Dr. Boozman's Check-up

The Senate approves constructing the Keystone pipeline, connecting with students on skype and cosponsoring legislation to audit the Federal Reserve are some of the highlights of the week. Read about these and more in this “Week in Review.”

  • Lifting Ban on Travel to Cuba: I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce legislation that would end restrictions on travel to Cuba unfairly imposed on American citizens and legal residents. I believe that the way you change the world is through personal relationships. If we are serious about bringing real change to Cuba, we need to expose the Cuban people to our democratic ideals.
  • Skype with Schools:  During National School Choice Week I had the opportunity to skype with students at Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville and LISA Academy in central Arkansas. Students at these public charter schools said having educational options was important to them because it allows them to be better prepared for their interests beyond high school graduation. Watch the KNWA story about my skype session with Haas Hall students. 
  • Recognizing the Retirement of a Veterans Advocate: Lt. Col (ret.) Steve Gray’s passionate advocacy has resulted in better service offerings at veterans’ facilities across Arkansas. His work is reflected in the lives that he helped make better by solving an individual’s problem with the Department of Veterans Affairs. I recognized his service in a speech on the Senate floor.  

Good governance requires strong oversight. The Framers of the Constitution understood that. Unfortunately, under Harry Reid’s watch, the Senate has provided little of that in recent years.

This lack of accountability has allowed the President to circumvent Congress to push an agenda that runs counter to the needs and wants of the American people through his abuse of executive order authority.

Small-business owners across Arkansas routinely tell me the biggest problem they face in today’s economy is compliance with countless, confusing regulations put forth unilaterally by the Obama Administration on a regular basis.

This Administration, like no other in recent years, has abused the regulatory process.  It has proposed thousands of new rules that add up to a combined price tag in the trillions. Compliance costs of these regulations are the equivalent of a wet blanket on the economy, taking resources from employers that should be devoted toward job creation.

The REINS Act, Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) bill, which I am cosponsoring, would serve as a check for the Administration’s regulatory binge. It will require Congressional approval, by joint resolution, of any federal rule that would cost the economy $100 million or more. Once major rules are drafted, they must be approved by both chambers of Congress and then signed by the President, satisfying the Constitutional requirements that currently are being subverted.

By passing the REINS Act, the American people will have a voice on these massive regulatory proposals through their elected officials. They will have the final say on whether or not these rules are the right course for the future. 

I’m cosponsoring another bill authored by Senator Paul that seeks to achieve the same end goal, but takes-on a different area of government in desperate need of oversight—the Federal Reserve.

There is a shocking lack of transparency when it comes to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy deliberations. The Fed is essentially the nation’s central bank, yet somehow its practices are exempt from Government Accountability Office audits.

Just as the American people have a right to weigh in the President’s rules, they have a right to know how their nation’s monetary policy is being managed—or manipulated. The Audit the Fed bill would lift the veil of secrecy from the Federal Reserve, exposing monetary policy discussions and decisions to a Congressional audit.

With new leadership in the Senate, Congress finally has a chance to exercise much needed oversight and bring Washington’s actions out of the shadows.

Assyrian Christians and other minorities of the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq are under attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These jihadists are persecuting religious minorities based solely on their beliefs. Our country is committed to religious freedom and we must take necessary action to protect the people facing this unjust persecution. In a letter signed by 16 of my colleagues to Secretary of State John Kerry, we urged him to do more to protect these innocent victims. We have the resources to help and Congress approved funds to assist Iraqi Christians.

“The Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (P.L. 113-235) included language directing the State Department to support programs designed to assist vulnerable Iraqi ethnic and religious minorities in the Nineveh Plains region, as well as the larger Iraqi Christian community,” we wrote in the letter.

Read the letter in its entirety below.

We have an obligation to promote religious tolerance worldwide. As an advocate of religious freedom, I will continue to monitor progress and push for assistance we can provide to these Iraqi Christians. 

Today is the tenth International Holocaust Remembrance Day and it falls on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a place that came to symbolize Nazi crimes against humanity.

