Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Mar 25 2015

Reining in the IRS

It’s clear why Americans distrust the IRS. From abusing its enforcement of tax laws to paying millions of dollars in bonuses to employees, this agency is known for misusing taxpayer dollars.

The American people deserve better.

Instead of making taxpayers its number one priority, it’s clear that IRS Commissioner John  Koskinen’s primary focus is IRS employees. Last week he sent an email to more than 80,000 IRS workers touting his ability to cut the budget to protect the priority of the IRS’ union – no furlough days this year.

Instead of working to regain the public’s trust, the IRS wants more money and more authority over the speech of political groups.

The President’s budget requests a $2 billion increase for the IRS in the next fiscal year. This is unrealistic and busts the budget cap established by the Budget Control Act.

And what exactly does the agency need this money for?

Koskinen says the agency is considering expanding “a yet-to-be-released rule governing 501(c)(4), “social welfare” groups, to include political groups known as 527s, which focus on elections” according to Politico. It appears that he has yet to learn lessons that cost his predecessor her job.

The IRS has a history of overreach. Two years ago we learned the agency targeted political groups, singling them out for additional scrutiny because of their ideological views. Now it wants authority to police political non-profits.

The agency needs to focus on regaining the trust of the American people, but I’m concerned this potential rule will continue to erode the already fragile relationship that the public has with the IRS.

The White House is celebrating five years of Obamacare today. The President’s website calls it a “historic law that has transformed the lives of millions of Americans.”  I would agree with his claim that it has changed the lives of millions. I would disagree with his assessment that this change was for the better.

With a price tag in the trillions, the law creates more problems than it solves. It drives up health care costs, busts our budget, stifles job growth and raises taxes on hardworking Arkansans.

In its brief five years of existence, Obamacare has managed to point every indicator the wrong direction. Access to care went down. Cost of care went up. Coverage options shrunk. New taxes were created.

I remain hopeful that the case currently before the Supreme Court will end Obamacare. While the President’s law has survived a challenge in front of the Supreme Court before, the latest challenge taking on the law’s subsidies has his supporters rightly worried. If the Court rules against the President, Congress has to be prepared to have an immediate replacement in place.

This week, the Senate is considering a budget resolution that will clear the way for the repeal of Obamacare and reserve funds for programs that will strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, expand choice, and lower health care costs. We are prepared to address this crisis with market-based reform that puts patients in control and forces insurance companies to compete for their business. An approach that emphasizes flexibility, portability and fairness, not government mandates. 

In the previous session of Congress, I voted to repeal, defund, and chisel away at parts of Obamacare. I will continue to support these efforts as we move forward in this session of Congress. We need to make this anniversary Obamacare’s last.

The Senate debates legislation to fight human trafficking, leading efforts to honor our Guard and Reserve members and grants for rural Arkansas. Read about these and more in this “Week in Review.” 

  • Supporting Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act: The Senate has an opportunity to pass legislation to fight human trafficking and give justice to victims of this heinous crime. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats are blocking this bill. I encouraged the Minority to support this legislation during a speech on the Senate floor
  • Honoring Guard and Reserve Members as Veterans: I am proud to introduce legislation to honor our Guard and Reserve members as veterans. The Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Act of 2015, a bipartisan, bicameral bill honoring as veterans, Guard and Reserve retirees who served honorably for a minimum of 20 years but do not meet the active duty service requirement to qualify them as veterans under existing law. 
  • Improving Highway Safety: I am leading efforts to improve the safety on our roads and highways by introducing The Drug Free Commercial Driver Act of 2015. This legislation would eliminate a hurdle in the commercial trucking industry’s pre-employment drug screening process and enhance industry standards by allowing trucking companies to use a more effective screening option. 
  • #ARFarmFriday: Follow me on Instagram as I highlight Arkansas’s agriculture community with a new picture each week of our state’s farms, ranches and agriculture producers using #ARFarmFriday. Post your picture to Instagram using this tag and I may feature your picture one week. 
  • USDA Rural Development Grants: Infrastructure is a critical component to providing citizens the services we rely and depend on to meet our needs.  That’s why I was proud to announce that Campbell Station and Mountain Top Public Water Authority in Heber Springs and received funds to improve water infrastructure in the communities. 
  • KASU interview: I joined Jonesboro’s KASU radio station to talk about the current debate in the Senate on human trafficking, Loretta Lynch's nomination, the Iran letter, reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit and legislation to improve mental health services for our servicemembers and veterans. Listen to the discussion here
  • Save Your Vision Month: March is Save Your Vision Month, which is aimed at promoting the importance of regular and comprehensive eye care. The campaign focuses on healthy eyesight and vision in the 21st century, a time where adults spend five to seven hours per day using computers, smartphones, tables, or other handheld electronic devices that put stress and tension on our eyes.


