Dr. Boozman's Check-up

When the Senate Appropriations Committee considered the Financial Services and General Government bill yesterday, my colleagues and I took the opportunity to add language that would move forward efforts to change U.S. policy toward Cuba.

The committee agreed to add three Cuba-related amendments, including one I sponsored, to the bill. The bill itself was approved by the Appropriations Committee and now awaits consideration by the Senate.

My amendment—cosponsored by Senators John Tester (D-MT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)—would help support and improve the export of American agricultural commodities to Cuba. It mirrored a bill I introduced with Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) earlier this year.

The number one barrier that farmers and agricultural exporters in Arkansas and across the country have faced when trying to export to Cuba is a prohibition against providing lines of credit. Current law prohibits any kind of financing of exports to Cuba and requires cash payment up front, essentially preventing farmers and ranchers from being able to ship their products to Cuba.

My amendment would lift the ban on private banks and companies from offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba and help level the playing field for U.S. farmers and exporters. The private lenders themselves would assume all the risk.

As I told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, we need to look for every available path to normalize relations with Cuba, so the appropriations bills are good vehicles to move changes forward.

My colleagues who support normalizing relations are of equal mindset. That is why Senators Moran and Tester offered additional amendments to help ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. Senator Moran’s amendment was identical to a bill that I cosponsored with him and several other senators from both sides of the aisle. It would end restrictions on travel to Cuba unfairly imposed on American citizens and legal residents. Senator Tester’s amendment would eliminate a law that prevents any ship that has docked in Cuba from loading or unloading any freight in the United States for 180 days.

These are steps in the right direction. We have been following the same policy of isolation for over fifty years and nothing has changed in Cuba. It is far more effective to have an open line of communication and a working relationship with governments in need of democratic assistance, rather than shut them out. In normalizing relations, you not only trade goods, but ideas. The two go hand-in-hand. Normalizing relations will allow us to remain competitive and create jobs at home, while pushing for human rights and democratic change in Cuba.

When President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law five years ago, he said he it was a victory for American people.  The President lambasted “powerful interest groups” who he claimed were working against this bill and said the law would “bring the shadowy deals that caused this crisis to the light of day.”

For all of President Obama’s populist rhetoric that day, the heavy-handed regulations generated from this law have done more to hurt the average American than it has any of the “big banks” or “investment houses” the President criticized that day.

The law does not end “too big to fail.” Instead, it creates the potential for permanent bailouts for major financial institutions. At the same time, it puts the squeeze on small community banks that are vital to rural America’s economy.

This one-size-fits-all approach to regulating our banks is not the answer. Community banks didn’t cause the 2008 financial crisis and they simply can’t afford the burdens of complying with the increased regulation. Dodd-Frank is pushing them out of business.

In small communities all over Arkansas, these banks are the only choice in town. Without community banks, it would be much more difficult for farmers and small businesses in rural America to get the credit they need to survive and thrive. Small business is the backbone of our economy, but community banks are the backbone of small business.

We need a regulatory system where small, medium and large banks can succeed. With Dodd-Frank, we created a system where some banks are too big to fail and others are too small to succeed.

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed my Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill which includes a number of provisions that provide much needed regulatory relief for community banks and credit unions. Our bill includes common sense reforms to ease certain regulatory burdens rather than apply a one-size-fits-all approach to small financial institutions. 

As we mark the five year anniversary of the passage of the flawed Dodd-Frank law, it’s about time Congress stepped in to provide commonsense regulatory relief for the engines of economic growth and community development. 

In case you missed our interview with Jonesboro’s KASU radio, you can listen to the interview here. We talked about foreign affairs issues including Iran and the next steps for Congress to take on the nuclear deal, efforts to defeat ISIS and the need to support to our allies in the region. We also discussed the normalizing of relations with Cuba, the benefits it would have for Arkansas agriculture in addition to the upcoming Veterans History Project workshops my office is hosting.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the 25th anniversary of the Northwest Arkansas Council in the Congressional Record, the official proceedings of Congress. 

Boozman’s office presented a copy of the Congressional Record statement at today’s annual meeting. The following remarks are printed in the Congressional Record: 

Mr. President, I want to recognize the hard work, dedication and achievements of the Northwest Arkansas Council, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. This organization helped transform Northwest Arkansas into an economic powerhouse. In 1990, business and community leaders created a cooperative regional business foundation with a focus on what is best for the region. Now, 25 years later, the Council has strengthened partnerships and achieved many successes. 

Early on, the Council recognized the importance of expanding the region’s infrastructure. It planted the seeds for development by pursuing the construction of a new regional airport, an Interstate to connect western Arkansas, and a massive two-ton water system to serve Benton and Washington counties. 

