Senator Lankford Touts Benefits of Financial Services Appropriations Bill to Oklahoma
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate about the appropriations process and specifically the funding bill from the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, and the its’ impact on Oklahoma. In April, Lankford was named chairman of the subcommittee.
On returning to a regular order appropriations process:
(0:03-1:26) Over the past week, the Senate has been discussing the appropriations bill. It is the first time this bill has the potential to cross this floor of this Senate since 2007 when the bill title was created, not one time has it passed the Senate since this appropriation bill was created. Usually, this particular appropriation bill is airdropped into an end of the year spending package or omnibus without ever being publicly debated, without ever coming to the Senate floor without a single amendment. This year changed that. This bill’s been on this floor this entire week, and it was last week, and it’s being amended, and it’s going through a process. That may not seem like a big deal to some, it should be a no-brainer for most Americans, and certainly for most Oklahomans, they would think that of course a bill is being amended and debated, but that has not happened since 2007 and we are changing a process trying to relearn how to actually pass bills and debate them and go through this. I think countless Americans across the country who complain about the inaction of Congress, and all the backroom deals, have been justified in their complaints about this [appropriations] bill. But, I’m telling you, we’re at a historic turning point of trying to shift this process around.
On the overall importance of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill:
(1:34-2:30) I was grateful to accept the role as the chairman of the subcommittee earlier this year because of the agencies and programs that are impacted by this particular appropriations bill. It affects the lives of millions of Americans, plays an important role in supporting the American economy, and promoting private sector growth. The funding for this particular appropriation bill is $23.688 billion. It includes funding for entities across all three branches of government, from the White House to the Supreme Court to a diverse group of 27 independent agencies and the Treasury. In fact, more than half of this particular appropriation bill, $12.7 billion, funds the Department of the Treasury, whose offices execute important functions that promote economic growth, combat illicit finance, safeguard our financial system, administer the internal revenue code, and manage the federal government’s fiscal operations.
On the bill’s impact on the implementation of tax reform:
(2:31-3:42) Last year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, it passed this Congress and is now law. It provided much-needed relief to Oklahomans and all Americans by lowering tax rates for the middle class, simplifying tax rates for every American, and doing a dramatic change in how we do business tax. The tax reform bill has helped small and large businesses and individuals throughout this year. In fact, as a direct result of that bill passing last year, this past quarter, our economy grew at 4. 1 percent. Unemployment is down to historic levels, wages have started to increase again. We’ve seen some significant growth in our economy. But with that significant growth with a new tax code, there are also significant changes that are happening in the tax code. This particular bill provides the funds necessary for the IRS to be able to complete its work to implement the tax reform bill to ensure that the tax forms and all the IT systems are ready for the filing system for next April 15. We want to make sure that Americans get their questions answered because there will be additional questions coming this next year as they file under a new system.
On the bill’s impact for Oklahoma and anti-terrorism efforts:
(3:45-5:38) The bill also provides funding for the taxpayer assistance centers to ensure that local offices, like in my state like in Enid, Lawton, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa remain open and available for individuals to have face-to-face conversations with someone from the IRS and the opportunity for them to be able to call directly if they have calls to the IRS. These important centers help Oklahomans resolve tax issues, change tax account information, arrange payments, as well as get answers to questions about the new tax law. This bill also includes $159 million for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. It’s at the Treasury Department, but it levies the sanctions against terrorist organizations, international narcotics traffickers, rogue regimes and entities involved with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is an incredibly important office that functions in our Treasury. The state of Oklahoma knows firsthand the devastation that can be caused by terrorism and I’m pleased this terrorism finance entity receives a $17.2 million increase in our bill. It increases their capacity to curtail terrorist financing and dismantle the financial networks that support them. If you stop the flow of money to terrorism and to cartels, you can stop the flow of drugs and violence and every other evil thing that they bring. This bill also includes $118 million for the financial crimes enforcement network, or what they call FinCEN. It combats money laundering. In 2018, financial institutions in Oklahoma filed over 12,000 suspicious activity reports that they identified, with FinCEN, to identify suspicious activities or potential suspicious activities. That helped FinCEN last year to be able to follow the money and track down drug kingpins, money laundering, human smugglers, and other criminal enterprises.