What I Co-Sponsored This Week

S.301—Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
Tags: Banking
S.313—Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act of 2015
Tags: Healthcare
S.628—Improving Access to Maternity Care Act
Tags: Healthcare
S.751—The Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act
Tags: Jobs/Economy/Energy/Government Reform
S.801—Representation Fairness Restoration Act
Tags: Jobs/Economy
S.828—A bill to clarify that a State has the sole authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on Federal land within the boundaries of the State.
Tags: Jobs/Economy/Energy/Government Reform
S.Con.Res.10—A concurrent resolution supporting the designation of the year of 2015 as the "International Year of Soils" and supporting locally led soil conservation.
 

In case you missed our interview with Jonesboro’s KASU radio, you can listen to the interview here. We covered a wide range of issues including the current debate in the Senate on human trafficking, the Earned Income Tax Credit and legislation to improve mental health services for our servicemembers and veterans.  

Preventing the erosion of our Second Amendment rights, protecting religious freedom worldwide and prohibiting illegal immigrants from receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit. Read about these and more in this “Week in Review.” 

  • Protecting Religious Freedom: Rabbi David Saperstein, the State Department’s Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, testified before the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee. I shared my concerns about the Administration’s refusal to blame the Islamic State group’s brand of radical Islam for its persecution of Christians and Jews. 
  • Increasing Access to Mental Health Care for Servicemembers and Veterans: Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and I introduced the Frontline Mental Health Provider Training Act. This legislation would help address mental health provider shortages and increase access to care for our servicemembers and veterans. 
  • English as the Official Language: We are a nation of immigrants but our national identity and culture is firmly grounded in the English language. For that reason, I cosponsored the English Language Unity Act, legislation that would make English the official language of the United States. 
  • Senate Air Force Caucus Leader: I’m proud to join Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to lead the Senate Air Force Caucus in the 114th Congress. This bipartisan group includes 35 members and focuses on issues impacting the U.S. Air Force. The caucus sponsors briefings, base visits and meetings with Air Force personnel throughout the year. 
  • UAPB Grant: The University of Arkansas Pine Bluff received a $1.4 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop and strengthen partnerships for higher quality education services to children. Providing young Arkansans with a learning environment to help improve their education is important to ensure success. 
  • Hot Springs City Leaders Visit Washington: Leaders of the community were in the nation’s capital for the National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference. I had the opportunity to meet with the mayor and other city officials to discuss issues important to the community including the future drinking water supply of Hot Springs and the region. Watch the video.

What I Co-Sponsored This Week 

S.678—The English Language Unity Act
Tags: Immigration Reform

S.686—A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a limitation on certain aliens from claiming the earned income tax credit.
Tags: Tax Policy/Immigration Reform

S.697—Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act
Tags: Government Reform/Infrastructure

S.714—The Frontline Mental Health Provider Training Act
Tags: Veterans/National Security

S.Con.Res.4—A concurrent resolution supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act.

This week, the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee held a hearing on our efforts to protect religious freedom abroad.

Rabbi David Saperstein, the State Department’s Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, was among the witnesses who testified.

It was a good opportunity to ask why the President and members of his administration has refused to identify the real motives behind the gruesome actions of the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

For example, when the Administration publicly responded to the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, they failed to mention the faith and religious beliefs of the victims was the primary reason they were slaughtered by ISIS.

The Administration refuses to state the underlying reason this massacre happened, namely the ongoing, systematic religious persecution of Christians and Jews by the Islamic State group.

Ambassador Saperstein claimed there have been efforts to call attention to the terror group’s heinous acts of persecution, but I advised him that the average person simply doesn’t see anyone in this Administration forcefully making that case.

The Ambassador’s reply of “If that is the case then we have some work to do” says it all.

One easy place to start would be to clearly speak out against egregious atrocities ISIS continues to commit against those in the Middle East who do not share their warped view of Islam.

If we don’t identify or talk about the problem, we can’t solve it.

We need to encourage the same religious tolerance we embrace at home to be the norm around the globe, even if doing so at times requires us to call out acts of oppression committed by those who have twisted religion to fit their own radical agenda. 

If anyone embodies a twisted view of radical Islam, it is the Islamic State group. 

These terrorists are devoted to establishing a new Caliphate, ruled by Sharia law, where all would be forced to convert or die. There would be no religious freedom under ISIS rule. They are committed to destroying all who stand in their way. The US needs to be clear and resilient in our commitment to destroy ISIS.

