Lankford addresses deficit, debt in 'Federal Fumbles' report

Sen. James Lankford

WASHINGTON — Sen. James Lankford recently released his annual "Federal Fumbles" report that highlights cases of government inefficiency and proposes solutions.

Chock-full of football analogies, stock photos and colorful block letters, the 60-plus page document nevertheless confronts serious issues head-on, including a broken budget process and $22 trillion national debt.

A major goal of the report is to draw bipartisan support for addressing the massive national debt and continuous budget deficits, issues that “should be chilling everyone,” Lankford, R-Okla., told reporters Tuesday.

“The problem has become so large people say, ‘It’s unsolvable, let’s move on,’” Lankford said. “We can’t do that.”

It’s a problem not many people are talking about because the hard part is proposing solutions, Lankford said, which is “where the conversation seems to drop off.”

That’s where “Federal Fumbles” is meant to come in. It outlines problems in a variety of areas, from immigration and federal workforce to infrastructure and veterans affairs, and concludes with possible solutions.

“My goal for this book is to make it a resource for taxpayers and the entire federal government,” the report opens. “Congress, federal agencies, and the White House should all take a look at the content covered in this book and the solutions I present.”

Previous versions of "Federal Fumbles," a continuation of former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s government waste report, have called out outrageous ways in which tax dollars are spent. But this version focuses on deeper issues in government process and policy.

For example, the report proposes Congress be mandated to regularly vote on budgetary deficit reduction every year or two in order to confront the debt problem.

It mentions Lankford’s proposed Prevent Government Shutdowns Act that would keep the government open and funded at the previous year’s level if Congress fails complete its work by the end of the fiscal year.

The proposal adds an incentive for members of Congress to complete the budgetary process: if they don’t finish, they can’t leave Washington, D.C., or adjourn for recess. “It is simple: stay until the work is done,” the report says.

This would prevent scenarios like the recent 35-day government shutdown, a major “fumble” that resulted in an $18 billion hit to the U.S. economy as well as fear, confusion and financial loss for American families, according to the report.

Lankford told reporters his report “absolutely” includes bipartisan measures, including the proposal to prevent shutdowns, increased transparency in how tax dollars are spent, election security and improving the way federal grant money is spent.

Regarding border issues, Lankford suggests increasing the number of immigration judges and staff to deal with the backlog, making people with expired visas leave the country, encouraging private groups to sponsor and welcome refugees and vocally supporting the work of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The report criticizes the Senate’s arcane procedures, which Lankford called “the definition of waste and inefficiency.” It proposes speeding up the nomination process for executive positions and making it easier to open debate on a bill.

Other proposals include increasing rural connectivity and broadband, fixing congressional ethanol mandates, speeding up federal hiring, administrative reorganization and regulatory reform.

The end of the report gives a nod to “touchdowns,” or areas the government has achieved victories. These include drug pricing options, less expensive health insurance and opioid addiction treatment.

Gaylord News is a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

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