On the bill’s impact for Oklahoma’s wealth and financial economy:
(5:40-7:31) This bill makes critical investments in our nation’s financial markets, by providing targeted increases for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, works to ensure that our financial markets are fair, orderly, and efficient. This helps Oklahoma companies have access to the capital that they need to get started, to grow, to hire, and to thrive. Over the past year, the SEC has made protection of main street investors its top priority. This will help ensure that Wall Street insiders can’t manipulate stock prices for retires in Norman or give unscrupulous financial advice to investors in Broken Arrow. I’m pleased we were able to fund this initiative. Households in Oklahoma have more than $164 billion in mutual fund assets, and the SEC regulates investment companies that issue these securities so that families are not victims of Ponzi schemes or fraud that will wipe out their life’s savings. With over $164 billion of Oklahoma money invested, it is incredibly important to get this regulated and done right. The bill provides funding for the CFTC, which ensures that derivative markets are free from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices while ensuring that they remain globally competitive. Some people may say the CFTC doesn’t affect me directly. You know what? If you’re a soybean farmer or a rancher or do oil and gas production in Oklahoma, CFTC markets help people hedge their risk. It’s important to them and to our economy. I’m pleased that the CFTC chairman, Christopher Giancarlo, is visiting Oklahoma next week to meet with and energy groups face-to-face, and listen to their needs, as the agency implements thoughtful rules and regulations that encourage participation and innovation in the markets. We welcome the CTFC chairman to Oklahoma then.
On the bill’s impact on illegal drugs in Oklahoma:
(7:32-9:15) The bill has $280 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, which supports law enforcement in major drug trafficking regions and corridors. One of those initiatives, in this program, is in TEXOMA HIDTA, which includes a handful of counties in north Texas as well as Cleveland, Comanche, McIntosh, Muskogee, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Sequoyah, and Tulsa counties. Those counties are sometimes used as a transnational shipment distribution area for drugs arriving from Mexico destined for Oklahoma and other parts of the country. With this funding, the Texoma HIDTA coordinates training and information-sharing with joint task forces that connect 70l different federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and north Texas. For example, this week from Wednesday to Friday, the Texoma HIDTA is hosting a training for local street patrol officers, investigators and detectives to increase awareness of the trends, methods of operations, and drug activity and the most commonly encountered criminal street gangs. It’s important that stays in place. The bill includes $99 million for the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug-Free Community Program that supports community coalitions to prevent youth drug use. Many youths have a difficult time navigating Junior High and High School and early college trying to stay away from drugs. This supports grants and nonprofit organizations in towns in my state like Oologah and Lexington and Hulbert in reference to reduce teen substance abuse.
On the bill’s impact on rural broadband and cell reception in Oklahoma:
(10:00-10:50) The bill provides full funding to the Federal Communications Commission to help close the digital divide between metropolitan areas and rural areas in Oklahoma. We want to protect consumer safety and improve the regulatory process for telecommunication companies throughout the state. This also sets the precedent for increasing cell phone coverage in some of the most rural areas in the country, including rural areas in Oklahoma. Oklahoma receives the second-largest allocation of lifeline funds in the entire country, $128 million. But there is some waste and inefficiency and there are some individuals, even in my state, that are getting lifeline funds that should not get them. So we’ve increased the ability to be more efficient and make sure that lifeline funds are targeted to the people who actually need it the most.
On promoting fiscal responsibility in this bill:
(11:56-12:33) In some cases, we have made cuts already. And there will be others that may have to be made in the future. Last year, there was $150 million provided for the Technology and Modernization Fund at the GSA, the General Services Administration. They came back this year and asked for $210 million. We said no. We have not seen results from that program yet and we don’t have any data on it. And I wasn’t going to allocate $210 million to something that we don’t know if it’s working. The National Archives and Records Administration does incredibly important work to protect our nation’s history. But we reduced their budget for administrative expenses in this bill and they responded by finding more efficiencies to accommodate for that. This can be a model for other agencies an entities. There are ways to protect American’s money and it begins by the government remembering that the money that’s allocated in this bill is not our money. It’s the money that’s coming out of the paychecks of hardworking Americans and they want us to be responsible with it. Rightfully so.
(12:34-13:40) Again, this is a historic week for the Appropriations Committee and this particular Subcommittee and for the Senate. I do applaud the determination of Chairman Shelby and Vice Chairman Leahy as they push these bills through and publicly debated these bills on the floor. I also want to thank Ranking Member of the Subcommittee Chris Coons. He’s been a great partner in this effort. Our team and his team have worked very cooperatively together through a lot of very difficult issues. And I appreciate everyone’s engagement on these issues as we try to solve this long term. I look forward to continuing oversight in the months ahead as we pass this bill and then watch over how those dollars are actually spent. We want to make sure decisions that had been made are best for the American people, best for the agencies, and best for the future of our country. I look forward to seeing this bill done. In just the next few hours, the next couple of days, and finishing the work to then partner this bill up with what the house has passed, to get a final conference report, and put it on the President’s desk.