On this day of remembrance, we honor the lives of the millions of people executed by the Nazi regime, including the six million ordered to their death for merely being followers of the Jewish faith. As we honor the victims, let their memories—and the stories from those who survived the Nazi’s atrocities—inspire us to ensure this never happens again.

We must remain committed to educating future generations about the atrocities that occurred at Auschwitz and other Nazi-run concentration camps. While doing so, we must ensure our voices are louder than those who deny or trivialize the Holocaust. This dangerous attempt to rewrite history is an effort by some to promote their anti-Semitic agenda. It must not stand.

If you plan to visit our nation’s capital, I encourage you to include the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on your itinerary. Admission to the museum is free and, with the exception of Yom Kippur and Christmas, it is open year-round. It is a somber, but truly powerful place to visit.

If a trip to Washington, DC is not an option, the museum’s website itself has a wealth of information and resources for educators, academics and individuals alike.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum seeks to inspire citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. These are the lessons that must be remembered to make certain that this horrific chapter in history is never again repeated.

This is National School Choice Week. Destiny from Jacksonville emailed me about education improvements and how school choice needs to be part of providing Arkansas students opportunities for learning. I discuss my support for school choice in this edition of "From the Mailbag."

Highlights from this week in Washington include being named Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, cosponsoring legislation to curb unnecessary regulations and promoting the aviation industry. Read about these and addition work in this “Week in Review.”

  • State of the Union: The President delivered this annual address to Congress on Tuesday. This is the first time President Obama addressed a Republican controlled Congress. Unfortunately, instead of indicating his intention to work together for the change the American people voted for, he repeated his own agenda which we've heard from him before.
  • Senate VA Committee:  The committee unanimously approved The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act.  This legislation would improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for veterans by increasing access to mental health programs, providing incentives to recruit and retain psychiatrists to treat veterans and enhancing resources for members of the military transitioning to civilian life. The House approved this bill last week and I’m confident the Senate will follow its lead. 
  • Walnut Ridge Airport: The military reconsidered its decision and renewed the fuel contract with the Walnut Ridge Airport. This facility has an important role as a disaster relief staging area and this enables it to have the resources it needs to maintain disaster relief operations in the region. Read more here
  • General Aviation Caucus Co-chair: This Congress I will serve as a co-chair of the Senate General Aviation Caucus. I look forward to working with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to promote the aviation industry and its contributions to our economy and transportation system. 
  • REINS Act: I cosponsored the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. This would require Congressional approval by joint resolution of any federal rule that would cost the economy $100 million or more. This is an effort to curb the alarming amount of unnecessary regulations from this administration.

The Senate debates the Keystone pipeline, a Conway native joins my staff, tell me why school choice is important to you and we’re looking for interns. Read about these and more in this “Week in Review.” 

  • Keystone Pipeline Floor Speech: The Senate is debating the Keystone pipeline. I delivered a floor speech describing the economic impact it will have in Arkansas and encouraged my colleagues to approve construction of this project. 
  • Army Responds to Purple Heart Provision - In December I joined members of the delegation writing a letter to the Secretary of the Army urging him to award the Purple Heart to Privates William Long and Quinton Ezeagwula, victims of the June 2009 shooting at the Little Rock recruiting center, based on the criteria approved by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act. This week I received a response. Read the story here
  • Protecting Arkansas’s Forestry Industry – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering adding the northern long-eared bat to the endangered species list. This new classification could eliminate forest harvesting in Arkansas from April through September in order to protect the bat’s habitat. That’s why I urged the FWS Director to minimize the economic impacts of this decision in a letter with my colleagues. 
  • KASU radio interview – On Wednesday I talked with Jonesboro’s KASU about the Senate debate on Keystone, relations with Cuba and the upcoming State of the Union address. Listen to the interview
  • Why is school choice important to you? – I’m an original cosponsor of a resolution supporting National School Choice Week and I want you to share why school choice is important to you and your family. The National School Choice Week resolution designates the week of January 25 through January 31, 2015, as “National School Choice Week.” During this week, I will feature stories and pictures submitted by Arkansans about the importance of school choice. Click here to learn how to submit your story. 
  • Welcome to the team: Blake Rollins, a Conway native and 2004 graduate of St. Joseph High School joined my staff this week. He will advise me on agriculture and tax issues. His connection to Arkansas and his unique understanding of agriculture and the policies that shape our state’s number one industry will benefit agribusinesses and producers.  
  • Veterans Suicide Prevention: As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee I’m committed to improving veteran services. I cosponsored The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act to improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for veterans. 
  • Merchant Marine Academy: As a member of the US Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors I cosponsored S.143, a bill to allow for improvements to the academy.

