Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Agri-Pulse Open Mic

Jun 08 2015

Agriculture is Arkansas’s top economic industry. As a member of the Senate Ag Committee I serve as a voice for this industry and work to champion federal policies that meet the needs of our farmers, ranchers and agriculture producers. This week I joined Agri-Pulse’s Open Mic to discuss issues influencing the industry and impacting the ability of our producers to continue growing the world’s safest supply of food. We talked about the threat that EPA’s Waters of the United States rule has on the ability of landowners to use their property, the Senate Ag Committee’s work to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act and my efforts to open up trade with Cuba. You can listen to the interview here.

Week in Review: June 1-5 

It was a busy week in Washington. Read more about what we worked on in this Week in Review. 

  • Supporting Legislation to Increase Veterans Disability Compensation – I am proud to cosponsor The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015, which seeks to increase veterans’ disability benefits. This legislation would allow us to stay ahead of the rising cost of living and provide the best service possible for our heroes and their families.

  • Irresponsible IRS Spending – The IRS needs to change the way it prioritizes what programs to fund. This won’t happen by providing the agency with more money. A change in culture at the agency is necessary to improve taxpayer service. Read my editorial in USA Today.

  • Cutting Red Tape – I’m working to eliminate duplicative and costly permitting requirements for pesticide application users like Arkansas farmers and ranchers. I joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) to improve government efficiency and roll back this regulation.

  • Arkansas Airports Receive FAA Grants - The FAA awarded more than $6.5 million to 11 Arkansas airports for improvements to airport runways, taxiways and aprons. These infrastructure upgrades will help accommodate future growth and development throughout the state.

  • Families Urge Action to Bring Home Iran Hostages – Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard from American families who have relatives held hostage in Iran. These families called for a more central focus on the fate of the hostages in negotiations of the Iran nuclear deal. The Iran nuclear deal is the president’s most pressing foreign affairs issue and there is frustration over the lack of insistence to bring these Americans home. The Senate has taken action and we’re waiting for the President to do the same.

  • GAO Report Confirms Need for Science Advisory Board Reforms – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this week that shows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hindering the ability of the Science Advisory Board (SAB) to comply with the law. This is all the more reason for the Senate to take up legislation Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and I introduced to reform the SAB.

  • Making my Way Across Arkansas – I spent the week of Memorial Day traveling across Arkansas and meeting with people in Little Rock, Vilonia, Mayflower, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Mena and Waldron. Read more about my busy week in Arkansas.

ICYMI: More money will not help the IRS

Agency is making irresponsible decisions with taxpayer dollars

Jun 03 2015

Senator John Boozman authored this piece published here in USA Today, June 3, 2015. 

Americans expect a tax agency to protect their personal information, provide good customer service and be accountable and fair. The priorities of the IRS do not reflect the demands of hardworking taxpayers. 

Every agency in Washington has been asked to do more with less. The IRS is no different. By making irresponsible decisions with taxpayer dollars, the IRS is failing to adapt to today's fiscal realities.

One of the agency's first actions after receiving its funding for this fiscal year was to announce it would pay out more than $60 million in bonuses to employees. 

As an April report by the House Ways and Means Committee shows, the agency paid the same amount in bonuses as the previous fiscal year despite a cut in the agency's budget. 

In an email to IRS employees this year, Commissioner John Koskinen touted his ability to prevent a shutdown. But by also handing out hefty bonuses to employees, he misdirected resources meant for taxpayer services while protecting the priorities of the IRS union. 

With flexibility in how it allocates its funding, the agency's top priority should be taxpayer services, particularly protecting the personal information of millions of American taxpayers. 

Unfortunately, taxpayer service is the agency's most serious failure. The agency's focus clearly is elsewhere. Even before the latest tax season, Commissioner Koskinen estimated that only 50% of taxpayer phone calls would be answered; those still on the line would face wait times of at least 30 minutes. 

This disconnect, along with the agency's abusive policing of political speech and its misconduct with deleted and missing emails, gives the IRS a black eye and makes me question its priorities. 

The agency suffers from an erosion of taxpayers' trust because its actions undermine their faith in the system. 

More money won't help it regain Americans' trust. Only proving that its priorities are in the right place will accomplish that. IRS doesn't need more money to make that happen; it needs a change in culture. 

Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Internal Revenue Service.

The families of Americans currently held by the Iranian government made an impassioned plea to members of the House of Representatives today.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, relatives of U.S. citizens Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian and Robert Levinson expressed frustration that the fate of the hostages is not more central to nuclear negotiations nearing the deadline for a deal.

They are increasingly concerned that the clock is ticking for their loved ones and that any leverage the United States has could slip away at the conclusion of the nuclear talks with Iran. 

While President Obama has made reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran his top foreign policy priority, there seems to be no sense of urgency on the part of the Administration to use the negotiations to bring our citizens home. 

