WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today released his annual accomplishments report outlining achievements made in 2015 for the people of Oklahoma, to include authoring and passing into law a long-term highway reauthorization bill, the FAST Act; passing out of the Senate a bill to reform federal regulation of toxic chemicals, the Lautenberg Act; amending and passing into law a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA); making significant progress at the state level with reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its hospitals in Oklahoma; and progressing in the Senate a bill to restore local control of school lunches.
In the opening letter of the report, Inhofe wrote: “When Republicans regained control of the Senate, we promised 2015 would be a year of working hard to revive regular order in the chamber. We promised to get Congress working again for the American people, and I promised to use my return to the gavel to address the concerns and meet the needs of Oklahomans back home. I am proud to say that we kept these commitments.”
Below are the top five highlights of 2015:
1. Infrastructure: Inhofe in partnership with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Cali.) came out of the gate in the 114th Congress holding hearings in the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on the need to better fund and support our nation’s roads and bridges. This culminated in a long-term highway bill that received unanimous support when voted out of committee in June. Inhofe fought to keep the legislation alive as the parties worked through how to pay for the bill and in the midst of unexpected leadership changes in the U.S. House of Representatives. By December, Congress sent to the president’s desk the FAST Act, the first long-term reauthorization bill to improve the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure since 2005. On page 17 of the report, Inhofe outlines how the fully-funded FAST Act will benefit Oklahoma, to include the state receiving $3.6 billion over the next five years to improve the state’s major roads and bridges.
2. Energy and Environment: As chairman of the EPW Committee, Inhofe conducted rigorous oversight of the overregulation taking place at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Obama. This entailed holding hearings on the Waters of the U.S. Rule, the Clean Power Plan, and the ozone rule, as well as passing out of committee and out of the Senate bipartisan legislation to repeal and reform these regulations. In the midst of this oversight, Inhofe also led a bipartisan group of Senators in passing out of committee and out of the Senate the most significant reform of environmental law since the 1990s Clean Air Act amendments. The legislation, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, would create regulatory certainty for American businesses and uniform protections for American families in how chemicals in the marketplace are handled in the United States. More can be read about this bill on page 19 of the report, including the sweeping impacts it will have on generating new private sector jobs in the United States as well as the breath of support ranging from Exxon Mobil to the Environmental Defense Fund. At this time, Inhofe is working to reconcile the House and Senate passed bills and has made it a priority to deliver a conference report in the coming months that can be passed and signed into law.
3. Defense: As the senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Inhofe worked to ensure Oklahoma’s priorities and values were represented in the NDAA for fiscal year 2016. Inhofe fought to preserve many national security measures that are supported by the Oklahoma community, to include retaining the full fleet of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) stationed at Tinker Air Force Base and maintaining the delivery schedule of the first KC-24A to Altus Air Force Base. Inhofe most notably successfully attached an amendment to the NDAA in the Senate that struck language attempting to privatize military commissaries. Inhofe’s amendment, which was included in the final bill sent to the president’s desk, preserves the commissary benefit and instead requires the Department of Defense to submit a plan for commissary and exchange systems to become budget neutral by 2018. More on Oklahoma accomplishments in the NDAA can be read on page 4.
4. Veterans: As a result of whistleblowers and media reports this past year, more concerns with the operational integrity of Oklahoma’s VA facilities came to light. Inhofe has worked personally with the VA at all levels to force necessary changes. Not only did his office complete more than 1,400 individual veterans and military cases last year, Inhofe also brought out the VA chief of staff to the Muskogee VA hospital to meet with leadership as well as concerned medical professionals and veterans. At Inhofe’s request, the regional VA leadership, known as the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 19, conducted two investigations into the facility that resulted in a temporary stay on intermediate surgeries due to their findings, as well as the temporary removal of the facility’s chief of staff. In 2016, Inhofe will be working to pass legislation to expand firing authority to the regional level of the VA in order to bring about more notable, quicker change. He is also working to bring in an outside, private entity to oversee and partner with the department to conduct further investigations into all of Oklahoma’s VA hospitals to ensure concerns are being addressed and improvements are taking place. More about his efforts as well as the four new laws impacting veterans that Inhofe supported can be read on page 38.
5. Education: In 2015, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which incorporated principles of Inhofe’s local school control bill that he introduced in both the 113th and 114th Congresses. The law ends the Common Core mandate and empowers states to establish an accountability system instead of the federal government. Inhofe also introduced the School Lunch Price Protection Act in 2015, which would keep Washington from forcing schools to raise lunch prices when there is no need to and returns this important decision-making power back to state and local school districts. At the time of this report, Inhofe’s bill had been incorporated into the Child Nutrition Reauthorization that was passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture in January. More about Inhofe’s work on education can be read on page 12.
The office of Sen. Jim Inhofe has been publishing an annual report each year since 2008.