These priorities laid the foundation for the expansive growth and development of the region. Northwest Arkansas continues to flourish under the Council’s encouragement and vision. By focusing on the future and on mutually beneficial goals, the Council is a leader in visualizing and promoting investments that meet the needs of citizens and local businesses. In recent years, the Council’s goals have expanded toward growing the region’s workforce, including increasing the number of high school and college graduates and attracting top talent. 

This unique partnership encourages communities throughout the region to think about long-term goals and creates a strategic plan to accomplish them. What’s impressive is that the Council consistently achieves most of its goals, often ahead of schedule. 

The Council is a model for success. Economic development regions across Arkansas and throughout the country use the Council as a model, with hopes of achieving similar success. The Council has demonstrated the value of cooperation and collaboration, as well as the importance of keeping attention focused on common ground and shared interests. 

I congratulate the Northwest Arkansas Council on its 25-year commitment to growth and development and for continuing to make the region better through infrastructure improvements, workforce development and regional stewardship. I look forward to continuing to work with the Northwest Arkansas Council and seeing its future  achievements.

The finalized Iran nuclear deal was announced, the Senate reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with my amendment and I announced two upcoming workshops in Arkansas to help preserve the stories of veterans. Read these stories and more in the Week in Review. 

  • Finalized Iran Nuke Deal Announced: We have a responsibility to ensure that Iran never achieves its goal of becoming a nuclear power. The finalized deal gives me little confidence that we will be successful in this regard.

  • ESEA Reauthorization Passes With My Amendment: The U.S. Senate agreed to add an amendment I authored that focuses on career and technical education to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Learn about it here.

  • Help Preserve the Stories of Veterans: My office will be hosting two Veterans History Project (VHP) workshops for Arkansans who are interested in capturing the history of our brave men and women. Learn how to RSVP here.

  • OPM Breach: I discussed the magnitude of the recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breaches, especially the second, larger breach that targeted some of "the most sensitive information we have" with the Washington Free-Beacon. Read the full story here.

I discussed the magnitude of the recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breaches, especially the second, larger breach that targeted some of "the most sensitive information we have" with Elizabeth Harrington of the Washington Free-Beacon this morning. 

Here's the takeaway:

The security breaches have left the personal information of roughly 22 million federal employees in the hands of hackers, including Social Security numbers, fingerprints, and passwords.

Individuals applying for security clearances include members of SEAL Team 6.

“The second breach, you’ve got military personnel,” Boozman said. “We might have a situation, you never know, SEAL Team 6, their records are in there because they went through the same security clearance.”

“So it’s just really very, very serious,” he said.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the 60th anniversary of integration in Hoxie in the Congressional Record, the official proceedings of Congress. 

Boozman’s office will present a copy of the Congressional Record at events commemorating this anniversary. The following are the remarks printed in the Congressional Record: 

Mr. President, I rise today to honor the resilience, determination and courage of the community of Hoxie, Arkansas for its leadership in school desegregation and the foundation it laid for integration across the country.

This year, the community is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first day of school for the African American students who became known as the Hoxie 21. 

This small Northeast Arkansas community voluntarily integrated its schools in the summer of 1955 in response to the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. The reasoning for the school board and Superintendent Kunkel Edward Vance’s decision was simple; integration was "morally right in the sight of God." 

On July 11, 1955, African American students made history in Hoxie and helped build the momentum for integration. 

This unprecedented move began with a smooth transition, and the students were welcomed into the school. The news of a small town in the South desegregating peacefully caught the attention of Life Magazine, and in its July 1955 issue the

story captured the attention of the world. Unfortunately, the media attention brought with it an avalanche of negativity despite the positive and peaceful progression.  

This action was unpopular in the South and while segregationists flooded the community in protest, families of the Hoxie 21 and school leaders stood their ground and with great faith persevered against the inequality.  

The Hoxie School Board fought back by filing suit on the segregationists, charging the segregationists with trespassing on school property, threatening picket lines, organizing boycotts and intimidating school officials. Citizens of Hoxie of all races peacefully waited for a resolution, and with encouragement from the NAACP were able to stand up against the verbal and physical threats from the segregationists.  Their patience and fortitude was soon rewarded.  In September, the FBI became involved in the investigation.  Two months later, Federal District Judge Thomas C. Trimble ruled that segregationists prevented integration in Hoxie, and issued a temporary restraining order against them. In December, a permanent ban against the segregationist was issued and later upheld by the Supreme Court, freeing the school of their influence. It was the first mediation in support of a school district trying to comply with Brown v. Board of Education - a momentous moment for the country and a victory for integration. 

This decision was instrumental in desegregating the entire country and was a major victory for the 14th Amendment. This demonstrates that change only comes when people stand up for what is morally right. 

I congratulate the town of Hoxie and the Hoxie 21 on this milestone. I am encouraged by your dedication to share this history and positive message. I thank the Hoxie 21 and the community for their bravery in the face of adversity. It is an honor to tell your story and educate people about your struggle.