Dr. Boozman's Check-up

President Obama has made a habit of picking and choosing which laws he wishes to enforce and abide by, hiding behind the power of executive order authority. This willingness to circumvent the law and Congressional authority is apparent when he gives waivers during the troubled rollout of his signature health care law, his decisions not to deport enforcement of immigration laws and a whole host of other areas.

For example, in the past year, the Obama Administration has delayed or modified Obamacare twenty times. Last week, the Administration announced it would yet again delay Obamacare’s minimum coverage requirements for health plans offered by insurance companies to avoid another wave of cancellations this fall.

The President’s role is to faithfully execute the law as written. Faithful execution of a law does not mean picking winners and losers.

It is not up to the President to selectively decide which portions of a law to enforce and which to ignore. Commonsense suggests that the President may enjoy some discretion while implementing a law, but willfully ignoring entire portions of a law far exceeds that leeway. 

This week, the House of Representatives took a step toward reining in these abuses of power by passing the ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014, which makes it easier for Congress, as part of its oversight powers, to sue the executive branch for failing to enforce the law. Read the bill below.

While the House was considering this very bill, I joined with Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and twenty-two of our colleagues to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. It aims to eliminate the procedural hurdles put in front of previous attempts by Members of Congress, and ad hoc groups of Members, to seek judicial review of alleged failures by the president to faithfully execute the law.

This is not the President’s prerogative; it is the President’s responsibility. This bill will restore much-needed accountability back to the executive branch and put some teeth into Congressional oversight. 

We had a busy week in Washington that included fairness and relief for all Americans suffering under Obamacare, fighting for military families, recognition for supporting free market efforts to improve our economy and much more in this edition of the “Week in Review.”

  • Uphold the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) and I authored a piece for National Review on the opportunity the Supreme Court has later this month to reconsider the Obamacare mandate that forces employers to offer contraceptive and sterilization services that violate their religious beliefs. Read it here. 
  • Fighting for Military Families: The defense budget proposes to slash even more benefits our military families need. On Thursday I delivered a speech on the Senate floor saying "cuts on our military families are unacceptable and I will fight to preserve the benefits our military families were promised." 
  • ICD-10: The healthcare community is forced to comply with a government mandate to update a new generation of diagnosis codes. This includes codes for such strange injuries like spending too much time in a deep-freeze refrigerator or a large toe that has gone unexpectedly missing. This sounds crazy, but it’s true. Read more about our efforts to stop the adoption of these codes. 
  • Supporting Small Aircraft Pilots: We are leading efforts to exempt pilots flying a broader range of aircraft eligible for third class medical exemption which expands sport pilot medical standards with the introduction of the General Aviation Pilot Protection, Act. 
Congressman Randy Forbes and I authored a piece for National Review on the opportunity the Supreme Court has later this month to reconsider the Obamacare mandate that forces employers to offer contraceptive and sterilization services that violate their religious beliefs. You can read it here.

Before serving in Congress I worked as an optometrist in an eye clinic that my brother and I started in Rogers, Arkansas which helps me understand the challenges small business and health care providers face when having to comply with a new regulation. It’s about to get a lot worse. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently announced that hospitals and physicians have to adopt a new generation of diagnosis codes. 

The Weekly Standard recently published “Code Chaos” that discusses the new process called ICD-10 and the problems that health experts are expecting. 

 “Virtually everyone agrees that the transition will mean decreased productivity and lost revenue, at least for a time. Some experts, dismissed as alarmists by ICD-10 enthusiasts, are predicting widespread chaos in a sector of the economy that can little afford it,” the article reads. 

ICD-10 is a very convoluted process that increases the number of codes by more than 120,000. This includes codes for some bizarre and rare injuries like this Washington Post story points to which includes spending too much time in a deep-freeze refrigerator or a large toe that has gone unexpectedly missing. This sounds made-up. Unfortunately, it’s all too true. This is why I joined with senate doctors to introduce the Cutting Costly Codes Act, S. 972, which would stop the adoption of ICD-10 codes. 

The sponsors of the legislation recently sent the letter attached below to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner questioning CMS’ plan to perform front-end testing of the ICD-10 billing code system during the first week of March. 

“Given the size and scope of the potential transition to ICD-10, the brevity and limited scope of this test is worrisome. This change will impact millions of physicians and patients, and hundreds of billions of dollars in payments that flow through Medicare and Medicaid. Other major federal IT projects--such as the implementation of Healthcare.gov--have demonstrated the importance of thorough pre-testing every aspect of new systems, both the front-end and back-end components. System-wide errors and delay could adversely impact both patients’ own pocketbooks and provider cash flows,” we wrote in the letter.

 

We’re bringing our office to you, the President submits his budget to Congress, the Senate confirms a new federal judge for Arkansas and much more in this edition of the “Week in Review.” 

