Dr. Boozman's Check-up
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.
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.
Jun 01 2015
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 JLTV” Talk 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 Speeches” Talk 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 projects” Arkansas 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 session” Arkansas 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 Efforts” KARK, 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 EPA” KAIT, 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
May 23 2015
It was a busy week in the Senate. Read more about what we worked on in this Week in Review.
- Creating Opportunities for American Jobs and Economic Growth: The Senate passed, with my support, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). This legislation ensures that we can negotiate a fair trade deal while maintaining Congress’s role in the process. International trade supports more than 340,000 Arkansas jobs. Opening new markets for Arkansas’s agriculture producers, small businesses and globally-engaged workforce will drive that number up.
- Supporting Highway and Transportation Funds: Arkansas needs reliable federal funding to plan and complete road improvements. We need a long-term solution that allows continued progress on our transportation system. The Senate approved an extension of the highway bill that allows us more time to find an answer while preventing interruptions in ongoing construction projects.
- Improvements Needed at VA: The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the FY2016 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which included two measures I introduced to strengthen Department of Veterans Affairs services and require the department to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars.
- Improving EPA Science Review Process: The Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight conducted a hearing on the science behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision-making. This hearing included a discussion about the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, legislation I introduced with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Watch the opening statement.
- USDA Grants for Arkansas Communities: McCrory and Cotter received funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for first responder vehicles and equipment. The department approved a loan for the city of Brinkley to make improvements to its existing wastewater treatment plant.
- 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.
May 19 2015
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.
May 15 2015
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.
- Iran Hostages: I supported the Senate-passed resolution calling for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini and all American hostages being held by the Iranian government under false charges.
- Magnolia Small Business Awarded USDA Grant: Magnolia-based Fauxsee Innovations received a $100,000 grant to for its efforts to facilitate safe and efficient rural transportation for the visually impaired. This is a great opportunity for this small business that I am confident will lead to improved services for visually impaired individuals.
May 14 2015
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.
May 08 2015
The Senate voted to provide the American people with a voice in any proposed agreement with Iran, I cosponsored legislation to rein in the EPA and direct the agency to revise its Waters of the United States proposal and we recognized the engines of our economy, small businesses, during National Small Business Week.
- Giving Congress a Voice in Iran Negotiations: We have a responsibility to ensure that Iran never achieves its goal of becoming a nuclear power. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. Without this bill, there will be no review of the Iran deal. There would be nothing stopping President Obama from signing a bad agreement with Iran. There would be no limitation on the President’s ability to waive sanctions and it would be much more difficult for Congress to reinstate sanctions should Iran fail to live up to its end of the bargain.
- Reining in EPA: I cosponsored The Federal Water Quality Protection Act, legislation that would protect our nation’s waters and the rights of landowners against an overly burdensome and costly regulatory power-grab by Washington. This bill directs the EPA to revise its “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule to exclude waters that have never been controlled by the federal government like isolated ponds, ditches and agriculture water that lack enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.
- National Small Business Week: This week marks the 52nd annual National Small Business Week, a time to celebrate the innovations, ideas and hard work of our entrepreneurs. To recognize these engines of our economy, I joined with Sen. Tom Udall to introduce legislation that would ease tax preparation for business owners who operate primarily out of their homes. Creating an economic environment that reduces the regulatory burdens on small businesses gives these job creators the predictability to boost growth and development.
- Young Arkansas Volunteers Recognized: Congratulations to Arkansas's 2015 recipients of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Colbe Cortez, a 7th grader from Benton, used money he received for Christmas to rent a plot in his church’s community garden. He grew vegetables that he sold to benefit a local shelter for working homeless families. Heather Jackson, a senior from Caddo Gap, earned this recognition for educating her community on disaster preparedness through presentations, brochures, a day camp and home disaster packs.
- Protecting Investors: The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) shelved a proposed regulation that carried serious privacy issues for the general public. This proposal was universally opposed from the start, and it was wise of FINRA to listen to the concerns that resulted from this misguided regulation. I serve as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government and believe this is the right approach to protect both investor privacy and ensure that the industry is not unduly burdened with another poorly drafted mandate.
May 01 2015
In this Week in Review watch my speech honoring the life of Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt, join with me in celebrating the resiliency of Mayflower and Vilonia and read about my concerns with the critical habitat designation for two types of mussels in Arkansas’s rivers.
- Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt Tribute: I honored the life of longtime Third District Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt on the Senate floor. Congressman Hammerschmidt passed away April 1. He was a true statesman who never forgot the people who elected him to serve in Washington. His dedication to his constituents during his career in public service was unmatched and is a marker I strive to meet.
- Signs of Hope and Recovery: This week marked one year since a massive tornado tore through central Arkansas killing sixteen people in Faulkner, Pulaski and White counties. The devastating destruction has turned to hope and recovery as communities celebrated their resiliency and remembered this tragedy.
- Critical Habitat Designation – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its final critical habitat designations for the Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussels under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). While the agency trimmed its original designation I still have concerns about the real economic cost.
- Marshall Islands National Day: Arkansas is home to thousands of people with roots in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Today we recognize the 36th anniversary of the nation’s independence. This is truly a reason for celebration and recognizing the unique relationship between our countries. That’s why it was concerning to me when I learned of Iran’s seizure of a Republic of the Marshall Islands flagged-vessel. The Marshall Islands entered into a Compact of Free Association with the U.S. in 1986 which means the U.S. is obligated to defend the Republic of Marshall Islands, making this seizure of the ship that much more precarious.
- Cuba Trade in the News: Last week I introduced the Agricultural Export Expansion Act with Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Here are some of the highlights about the importance of this bill and our efforts to support and improve the export of American agricultural commodities to Cuba.
- Post-Earthquake Assistance to Nepal: Over 5,800 have died, including four American citizens, as a result of the 7.8 earthquake that struck the central part of the country. The death toll expected to rise to over 15,000. Learn how you can check on U.S. citizens in Nepal, what the American government is doing to help and how you can contribute to humanitarian organizations helping on the ground.