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Senator Lankford Delivers Floor Speech on Tax Reform, Senate Gridlock Reform, and Dr. Andrew Brunson

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a floor speech on how tax reform will help our economy, how gridlock reform will make the Senate more efficient, and he also spoke about Dr. Andrew Brunson, an American who has been unjustly imprisoned in Turkey for a year.


On the need for Tax Reform

Our economy is stuck. We’re in a bad spot of just treading water. Over the last 11 years our gross domestic product—that’s how much our economy is growing—has been 1.9 percent. 1.9 percent, that’s a tiny change. Just to give you a perspective, over the last 100 years, there’s not been a single decade that we’ve had a year without at least 3 percent growth in that until the last decade. Literally, our economy that is typically growing –that’s more jobs are being added, people are making more money, there’s more happening, we’re selling more internationally—that’s in America for the last 100 years it has slowly grown and grown and grown until the last ten years and it’s flattened out. We’re stuck. Now when I was younger, we had a record player in the house. Now, for all of you under 40, I would explain a record player to say it’s kind of like a CD player, only larger and made of vinyl, but if I say that the under 20 crowd would say what’s a CD player? Let me just say this, the big black pieces of vinyl that played music in my house that occasionally would get stuck and the record needle would land in the same groove and play the same part of the song over and over again, it was my job as the youngest one in the house to go over to the record and bump it and get it out of that. Our economy needs that. We need to be able to get over to our economy that is stuck in the same groove at 1.9 percent in this incredibly low growth rate and give it a bump.

If we’ll just simplify the system, we’ll actually encourage companies to be able to stay in America and then do business all over the world rather than moving their company out of America. It’s a simple way to be able to do it. And it’s a way that we can do and should do. You’ll hear the term called repatriation. That’s really what it’s about, are Americans being able to move their money from overseas accounts back to the United States. And get that money moving. There’s a lot of conversation about the stimulus plan back in 2009. Trying to get almost $1 trillion of government money—that’s money from you and I—from government money and to be able to move that it around in a stimulus package.

Let me give you the figure. Right now it’s estimated that American companies have about $2.5 trillion of private money parked overseas, that they’re not going to bring back to our economy because of the high cost of the tax coming back. If we were able to change that system, $2.5 trillion of private money would move from overseas back into the United States. What effect would that have on our economy? I would stipulate it would be a pretty dramatic effect it would have on our economy. We can fix this. We can resolve this. This shouldn’t be as hard as we’re making it. And it can be a bipartisan approach to be able to address things, taking care of our family, making sure we are watching out for those who are in poverty, simplifying the code, making sure that deductions are not for a few but spread out, protecting things like charitable giving, the mortgage interest deduction, and things that most Americans use. This is the parameters that we’re trying to work through over the next couple of weeks. And hopefully in the coming months, as we work through all the details in the committee with amendments coming to the floor and fighting our way through the process can actually get to a decision that will help us long term as a nation. This is something that can and should be resolved.

On the need for Senate Gridlock Reform through rules changes:

We should take away the first 60 votes at the beginning. We should be able to get on to a bill regardless of whether it’s Republicans or Democrats in the majority, the majority party should be able to bring up a bill and debate it without being stopped. Let’s bring up any issue and actually debate it. Let’s not inhibit debate in this body. If we can’t find agreement, keep the 60 votes at the end of it so we can keep the debate going until it gets resolved. We should be able to debate the issues. The second big issue is we have got to be able to deal with nominations in an appropriate time period. Right now, currently my democratic colleagues, are forcing the long period of time in debate for every single nominee that comes. I’ve heard folks say that’s what Republicans did in the past. That’s actually not true. This is the first time it happened like this. Under the current structure, like in this week, we’re going to move four nominees for the President in one week—four. The current structure, it will take 11 years for President Trump to get his staff—11 years.

Let me give you a barometer of where things have been in the past. At this same date, as of yesterday, President Trump has 153 confirmations total. At this same date, President Obama had 337 total…President Bush had 358 total at the same point. President Trump is not getting his nominees heard and it is being slow-walked through the process. We have to fix that. A simple way to be able to do it is to be able to allow two, four, or eight hours of debate, not the protracted 30 hours of debate for each nominee. It is already a resolved issue. These individuals have already gone through committee, they’ve already been voted on in committee, by the time it gets to the floor it is resolved. The 30 hours of debate time is purely delay tactics. We should be able to stop that with a two, four, or eight hours total.

And here’s a radical idea, if we want to get the Senate going again, we can agree to a rule change that would allow for what is called dual tracking. We would do nominations in the morning and legislation in the afternoon. Right now, we can only do one thing at a time in the Senate—one thing at a time. So while we’re waiting for a nomination vote, everything waits for until that done and it slows down the process. Why can’t we do nominations in the morning, legislation in the afternoon? There are basic rule changes that will help that are not partisan issues that are designed to get the Senate moving regardless of whose in the majority. We’ve got to resolve this long term. If we don’t, the American people will continue to be frustrated and we, as Senators, will continue to be frustrated.

On American Pastor Andrew Brunson:

This weekend’s an anniversary I don’t like bringing up. One year ago, this weekend, a gentleman named Dr. Andrew Brunson was detained in Turkey. He’s been a pastor in Turkey for more than 20 years and a United States citizen. He has faithfully served the people of Turkey for two decades. A year ago this weekend he was picked up by local authorities, being detained for months and months and months without charges, just swept up and held. Things are changing rapidly in Turkey right now. Turkey is not the same NATO ally and friend to the United States that they have been. The leadership of Turkey is radically changing the nature of that very open democracy and shutting them down to become more and more of an authoritarian government.

American citizens that do business there, that do mission work there, that have friends and family there need to be aware that Americans are being swept up and detained without charges and held, now in this case of Dr. Brunson, for a year. I have to warn fellow Americans that Turkey is not necessarily a safe place to do business and to travel anymore. Turkey has the authority right now to be able to release Dr. Brunson. He’s an American citizen and a pastor. They have the ability to be able to do that. Recently the Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to an appropriation bill giving additional authority to our State Department to be able to take action against Turkish officials that hold American citizens like this and put specific sanctions on those individuals. I hope that the State Department will use that tool in their toolbox to apply pressure to the Turkish people to not impose arbitrary detention on United States citizens. We can push back on the Turks. I would hope in the days ahead that the Turkish government will turn back around to a more open democracy. They have been a nation in the past that was historic for their stand for religious liberty and democracy in that region and we would love to see a Turkish ally still stand for religious liberty and still stand for the protection of all citizens in the days ahead. With that, Madam President, I yield the floor.