  • Mobile Offices: We’re making it easier to reach our office by bringing it to you. We hosted two Mobile Office events this week and there are many other opportunities to meet with my staff. Find out where we’ll be during March. 
  • Merchant Marine Academy: During the 112th Congress, Vice President Joe Biden appointed me to serve on the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors, the academy’s official oversight board. Current law creates a Board for the USMMA, but the law does adequately structure the Board to carry out its oversight duties so I introduced the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors Enhancement. This bill would improve the ability of the Board to perform critical oversight responsibilities and continue to train merchant mariners/military officers to meet critical national sealift needs. 
  • Radio Interview: KFFB aired our discussion with station General Manager and owner Bob Connell about Obamacare, proposed cuts to the military, the Farm Bill and energy. If you missed it you can listen to the four-part interview here.

Mar 06 2014

KFFB Open Mic

This week KFFB has been airing our discussion with station General Manager and owner Bob Connell. We were happy to meet with Bob in our Washington office last week as a representative of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association. We talked about issues important to the industry and later we talked about some other issues important to Arkansans. If you missed it you can listen to our interview on the following topics: Obamacare, proposed cuts to the military, the Farm Bill and energy including the propane shortage.

Mar 06 2014

Crisis in Ukraine

Today is the five-year anniversary of the Obama Administration’s declaration of a “reset” with Russia. The occasion was marked by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ceremonial gift of a reset button to her Russian counterpart, with the Obama Administration pledging a “new start” with U.S.-Russian relations.

That fresh start doesn’t look very good today.

Last month, then-President Viktor Yanukovich fled Ukraine as a result of escalating conflicts between anti-government protestors and Ukrainian security forces in which up to 100 people were killed. Upon Yanukovich’s departure, ethnic Russian nationalists seized control of the Crimean parliament building and Russian military forces illegally entered the Crimea peninsula.

The crisis continues to escalate daily. Today, Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia formally under Moscow's rule, a decision that the new Ukrainian government said was in violation of the country’s constitution.

Russia’s aggressive actions against a sovereign state are completely unacceptable. The State Department has rightly condemned Vladimir Putin’s government for its actions and President Obama has signed an executive order that authorizes limited sanctions against those responsible for violating the sovereignty of Ukraine. The sanctions could also apply to some Ukrainians if they are found to have been involved in efforts to destabilize the country.

Congress is also moving forward with a swift and stern response. Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that provides for the costs of loan guarantees for Ukraine. Here in the Senate, I joined a bipartisan group of Senators, led by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), to introduce a resolution that condemns the Russian military siege of Crimea, calling for a withdrawal of those troops, and a negotiated settlement to any concerns regarding the Crimea. It also urges the administration and European Union to use a range of economic and diplomatic leverage against Russia should it fail to abide by these basic international norms. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are crafting additional legislation that would provide assistance to Ukraine, which has yet to be introduced. 

We must provide strong leadership through this crisis. If there is no recourse for this aggression, the sovereignty of the rest of the former Soviet-bloc countries will be at risk, not to mention the precedent this sets for the world’s bad actors like Iran and Syria. The international community needs to stand together and ensure the Russians understand that this behavior will not be tolerated.  

For more on my thoughts on the Ukraine crisis, please watch this interview below. 

Supporting veterans’ funding, preventing IRS targeting, Senate confirms a new federal judge for Arkansas and much more from a busy week in the senate in this edition of the “Week in Review.” 

  • Helping Wounded Warriors: We’ve been leading efforts in Congress to improve the care for our injured servicemembers and veterans. In 2012, our initiative to improve rehabilitative services for our nation’s veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury was included in a larger bill and signed into law by President Obama. There is still a lot of work to do. We talked with the filmmakers for a documentary produced by the Wounded Warriors Project about our work in Congress to make sure our veterans are getting the care they need. 
  • Friend of U.S. Rice Award: I was proud to receive the first ever Friend of the U.S. Rice Industry Award. As the number one producer of rice in our country, Arkansas has a unique role in the industry. We are proud to promote policies and help craft a Farm Bill that enables our farmers to manage risk and ensures that high quality U.S. rice remains a staple on dining room tables across the globe. 
  • Geography Legislator of the Year: Geography education is a critical component to learning, working and competing in our global economy. National Geographic honored our commitment of to improve geography education and recognized me as us a Geography Legislator of the Year

At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month President Obama called for the release of prisoners held around the world because of their religious beliefs, including Pastor Saeed Abedini. 

I have heard from many Arkansans about Pastor Abedini, a dual Iranian-American citizen who has been imprisoned in Iran for over a year in challenging conditions, simply because of his Christian faith. 

The Iranian foreign minister recently signaled some potential flexibility in this case, and I’m joining bipartisan, bicameral efforts to keep this case in public eye to take advantage of these comments with the ultimate goal to bring Pastor Abedini back home.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) represents one of the most complex and potentially severe injuries incurred by service members deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Providing the best services to our troops who sustained TBI is part of our commitment to ensure our military personnel get the care they deserve. We’ve been leading efforts in Congress to improve the care of our servicemembers and veterans impacted with these injuries. In 2012, our initiative to improve rehabilitative services for our nation’s veterans with TBI was included in a larger bill and signed into law by President Obama. There is still a lot of work to do. The Wounded Warrior Project produced Wounded: the Battle Back Home, a documentary series that brings to life the wounds of war and the difficulties our nation faces in addressing these injuries. We talked with the filmmakers about our work in Congress to make sure our veterans are getting the care they need.

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Update on Arkansas Senator John Boozman

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