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 the Keystone pipeline, relations with Cuba, the upcoming State of the Union address and more.  

The 114th Congress is underway. I want to share some of the bills I cosponsored and congratulate two Arkansas high school students for being selected as delegates to the U.S. Senate Youth Program. Read more in this “Week in Review.” 

  • Arkansas Delegates to U.S. Senate Youth Program: Congratulations to Katherine Sanders of Cave City and Ashton Yarbrough of Bentonville on being selected as delegates for the 53rd annual United States Senate Youth Program. While in Washington from March 7-14, Sanders and Yarbrough will join 102 other delegates in meetings with Senators, Congressional staff, the President, a Justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an Ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media. I’m excited to welcome them to our nation’s capital. 
  • Keystone Pipeline: I cosponsored legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. The Senate will begin debate on this legislation Monday. I recently toured Welspun Tubular, the Little Rock based company hired to produce hundreds of miles of pipe for the project. Company leaders estimate that 150 jobs will be created just to load pipe onto rail cars for shipment when the project gets the green light. The House passed this legislation today and I’m hopeful the Senate will follow its lead. 
  • Supporting School Choice: I cosponsored a resolution supporting National School Choice Week and designating the week of January 25 through January 31, 2015, as "National School Choice Week.’’ As a former school board member I understand that state and local governments are best equipped to make education decisions for their communities – not Washington. I’m proud to support this resolution and the outstanding educational choices that Arkansas offers. 
  • Hire More Heroes Act: I joined efforts to promote employment for our veterans while providing relief from the burdensome Obamacare employer mandate by cosponsoring the Hire More Heroes Act. Similar legislation passed the House this week. I cosponsored the same legislation last Congress
  • Forty Hours is Full Time Act: Obamacare’s employer mandate has caused some employee hours to be reduced and pay cut because the law defines a ‘full-time employee’ as someone who works on average 30 hours per week. With the costs of health care skyrocketing, businesses that may want to hire more employees will instead spend more money meeting the requirements of Obamacare. This is why I am a cosponsor of the Forty Hours is Full Time Act. This legislation would change the Obamacare definition of full-time to someone who works an average of 40 hours per week. 
  • Protecting the Separation of Powers in the Constitution – I cosponsored S.11legislation that will rein in the executive overreach and restore the separation of powers by eliminating procedural hurdles to legal challenges when the president fails to faithfully execute the laws. Learn why this is necessary.

The Associated Press reports that  agriculture “stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries” in a Cuba trade policy announced by the administration earlier this week. Arkansas’s agriculture industry groups say this opens the doors for increased trade. I intend to work with my Senate colleagues to build on these policy changes to create new opportunities for Arkansas agriculture producers. Learn more about the impact to the agriculture industry in these Arkansas news stories.

Democrat Gazette
In state, growers see trade potential
Talk Business
Ag Community Upbeat On Cuba Normalization, Political Opinions Vary
Arkansas News Bureau
Arkansas may benefit from Obama’s Cuba policy
KATV
Updated Cuba policy could spell out big money for Ark. rice growers
Arkansas Business
Delta Caucus Happy with Cuba Move
KARK
Arkansas Rice Industry Expects Big Boom