This past weekend brought the world another banned missile launch from North Korea followed by another emergency UN Security Council meeting. Another round of diplomatic tough talk and sanctions is surely on the way.
On February 12, North Korea launched a Pukguksong-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). A decade of sanctions has not deterred the Hermit Kingdom from pursuing its goal of developing long-range, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with nuclear warheads which could target the U.S. homeland. Yet, the Trump Administration has an opportunity to escape from the tit-for-tat cycle of following each North Korean missile test with yet more ineffectual sanctions.
President Trump should order the Secretary of Defense to position American assets and shoot down Kim Jong Un’s next missile launch. Intercepting a North Korean missile would signal to Pyongyang that America has the capability and the willingness to defend our allies and the homeland. In the parlance of military strategy, the missile defense option enhances deterrence-by-denial. North Korea is more likely to be deterred from developing missiles if robust, layered missile defenses deny them any strategic benefit from striking first. The only two alternatives are preemptive offensive action and, of course, more strongly worded UN Security Council resolutions and toothless sanctions.
In July 2006, North Korea abandoned seven years of good-faith multilateral negotiations by testing seven ballistic missiles – including the Taepo Dong-2 nuclear-capable ICBM. Shortly thereafter, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1695 condemning the launches and demanding that Kim Jong-Il’s regime returns to multilateral talks and the previous launch moratorium.
North Korea has responded subsequently by conducting over 30 banned missile launches and nuclear tests. Like clockwork, the United Nations and the United States responded to these violations with over 20 actions to establish, expand, or reaffirm sanctions. This weekend’s missile test followed the latest UN Security Council Resolution (2321) enacted in November 2016. Clearly, a decade of sanctions has not changed Pyongyang’s behavior. While the diplomats tussle in Turtle Bay, North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs move steadily forward.
Cleary, U.S. and international diplomatic and economic instruments of power are insufficient – even combined with allies and partners. Continually signaling impotence weakens the trust of Japan, South Korea, and the American people.
So, what change is needed? Should we pursue diplomatic efforts? Yes. Should we enhance economic sanctions? Yes. It’s time to back up those options with a credible show of defensive military force.
Can America’s armed forces actually “hit a bullet with a bullet”? Absolutely. Led by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the U.S. military has constructed a Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) over three decades. The BMDS represents an integrated and layered network of sensors (ground-, sea-, and space-based), interceptors (ground- and sea-based), and command-and-control nodes that provide an umbrella of protection from inbound ballistic missile threats.
The Aegis BMDS system would likely be used to defeat a North Korean threat. Aegis is a combination sensor-shooter system capable against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats for regional defense. The system also supports homeland defense through its detection and tracking capabilities. The United States has 16 Aegis BMD ships assigned to Pacific Fleet complemented by Japan’s four deployed Aegis BMD-capable KONGO Class Destroyers. Since 2002, Aegis BMD has a stellar test record — 34 hits (3 with Japanese KONGOs) and only 6 misses. Aegis is well suited to shoot a Pukguksong-2 or Musudan out of the sky.
American taxpayers have provided more than $180 billion to the MDA since 1985, including more than $16 billion for Aegis. It’s time to put the hard-earned treasure of the American taxpayer to work.
Absent use of defensive intercept, the military alternative is preemptive strike to take out North Korean missiles on the pad. Incidentally, two former Secretaries of Defense – Ashton Carter and William Perry – recommended preemptive strike a decade ago. The difference today is that operational missile defenses provide the option to reinforce deterrence and assure allies without necessarily escalating to offensive action.
President Trump should direct Secretary of Defense James Mattis to posture our ballistic missile defense forces in the Pacific theater to intercept any and all future North Korean ballistic missile launches. A forceful military response – backing up diplomacy and sanctions – may help deter further ballistic missile and nuclear development.
Today, Congressman Jim Bridenstine voted to block an Obama Administration regulation which opened a backdoor to funding abortion with taxpayer funds.
Congressman Bridenstine’s statement on passage of H. J. Res. 43 in the U.S. House:
“Congress is moving to block numerous regulations finalized late in Mr. Obama’s presidency. This particular ‘Midnight Rule’ was designed to support the abortion industry. If enacted, this rule would have prohibited states from denying Federal grants to abortion providers. I’m proud that the House acted to start the process of repealing this rule.”
Today, Congressman Bridenstine voted to promote Oklahoma’s energy industry by supporting H.J.Res. 36, legislation to block the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) overreaching and duplicative methane emissions rule. The bill passed the House 221-191.
