPS”)
    • Transportation-Housing & Urban Development (“T-HUD”)
  • Senator Lankford serves on the Senate Committee on Appropriations and on six of its subcommittees including: CJS; Energy & Water; DHS; Labor-HHS-Ed, and SFOPS. He also serves as the Chairman of the FSGG Subcommittee.
  • Frustratingly often, Congress uses stop-gap funding mechanisms known as continuing resolutions (or “CRs”) to fund the government at the most recently approved appropriations or at previous levels. The process of using CRs to fund the government shirks Congress’ duty to budget and appropriate.  Most recently, Congress has increasingly leaned on CRs for short-term extensions while larger spending bills are finalized.  But the process of funding the government in this manner is unnecessary if Congress does its job and passes a budget and all of the appropriations bills in a timely manner.
  • As the Budget and Appropriations Committees members work on the budget and the 12 spending bills, individual Senators and Members of Congress are theoretically supposed to work on legislation that eliminates waste and reforms federal programs to save taxpayer dollars.
  • Senator Lankford continues to work to cut examples of wasteful federal spendinghighlight and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse of federal tax dollars, and improve our broken budget and appropriations process