In this edition of 'From the Mailbag' Senator Boozman responds to an email from Paul in Fayetteville who said that he is opposed to the proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to ban a popular bullet used for the AR-15.

The Israeli Prime Minister addresses Congress, the Senate attempts to override the Keystone veto and a new addition to Team Boozman. Read about these and more in this “Week in Review.”   

  • Review the Treasury Department’s Fiscal Year 2016 funding request: I chaired my first hearing of the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee where Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified. Watch my opening statement
  • I Stand With Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress. He delivered a powerful, forceful speech. His message for us to stand together must be the priority for any negotiations to eliminate Iran's nuclear threat. There is no viable containment option. In a floor speech in advance of the Prime Minister’s address, I said nothing short of full elimination of Iran’s nuclear program can honestly be considered a victory. If these talks fail to produce an agreement requiring that of Iran, Congress must have the authority to reject it. 
  • Senate Attempts to Override Keystone Veto: I voted to override President Obama’s veto of bipartisan legislation approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Unfortunately the attempt fell five votes short of the number needed to override the veto. 
  • Monticello Twenty for the Future: Monticello's Twenty for the Future representatives shared the economic developments being made in the community and we’re happy to continue that momentum and see how we can help these efforts to develop and attract jobs to the region. Watch the video. 
  • Northern Long-Eared Bat Designation Oversight: I led a letter with my senate colleagues to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director questioning the agency’s consideration of adding the Northern Long-Eared Bat to the endangered species list. These bats can be found across the entire state of Arkansas, and activities throughout most of our state could be impacted by the current proposals from the Service.  Read more about these efforts. 
  • Welcome to the Team: Colonel (ret.) Anita Deason joined my staff as an advisor for military and veterans’ issues. She brings over three decades of military service to the table along with a keen understanding of issues facing our servicemembers, veterans and military families. A resident of Conway, Col. Deason will be based out of my Little Rock office but will travel around the state. 
  • Water Resources Research: I was pleased to join Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) to introduce legislation to reauthorize federal grant funding for water resources research institutes. The Water Resources Research Amendments Act (WRRA) will provide continued support for important research on state and regional water challenges, provide training for hydrologists and other water-related scientists and engineers, and fund public outreach and education on water issues.  This will allow Arkansas and other states to solve serious problems related to our water needs. 

What I Co-Sponsored This Week

S.423—
Privacy Notice Modernization Act of 2015
Tags: Banking & Finance/Government Reform
S.440—Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act
Tags: Jobs/Education
S.611—A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to reauthorize technical assistance to small public water systems, and for other purposes.
Tags: Government Reform/Infrastructure
S.637 –A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend and modify the railroad track maintenance credit.
Tags: Transportation/Infrastructure
S.653—Water Resources Research Amendments Act of 2015
Tags: Government Reform/Infrastructure
S.Con.Res.7—A  concurrent resolution authorizing the use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for a ceremony to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.
S.Res.94 –A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of Career and Technical Education Month.
Tags: Jobs/Education

In this edition of 'From the Mailbag' Senator Boozman answers a question from Rebekah in Star City about Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress.

President Obama’s misguided veto, meeting with Arkansas veterans and improving transparency in EPA rulemaking. Read about these and more in the “Week in Review.” 

  • Withholding funds for President Obama’s Executive Amnesty: After Senate Democrats filibustered four separate attempts to begin debate on the House bill that withheld funds for the President’s executive order, the Majority Leader brought forward a bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security without any conditions on Obama’s executive actions. The bill passed the Senate, but I voted against it.     
  • President Vetoes Keystone bill: This project has been studied for more than six years and has been given the green light at every obstacle. Arkansans and all Americans can see that President Obama is the real hurdle to Keystone. I will continue to support this project, and I urge the Senate to quickly vote to override this veto. 
  • Disaster Recovery Grant for Pulaski and Faulkner Counties: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) provided $96,000 to the counties to help with disaster recovery efforts form the 2014 EF4 tornado. The money will be used to remove debris from streams in order to prevent future flooding. 
  • Arkansas Veterans Visit: Veterans Service Organizations shared their priorities with Congress and the needs of their members. I met with Arkansas members of the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and the Disabled American Veterans as national commanders testified before the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees. 
  • Updating FAA’s Pilot General Aviation Regulations: Congress is working to reform FAA’s general aviation medical standards to maintain safety while supporting capable pilots and sustaining economic growth in the industry. Read about the legislation I introduced to accomplish this.
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The Problems with the President's National and Homeland Security Strategies

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