In the 11th hour of the Obama administration, the BLM rushed through an unnecessary and duplicative mandate that hinders energy production in Oklahoma, increases production costs, and raises prices for consumers and businesses across the United States. The regulation aims to reduce methane emissions from natural gas production on federal and Indian lands, driving down production and federal and tribal revenues. Federal on-shore natural gas production declined 18 percent from 2010 to 2015, compared to a 55 percent increase on state and private lands. The industry has voluntarily reduced methane emissions by substantial amounts, capturing value, while still increasing production. Furthermore, the BLM lacks the authority and expertise to regulate air quality, which is already regulated by the EPA and the states.
Several of the “midnight regulations” issued late in the Obama term are being reviewed under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Congress has authority to review and block regulations within sixty legislative days of their finalization. Once H.J.Res. 36 is passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the BLM Methane Rule cannot take effect, and the agency may not reissue a rule that is similar.
Congressman Bridenstine said, “The Obama era brought regulation after regulation hindering production and innovation in oil and gas. Today’s vote is a step in the right direction for the industry and for the people of Oklahoma."
President Trump's Executive Order on immigration is simply a pause, similar to ones issued by previous presidents including Mr. Obama. The temporary pause affects only seven terror prone countries so we can better vet people coming into the United States. The goal is to balance security with access. There is no ban on any religion.
Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to permanently prohibit use of federal funds to pay for abortions or for purchasing insurance plans that cover abortions, with certain limited exceptions.
Since 1976, the “Hyde Amendment” has been included on appropriations bills. Today’s legislation (H.R. 7) would make the prohibitions permanent and applies them to all federal funds. It would also ban abortions in federal facilities and by federally employed healthcare professionals. Health benefits under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could not include coverage of abortions. Obamacare “exchange subsidies” and cost-sharing subsidies for plans that offer abortion coverage would be disallowed. Further, no multi-state plans under Obamacare could include abortion coverage.
The bill does not prohibit individuals, entities, or non-federal governments from purchasing abortion coverage with non-federal funds.
Between enactment and January 1, 2018, when the bill goes into effect, insurance providers would be required to fully inform consumers about abortion coverage and surcharges.
Congressman Bridenstine said, “By making the Hyde Amendment permanent across the entire federal government, we are saving lives and conserving taxpayer dollars. A majority of Americans agree that the federal government should not fund abortions. Obamacare broke with the long-standing prohibition and uses taxpayer dollars to pay for insurance plans that cover abortions.
“I believe that all human life is sacred and begins at conception. I am very pleased to help pass this legislation. Unborn children should be welcomed in life and protected by law, not killed using federal funds. As a nation that values every individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we should always choose on the side of life.
“I salute the millions of Americans who have joined in the March for Life. Tulsa celebrated this annual event last weekend, and a large group of my constituents are coming to DC to march on Friday.”
Today, Congressman Jim Bridenstine joined 227 Members of the House to take the first step in repealing Obamacare. The bill starts the so-called “reconciliation” process for repealing Obamacare. The Senate passed this bill early Thursday, calling for committees to prepare the repeal legislation by January 27.
Obamacare has failed Oklahoma businesses and families. Premiums for Obamacare-compliant insurance plans skyrocketed in 2017. Premiums in Oklahoma increased over 70% on average while the national average was about 25%. Insurers have fled the exchanges all across America, and in Oklahoma only one carrier remains. Sooners are left with fewer options at higher costs.
Congressman Bridenstine said, “It’s time for Republicans to deliver on their promises to fully repeal Obamacare.”
WASHINGTON— Obamacare has failed Americans all across the nation. But Oklahoma in particular is a case study for its failure and the negative impact on insured individuals. As a state that saw 2017 premiums increase an average of 76 percent and as one of only five states with just one insurer participating in the federal exchange, you could argue that Oklahoma has been hit the hardest by Obama’s failed health care policy. All five of our congressional districts have constituents who are adversely impacted by Obamacare.
A small business owner in Oklahoma City believes that Obamacare is negatively impacting his business. Graciously, he has always paid for half of his employee’s health insurance premiums. In three years under Obamacare, this employer’s out of pocket expenses have more than doubled. Obamacare has given him two choices: drop the health insurance benefit and potentially lose quality employees, or go out of business.
A mother of three was an accountant before quitting to raise her family and help her husband start his small business, so when Obamacare came along, she knew how to analyze their options. She made the rational decision to pay the fines, save the value of premiums and high deductibles, and effectively self-insure. Under Obamacare, she became uninsured, and she will be thousands of dollars ahead – as long as she avoids catastrophic illness.