Last month, the Senate passed a resolution that called for the release of all American hostages being held by the Iranian government. The resolution, which I cosponsored, states that the Government of the Iran should immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian while cooperating with U.S. efforts to locate and return Robert Levinson. It also states that the United States should undertake every effort using every diplomatic tool at its disposal to secure their immediate release.  

As the families of these four men made clear today, this decisive action has not happened. With every day that passes, the situation gets worse for these Americans. 

As ABC News reported

In their opening statements, each family member denied the Iranian allegations and described the dismal conditions in which their loved ones are being held. Sarah Hekmati said her brother has been beaten on the feet with cables and has been tasered repeatedly. Jason Rezaian has lost 40 lbs. and is often kept in solitary confinement, Ali Rezaian said. Nagameh Abedini said Saeed is doing “horribly, physically and psychologically” and suffered from internal bleeding from early beatings. 

The Obama Administration should have acted long ago to secure their freedom.  By ceding the upper hand in the negotiations, President Obama has put the U.S. in a position where we are allowing the Iranians to dictate the terms of their freedom. 

The window to act is closing. If President Obama wants to show Americans that he is negotiating from a position of power, he must demand the immediate release of Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian and require the Government of Iran help to find Robert Levinson. We cannot allow Americans to suffer in an effort to appease the regime in Tehran.

U.S. Senator John Boozman had a packed schedule last week, participating in a number of events across Arkansas during the Memorial Day work period. 

In case you missed it, here are some highlights from last week’s local press coverage:

Boozman joined Governor Hutchinson and members of the Arkansas congressional delegation “to discuss the much-talked about JLTV project that the Pentagon will announce in July.” Governor Praises Lockheed Martin Superproject as Crowd Takes Selfies with Prototype JLTVTalk Business & Politics, May 26, 2015

“(Boozman) said better relations with Cuba would open an important market for Arkansas and would improve the lives of Cubans.” Boozman Praises Cuba Deal, Hutchinson Touts Rural Services In SpeechesTalk Business & Politics, May 26, 2015 

“U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., speaking at a Delta Grassroots Caucus conference on economic quality for working families, said congressional leaders continued to work hard on a long-term highway funding bill.” Fund stretch won't restore road projectsArkansas Democrat Gazette, May 26, 2015 

“At a news conference Tuesday morning, U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, both R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, joined Hutchinson and state legislative leaders in voicing support for the bond issue.” Arkansas Legislature convenes for special sessionArkansas News Bureau, May 26, 2015

“U.S. Sen. John Boozman met with University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Laurence Alexander on Tuesday at the school’s Aquaculture Fisheries Center. Created in 1988, the Aquaculture Fisheries Center of Excellence is recognized as a nationwide leader in research, education and extension programs and is routinely sought to help provide diagnostic services in order to keep fish healthy.” Taking Stock Pine Bluff Commercial, May 26, 2015 

“U.S. Sen. John Boozman couldn't help but remember the last time he visited tornado-ravaged sites in Faulkner County. It was in June, several weeks after he had undergone emergency heart surgery….Since then, both Boozman and the devastated towns have grown stronger.” Tour shows tornado rebound,” Arkansas Democrat Gazette, May 27, 2015

“U.S. Sen. John Boozman and U.S. Rep. French Hill toured some of the hardest-hit areas from the April 27, 2014, tornado in Vilonia and Mayflower on Wednesday to get a firsthand view of the rebuilding progress.” Officials 'amazed' by tornado recovery efforts,” Log Cabin Democrat, May 27, 2015

“Senator John Boozman making a trip to Vilonia to check on tornado recovery efforts there. Boozman along with Representative French Hill spoke with Faulkner County leaders to find out how they can help.” Recovery EffortsKARK, May 27, 2015

“Boozman and Crawford said a clean environment is important but it needs to be approached with common sense and sound science, something they say the EPA ruling is not doing.” Boozman, Crawford tour Newark plant threatened by the EPAKAIT, May, 27, 2015

"’We can't create jobs, but we can put ourselves in situations more favorable for economic activity,’ Boozman told a group of Hot Springs businessmen and community leaders Thursday at The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.” Senator urges entering trade relations with Cuba Hot Springs Sentinel Record, May 29, 2015

It was a busy week in the Senate. Read more about what we worked on in this Week in Review. 

  • On the radio: I joined Jonesboro’s KASU radio and we talked about the debate over granting trade promotion authority to the President, the need to get broadband to rural Arkansas and why the budget proposal passed by Congress is good for America. Listen to the interview here.

 

 

Did you miss my visit with Mark Smith on KASU’s morning show today?  We talked about the debate over granting trade promotion authority to the President, the need to get broadband to rural Arkansas and why the budget proposal passed by Congress is good for America. Follow this link to listen to the interview in its entirety.

There are some new developments in the ongoing legal challenge to President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Andre Hanen issued an order blocking the government from carrying out the President’s executive overreach on immigration.

