Dr. Boozman's Check-up

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is waging a war on affordable energy. The agency is moving forward with plans that require existing power plants to meet expensive and unnecessary regulations. I joined several of my Senate colleagues to warn President Obama that urging these actions will result in higher utility bills for middle and lower-income Americans and called on him to abandon these plans. 

In his State of the Union address last week, the president said he would work with federal agencies to establish new standards regarding carbon pollution created by our power plants. However, these new requirements would negatively impact the bottom line of vulnerable Americans who would be forced to pay more for energy rates. 

“The most vulnerable families are those hit the hardest by bad energy policies and high utility bills,” we wrote in the letter. “Whatever our disagreements might be on how best to approach a changing climate, we think we can all agree that whatever we do should not burden ratepayers and consumers, especially middle and low-income families, with new costs.” 

Click to read the letter.

Along with failing to offer solutions to the Obamacare debacle, the President left a major job-creating project out of his State of the Union speech this week—the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The completed pipeline would transport 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to U.S. refineries along the gulf coast and create thousands of well-paying American jobs in the process.

It should come as no surprise that President Obama ignored the Keystone Pipeline in his speech. Let’s be honest, he has no inclination to move the Keystone Pipeline forward. If he did, he would have approved it by now.

Instead of accelerating the approval process, President Obama has been reviewing the Keystone pipeline permit for almost as long as he has been in office. He is literally trying to study the project to death.

Despite the President’s unwillingness to help, progress is being made.

A long-delayed State Department report released today raised no major environmental objections to the pipeline’s construction. This is an important step forward as approval from the State Department is necessary to authorize a pipeline that crosses our border. If the State Department can’t find any environmental grounds on which to delay the pipeline further, then the President is out of excuses.

The Keystone Pipeline is ready to go. It is ready to put Americans to work. It is ready to help us toward energy independence. We just need a President who is ready to get out of the way so we can get started.

It appears that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will work to clarify its regulations regarding grain storage on small farms in light of language included in the Omnibus Appropriations Act recently passed by Congress.

The reason we had to once again reaffirm a law that dates back thirty-five years is because OSHA had misinterpreted it at the expense of family farmers.

Since 1976, Congress has exempted small, family-run farms from OSHA regulations. However, as the Obama Administration has done time and time again, it ignored Congress to impose its will on the American people by demanding compliance of Administration regulations that run counter to the spirit of the law.

In 2011, OSHA issued a memo that asserted on-farm grain storage and handling was not part of farm operations. The memo essentially expanded OSHA’s regulatory scope to nearly every farm in the country without going through the established rule making process that allows Congressional review and public comment. It is a mandate based on faulty logic written by bureaucrats who do not understand family farming in the slightest.

Late last year, I joined 41 of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to demand OSHA immediately stop its unlawful targeting of family farms. My colleague, Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE), was the lead author of the letter to OSHA that called on the agency to cease and desist with such tactics. The letter we sent to the agency can be found here on his website.

OSHA’s announcement that it will revisit current policy is a good first step, but the agency must follow through and end these practices and it needs to rescind the fines it has levied based on a false interpretation of the law.

The Obama Administration has consistently gone around Congress to impose regulations that it knows it cannot pass legislatively. This regulatory overreach has to end. The President needs to listen to Congress and respect the will of the American people. Stopping this abuse of family farmers is a good place to start. 

We joined El Dorado's KELD FM for a discussion about some of the pressing issues in Washington and the debates underway in our nation’s capital as we kick off 2014. If you missed the interview you can listen to it here.

Jan 13 2014

ICYMI: Arkansas Week

We recently talked with Arkansas Week’s Steve Barnes about the latest issues impacting our nation. We talked about a wide range of topics from the Farm Bill, the budget, Obamacare and recent rule changes to senate procedure. Our interview aired the first weekend in January.  If you missed our conversation on your local AETN station, you can watch the full interview broken into three segments here. Arkansas Week Segment I, Segment II, Segment III.

The new job numbers were released today and they show that the final four weeks of 2013 comprised the weakest month of hiring in three years.

Only 74,000 jobs were added in December after averaging 214,000 in the previous four months.

This counters recent claims that the economy is on the rise. The Administration has been touting the drop in the unemployment rate, but as the Associated Press (AP) notes, that is largely because many jobless Americans have stopped looking for work.