After celebrating a successful harvest, a cotton farming family in southwest Oklahoma was shocked when they learned their health insurance premiums would nearly double under Obamacare. All of their concerns about issues like EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule or the continuation of certain Farm Bill provisions suddenly paled in comparison to Obamacare. They’re now worried that the sudden spike in expenses for their family, not to mention a $6,000 deductible, threatens the future of their farming operation.
One couple in rural Oklahoma was forced to sell their small business a few years ago due to the husband’s sharp decline in health. When they signed up for Obamacare, the most affordable option was a $6,000 deductible and a $1,200 copay. Even worse, the prescriptions they need to fill are “Tier 4,” the section that has the highest copay. All doctors and hospitals under their plan are far from their home and it is almost impossible to schedule a timely appointment with a doctor when they find themselves ill.
A Southern Baptist pastor in eastern Oklahoma is well taken care of by his church, except they do not provide health insurance. His family’s previous health care plan was cancelled in December, so he used Healthcare.gov, which failed to function properly, and was left with a plan that more than tripled their premium. A steadfast believer, the pastor is left with only the belief that God will provide for his pregnant wife, two year old son, and the baby on the way.
Sadly, these stories represent only a sliver of the number of Oklahomans feeling the ill effects of Obamacare. More and more Oklahomans are grappling with the crippling consequences of a failed health care law that is anything but affordable. It doesn’t take long to find a neighbor, a friend, or a community member who is suffering the ill effects of Obamacare. More than 4.7 million Americans were kicked off their health care plan after being promised that they could keep it. Sixty percent of Americans have seen an increase in their deductibles in addition to the average 22 percent increase in their 2017 premiums. The burden Obamacare placed on families, employers, and individuals never seems to end.
Thankfully, House Republicans want to make sure the Obamacare buck stops here. Our goal is to bring the American people more choices and lower costs, without mandating your plan or your coverage. By opening a free market to encourage competing plans and options, Americans can return once again to a health care market that provides access to affordable and reliable health insurance for Americans everywhere, particularly in our home state of Oklahoma.
Today the U.S. House unanimously approved H.R. 353, the Lucas-Bridenstine Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. This legislation prioritizes protecting lives and property.
‘Every minute counts in the lead up before a major storm or tornado,” said Congressman Frank Lucas. “This legislation helps to give those in harm’s way additional disaster preparation time which could ultimately be the difference between life and death or thousands of dollars in property damage. I am encouraged that the House has taken action on this critical matter and hope to see these life-saving policies enacted soon.”
“Our aim is to have zero deaths from tornadoes and other extreme weather events,” said Congressman Jim Bridenstine. “This bill gets us closer to that day. I thank my House colleagues for their support, and anticipate swift Senate passage and that the President will sign it into law.”
This legislation is the product of a bipartisan effort. It directs the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to focus resources and effort to:
Rebalance NOAA funding to place a higher priority on weather-related research and activities;
Emphasize developing accurate forecasts and timely warnings of high impact weather events;
Create programs to extend warning lead times and improve forecasts for tornadoes and hurricanes;
Develop a plan to utilize advanced technology to regain U.S. superiority in weather modeling and forecasts;
Increase focus and continue development of seasonal forecasts and how to maximize information from these forecasts; and
Enhance coordination among various federal government weather stakeholders.
The legislation also authorizes and extends a NOAA pilot program already under way thanks to a partnership between the House Science Space and Technology and the House Appropriations Committee. Under this pilot program, NOAA has already issued two contracts to procure commercial satellite weather data. This pilot program could bring about a paradigm shift in how NOAA makes decisions about future procurement of critical weather data.
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith added, "Americans from coast to coast will now be better prepared for severe weather with the passage of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. This bill has been four years in the making and is long overdue. It will transform our nation’s weather gathering efforts and help save lives and property. This legislation strengthens the underlying atmospheric science while simultaneously advancing innovative technology and reforming operations to provide better weather data, models, and forecasts. America can thank Reps. Lucas and Bridenstine for leading this innovation initiative. We look forward to the Senate approving this bill soon."
The Washington Post called this “the first major piece of weather legislation adopted since the early 1990s.” The legislation, originally introduced in the House in 2013, passed the House in 2015, and last December the Senate approved an amended version. Provisions in the bill approved today are nearly identical to the Senate version, so we can anticipate swift passage again in the Senate and presentation to the President for signing into law.