This was welcome news. The President’s plan is misguided and it is clearly an overreach of the office. His actions essentially amount to granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants without the approval of Congress.

In his 123-page decision blocking the President’s immigration policy Judge Andre Hanen wrote, “These changes go beyond mere enforcement or even non-enforcement of this nation’s immigration scheme.” 

A federal appeals court in New Orleans recently heard arguments from the Administration asking for an emergency stay of Judge Hanen’s ruling. The President wants to be able to carry out his actions during the appeal process, despite the ruling against him. 

I strongly disagree with that assertion. 

That’s why I signed an amicus brief filed with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a continued injunction against the President’s actions. The brief, signed by 24 of my Senate colleagues and 88 members of the House of Representatives, states that the President unilaterally created deferred action programs for unlawful immigrants are unconstitutional and are contrary to the will of Congress.

The direction the President is taking with his executive action is the wrong one and he himself has acknowledged nearly two dozen times that he doesn’t have the authority to grant this executive action before he announced his unilateral plans. Yet he continues to press forward with it and is actively seeking ways around the court decision. We will continue to seek ways to stop this legislatively while making the legal case that the President overstepped his Constitutional authorities when he issued this executive action. 

I joined 112 of my colleagues to support Arkansas and 25 others states in their fight to stop the President’s unconstitutional immigration actions, cosponsored legislation to push back against the EPA’s carbon emissions mandates that target Arkansas for cuts stricter than 44 other states and supported a Senate-passed resolution calling on Iran to release American hostages. Read more about what happened in this Week in Review. 

  • Fighting the President’s Unconstitutional Immigration Action: Arkansas and 25 other states have challenged President Obama's moves to ease deportations for immigrants living in the country illegally. This week I joined my colleagues in filing an amicus brief support of a continued injunction against President Obama’s executive overreach.

  • Pushing Back on EPA: EPA’s proposal limiting carbon emissions threatens to increase energy prices and reduce reliability. That’s why I joined Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and several of our colleagues to introduce the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act to fight back against this proposal.

  • VA Inspector General to Review Solar Panel Activation Failure: The VA’s Office of Inspector General notified Congressman French Hill and I that it’s adding the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) to its national project on VA’s Green Management Program Solar Panel Projects after we asked for a review of the agency’s renewable energy program because of problems with the Little Rock VAMC’s solar panels.

  • Broadband Access: Access to affordable and reliable Internet is vital in this modern age. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 84 percent of rural Arkansas lacks access to broadband. This is an important issue in our state. That’s why I asked FCC Chairman Wheeler this week when the current, antiquated rules would be updated. He to implement reforms “by football season.”
  • Fort Smith Airport Fire Protection Grant: The FAA awarded the Fort Smith Regional Airport nearly $600,000 for firefighting equipment. The funds will be used to buy a new fire truck and four fire protection suits to assist the airport in meeting safety requirements. This grant is important to the operation of the airport and economic development in the community. 

Today we recognize the heroism, service and sacrifice of Army Master Sergeant James Holt. He is being laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. In early February the citizens of Hope welcomed MSG Holt home after 47 years missing in action in Vietnam. His remains were returned to his hometown after positive identification was made. These are the remarks included in the Congressional Record honoring his bravery and in recognition of his homecoming.

Mr. President, this Saturday, February 7, 2015, members of the Hempstead County community will gather for a memorial service for MSG James William Holt of Hope, AR, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968. 

The service will take place on the 47th anniversary of Master Sergeant Holt's heroic actions and will coincide with the return of his remains for proper burial. 

In the early morning hours of February 7, 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a massive, coordinated tank and infantry assault on the Special Forces Camp at Lang Vei that created numerous casualties among the troops defending the base. 

As a Special Forces medic, Master Sergeant Holt raced around the compound, while under heavy fire, to administer aid to the wounded and move them to safety. His valiant actions during the assault did not end there. 

While not a weapons specialist, Master Sergeant Holt nonetheless was a professional Special Operations soldier who knew how to fire every weapon in that camp accurately and effectively. He was also a decisive leader who took charge of a silent 106 mm recoilless rifle and brought it to life, destroying three enemy tanks before running out of ammunition. 

Master Sergeant Holt then supplied himself with light anti-tank weapons and charged into the face of the enemy, single-handedly attacking the tank formation, and allowing time for his brothers-in- arms to fight their way to safety. When two enemy tanks broke through the perimeter, Master Sergeant Holt delivered deadly fire on them, scoring a direct hit on one of the armored vehicles. 

The Battle of Lang Vei was a short, but costly battle that could have even worse for American forces if it were not for Master Sergeant Holt's heroics. For his acts of bravery, Master Sergeant Holt was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action and the Purple Heart. 

I was at the ceremony in 2013 when Master Sergeant Holt was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame and I wish I could be on hand when the community honors him this weekend. These tributes will help ensure Master Sergeant Holt's remarkable story of bravery and selfless sacrifice forever lives on.