From the AP:

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate fell from 7 percent in November to 6.7 percent, its lowest level since October 2008. But the drop occurred mostly because many Americans stopped looking for jobs. Once people without jobs stop looking for one, the government no longer counts them as unemployed.

As my colleague, and Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has noted, for every one job created, five people leave the workforce.

It is an unsustainable pace. It highlights the failure of the economic policies the Senate Majority and the Obama Administration have pursued.

When will the Senate Majority turn its attention to correcting the economic turmoil the Obama Administration has created?

Senate Republicans have tried to add job-creating provisions to legislation the Senate Majority has offered, including its recent effort to extend unemployment insurance to out-of-work Americans. But every time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has prevented our efforts from receiving consideration from the Senate. The Majority Leader is so intent on ensuring that his caucus does not have to take tough votes that since last summer, all but four Republican amendments have been denied a roll call vote.  

After several harsh news articles, perhaps Majority Leader Reid will have a change of heart. It remains to be seen if he is truly willing to work with us, but it is far beyond time. Instead of working against us, the Senate Majority needs to work with us to get the economy running again. Americans cannot afford more of the same. 

Over the weekend, the Obama Administration and five other countries struck what is being hailed as a historic nuclear agreement with Iran.

While the President praised the agreement as an “first step,” Iran’s neighbors and important allies of the U.S. had an entirely different take as Israel and the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, voiced their discontent with the deal. 

After a careful review of the agreement, I find the deal hard to support.

Iran gets a promise of no new sanctions, and a reprieve from current sanctions, providing access to an estimated $7 billion in sanctions relief.

It was hard enough to get the international community to commit to sanctions in the first place. With a reprieve of this nature, we will never be able to reestablish them should Iran not live up to their end of this agreement.

The agreement does not require dismantling of current centrifuges, and allows those in place and running to continue to operate.  Furthermore, not requiring an explicit statement that Iran does not have a "right" to enrich uranium implicitly accepts that right and puts the U.S. on record as saying that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are peaceful, which, given the country’s rhetoric and behavior, is far from the truth.  

Unfortunately, the implementation of this interim agreement has already begun.  Therefore, we should immediately move forward with bipartisan legislation that reinstates current sanctions and imposes new ones should the Iranian regime fail to comply with the promises to roll back its nuclear program and significantly dismantle its nuclear infrastructure during the next six months.  We must also ensure that this deal does not become permanent.

For that reason, I am supportive of legislation introduced by Senator Bob Corker, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the Iran Nuclear Compliance Act of 2013.  This legislation ensures that Iran is in full compliance with the interim agreement and sets further specific requirements that must be met by the regime before any final agreement is reached and additional sanctions waived.  It also reinstates all current sanctions if the interim agreement is violated. 

We are all hopeful for a diplomatic solution, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House and the Senate, as well as the administration, in order to reach a final agreement that ensures Iran never obtains the capability to develop a nuclear weapon.  

Nov 25 2013

November Reminds Us to Invest in America by Recycling

The Huffington Post: Op-Ed

We joined fellow Senate Recycling Caucus co-chair, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), in writing this piece about the importance of recycling. It was published in The Huffington Post on November 25, 2013.

Every year as summer turns to fall, it's hard not to stop, look around, and contemplate the beauty of our country. From the splendor of the forests and farmlands of Arkansas and the Southeast, to the cool, crisp scenes of Delaware and the mid-Atlantic, the U.S. is filled with natural beauty and it's important to keep it that way. That's why every November, folks across the nation take part in an effort to maintain America's natural beauty by participating in America Recycles Day -- a time to think about what each of us can do to be better environmental stewards while simultaneously strengthening our economy for future generations.

As co-chairs of the Senate Recycling Caucus, we are working with our colleagues and stakeholders to raise awareness of the many benefits of recycling. Most Americans are familiar with traditional municipal recycling efforts that encourage individuals to recycle household or office goods such as paper or soda cans and bottles. Every little bit helps when it comes to recycling and we are encouraged that municipal recycling rates are increasing year after year, and we strongly encourage further participation in these programs.

But there's more to recycling than just traditional municipal recycling programs. The United States is home to robust and growing commercial recycling and re-manufacturing industries. For example, the recycling and re-manufacturing industries generated more than $236 billion in annual revenue in past years and created more than one million good-paying American jobs. Also encouraging, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries notes that scrap recycling generates $4 billion in state and local revenues annually. Increasing recycling rates and collection programs continue to contribute to the economic growth of these industries which in turn helps the larger American economy.

