Senator Lankford Statement on Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today issued the following statement after voting for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (also known as the omnibus and tax reform bill):
“The omnibus and tax reform combined bill is a stark visual of the broken Senate process. Legislation in a democracy is often a boisterous compromise, but this bill was a complete backroom negotiation. It is full of great policy provisions mixed with half-baked ideas and muddy process. While I voted for the important policies in the bill, I do not support the broken process, or many other aspects that led to the final product.
“This tax reform and omnibus bill includes numerous priorities for Oklahomans and all Americans, such as long-term reforms for the small business tax code, it defunds the Obamacare Independent Payment Advisory Board, and it finally lifts the absurd ban on oil exports. This bill also includes victories such as increased support to eliminate the VA disability backlog, a repeal of the ‘country of origin’ labeling for beef and pork products, and increased funding for medical research for diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. The bill includes several program integrity measures for the Social Security Disability Insurance program that I have advocated for several years. Just as important to many Oklahomans, this bill prohibits the President from giving away the management of the internet to a foreign body, and he is prohibited from moving terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States. Because of this bill, our military receives a surge in funding for re-supply, training and a pay increase. The bill also includes language to strengthen cyber security from international cyber attackers and slows the flow of drugs into the United States. Thankfully, this bill finally begins to phase out the wind production tax credit, after receiving 23 years of subsidy.
“While many solid policy provisions are included that I have fought for, a multitude of positive issues were obstructed by the President and the horrific process of the closed-door negotiations. The President blocked many spending cuts on our out-of-control debt, essential reforms to the EPA, safeguards for middle-class Americans saving for retirement, and a myriad of other regulatory changes that are desperately needed. While there were minor changes to the Visa Waiver Program, real reform of the refugee process was also stopped by the White House at a time when the world has a refugee crisis. While there was a small step to increase budget honesty, Congress still has a long way to go to eliminate the budget gimmicks that distort the final cost to the taxpayer. My office will continue to expose the use of budget tricks in Congress.
“For the past three months, I have worked with a small group of Senators to reform Senate rules and transform the broken budget process. It is my hope that other Senators of both parties will admit the process is broken and will join with us to return ‘regular order’ to the Senate. Smaller appropriations bills, fully debated and openly amended in Committee and on the Senate floor, will create transparency and will stop the budget games that only happen in the backroom.
“Although this final bill includes many solid policies that I have advocated for on behalf of Oklahomans, I disagree with its process and some of the policies in the bill. In the days ahead, I remain hopeful that we can have a President in the White House and a Senate that will work to restore the federal government to transparency, fiscal responsibility, and conservative values.”
Background on several Senator Lankford-led provisions in the bill:
- Oil Export Ban Lifted – In May, Lankford co-sponsored the Energy Supply and Distribution Act of 2015, a bill to end the ban on crude oil exports. This legislation was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.
- Wind PTC Elimination – In October, Lankford introduced the PTC Elimination Act, a bill to eliminate federal renewable energy tax credits, including wind, by 2026. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 includes a provision to begin phasing out the credit by 2019 and eliminate it around 2030.
- SSDI Reforms – Lankford has been a consistent advocate to reform Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) since his time in the House. In October, Lankford offered an amendment to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 that makes major reforms to program. In 2014, Lankford asked the Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin to make 11 reforms to improve the program. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 includes four of the requested reforms from Lankford.
- GITMO Detainees – Lankford has worked to monitor and prohibit the relocation of terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States. After returning from a visit to the detention facility in March, Lankford continued his opposition to its closure and introduced the Guantanamo Bay Recidivism Prevention Act of 2015, legislation that would improve the monitoring of former Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to foreign countries to prevent them from returning to terrorism. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 continues to restrict the closure and transfer of detainees to the United States.
- Obamacare Reforms – In the House, Lankford co-sponsored several pieces of legislation to repeal the Obamacare Independent Payment Advisory Board. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 defunds this Board.