These statistics offer a window into the benefits of recycling nationally, but we have also seen recycling success stories first hand in our home states. In Arkansas, this success story is found in the rebirth of the American steel industry. Today more than 60 percent of the steel in the United States is produced by recycling scrap metal. Innovation in steel recycling technology has enabled the U.S. steel industry to reduce its energy intensity by 28 percent since 1990. One Arkansas company, Nucor, has the capacity to recycle 6 million tons of steel per year in Arkansas, and over 27 million tons nationwide, making it North America's largest recycler. Recycling and re-manufacturing enables American workers to compete in a global market flooded with subsidized foreign steel.

Similarly, Delaware has realized significant economic and environmental benefits since Delaware's Universal Recycling Law was passed in 2010. A recent report showed that in 2012, more than 40 percent of recyclables in the state were diverted from landfills and Delaware's recycling, reuse, and re-manufacturing industry contributed $346 million to the State's economy in 2009. For example, the recycling boost has spawned opportunities in the poultry industry. In 2001 Perdue Farms created -- with the encouragement and support of the State of Delaware -- the Perdue AgriRecycle plant in southern Delaware. It takes raw poultry litter and processes it into an pelletized, organic fertilizer sold to Scotts and Holly Tone for use on lawns, park land and golf courses throughout the First State and beyond. Recycling poultry litter amounts to a "win-win" situation by enabling poultry producers to responsibly manage the disposal of poultry litter - which benefits the surrounding watershed and fishing economy -- while also creating a valuable organic fertilizer.

Additionally, a number of Delaware restaurants are now recycling compostable food waste. This lowers their waste disposal costs and nurtures a growing industry utilizing yard waste to make rich mulch and compost soil.

In short, our country is recycling everything from aluminum cans, cardboard, and glass bottles to electronics, cars, and refrigerators. The recycling and remanufacturing industries give our country access to valuable raw materials -- including rare and expensive materials - while reducing energy use, air and water pollution, and the need for old methods of waste disposal.

In honor of America Recycles Day, we invite you to join us in making a concerted effort to recycle. When you recycle, you literally reinvest in American manufacturing, providing raw materials for America's factories and economic opportunity for your community. You can be a part of the solution, helping to responsibly support and preserve both our environment and economy.

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a time where we gather with our families to recognize the blessings we have received over the year. For some of us, these blessings include a fruitful harvest, new jobs, and additions to our families. However, for more than 400,000 children in the United States, it is a time that serves as a painful reminder that they have gone another year without knowing how it feels to enjoy a Thanksgiving full of love surrounded by family.

These 400,000 children will spend the upcoming holidays in the foster care system, and while the number of adoptions from inside the United States is rising, 40 percent of these children will spend at least three years in the foster care system. 

All children deserve the opportunities to grow and strive that sometimes can only be given to them by the love and affection a family can give. This is why I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues to designate November as National Adoption Month, and November 23 as National Adoption Day. It is our hope that we can bring awareness to the thousands of children who are waiting to find their forever families. 

I am very encouraged by the work that is being done in Arkansas to raise awareness for the 3,500 children who are in the state’s foster care system at any given time. Honoring the work being done to raise awareness about adoption we recognize Arkansans for their dedication to providing permanent and loving homes for the children who are in the foster care system and are waiting for a family. 

As part of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute which coordinates the Angels in Adoption program, we celebrate outstanding individuals for their dedication and commitment to providing children with the protection, permanency, safety and love of a family. 

Families across the state are committed to sharing their love with children who need parents. Hundreds of children were adopted in Arkansas last year and we can continue to  find loving homes for children in need.

We wrapped up a busy week in Washington before adjourning for Thanksgiving recess. Here’s what happened in the Senate:

  • Senate Rules Change: Senator Reid broke the rules to change the rules of the Senate, majorly altering the way in which the chamber operates. I voted against this change that reduces the minority’s ability to filibuster executive branch and most judicial nominees. 
  • PEPFAR Reauthorized: The Senate reauthorized the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Started under the vision and leadership of President George W. Bush, PEPFAR, the U.S. government initiative to combat HIV/AIDS around the world, has been credited with saving millions of lives during the last decade. 
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