Dr. Boozman's Check-up

One only needs to turn on the news and see the barbaric acts committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) to understand that there are people who still want to destroy our freedoms, attack our way of life and cause harm to Americans both here and abroad.

After claiming large swaths of land in Syria, ISIL began a gruesome march toward Mosul, Iraq, executing Christians and religious minorities, displacing thousands, and forcing people to convert to Islam. Along the way, the group sought to eliminate all whom it deems as “non-believers,” by carrying out mass murder of religious minorities in extremely gruesome and vicious ways—including beheadings and crucifixions. The group is continuing its campaign of violence, harassment, and intimidation as it pushes toward Kurdish territory and, its ultimate goal in Iraq-- Baghdad. 

The President—while slow to acknowledge the size, strength and extent of the threat ISIL poses—is correct that we need to take and lead action against this extremist group. That action must be strong and it must be direct. The limited airstrikes conducted in Iraq thus far appear to have slowed ISIL’s progress, but as the President stated last night, more must be done to eradicate this brutal group. ISIL poses a growing threat to the United States and our allies, so I am supportive of the framework to address this threat the President laid out in his speech.

I support what the President is attempting to achieve because we know who the enemy is, we know how they have behaved, and we know they must be stopped. However, we also must have a strategy that truly squashes the threat posed by this terrorist group. Since ISIL poses a threat to more than just the U.S., our approach must be inclusive, which is why support our diplomatic efforts to build a coalition of allies to aid in this fight. Ultimately, the responsibility to protect their citizens and their country will fall on the Iraqis, which is why I also back our diplomatic efforts to support an inclusive, stable and effective government in Iraq.

Perhaps most importantly, the military component of this strategy must be designed by generals, not micromanaged by Washington.  While the President believes he has the authority to act alone, he should bring his plan before Congress to get the feedback of the American people through their elected officials. By doing so, we also send a united message to the world—and more importantly ISIL—that the U.S. is serious and committed to eliminating those who wish to do us harm. 

It’s clear that ISIL has no intention of going down without a fight. The gruesome beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff are evidence of that. ISIL is committed to brutally forcing its warped view on the Middle East and has no desire to stop there. The group has indicated its intentions to attack the U.S. and, perhaps more frighteningly, has the resources and connections to terrorists with western ties to carry out those plans if left unchecked.

ISIL has shown its true colors. We need to confront them. This plan is a step in the right direction.

I’ve stayed busy in Arkansas during the August work period. I appreciate the time away from Washington because I’d much rather spend time in our state visiting with fellow Arkansans and hearing what issues are most important to its citizens. I have been around the state over the past month visiting agriculture facilities as part of our annual ag tour, talking about VA care in our state and transportation issues our state and country faces. Here are some of the headlines from my time in Arkansas.  

Talk Business
Boozman: Marketplace Fairness Act Could Pass By End Of Year
Times Record
USDA Extends Deadline For Rural Development Loan Eligibility
Harrison Daily Times
Vietnam vet gets medals … finally
Times Record
Boozman, Inhofe: Infrastructure A ‘Constitutional’ Obligation
The City Wire
Sens. Boozman, Inhofe say road, river work require new funding approaches
Lonoke News
UAVs a new tool for agriculture
Sen. Boozman visits Little Rock VA Hospital, says more work needs to be done
Boozman Touts VA Reforms And Points Toward Privatization
Senator Boozman visits NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital

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 foreign affairs and things happening closer to home like the immigration crisis of unaccompanied children and my recent visit to the border as well as new VA health reforms that Congress passed last week. 

Last Thursday, before the Senate broke for August recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to force through the President’s request for a blank check to deal with the border crisis.

I voted no.  The bill failed.

Immediately following votes that night, I left with six of my Senate colleagues for a visit to the Rio Grande Valley, the epicenter for the surge in families and unaccompanied children illegally crossing the U.S. border.

What I learned on this trip reaffirmed that “no” vote was the correct one to cast.

Our itinerary took us to McAllen Border Patrol Station, Hidalgo International Bridge and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where many of the children who have illegally crossed the southwest border on their own have been temporarily housed.

What we heard from those on the ground was that the massive wave of unaccompanied children illegally crossing the border has slowed to a degree, although there is reason to believe there may be another uptick when summer ends.  However, the heat is not the only deterrent. People in the three Central American countries that have been sending their children to the U.S. alone are starting to get the message that if their children enter the U.S. illegally, they won’t get to stay. As I have said all along, certainty of return is the only way to stop the wave.

The good news is that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) are no longer overwhelmed to the point where they are housing children on the floor of the processing center. Agents are no longer microwaving meals for children. Even the temporary HHS shelter we visited at Lackland AFB, where some of the children were sent after initial processing, is set to close very soon.

Clearly CBP and HHS have the resources they need. A blank check is not necessary. Nor is it an honest solution to the problem.

 Furthermore, amnesty is not an option. The President needs to stop with the threats to go it alone and grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. We must not reward people for breaking the law. As we are learning with the current crisis, the risk of being rewarded for breaking the law is what drives many to enter the U.S. illegally in the first place. We are a nation based on laws and those laws must be respected and that message must be reinforced internationally so that those who wish to emigrate to the U.S. understand they must do so through the proper legal channels.

Seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. The continent is developing a middle class that is hungry for U.S. products. We must take advantage of this market. 

The foundation of opportunities for Arkansas and American businesses begins with building relationships. That is why on Monday, I participated in the “Congressional Forum on Investing in the Next Generation in Africa.” This panel discussion was held in front of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship exchange initiative of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Included in this audience were 25 Africans who spent the last month and a half in Arkansas. 

I enjoyed speaking to some of these young men and women who enjoyed their time in our state. They appreciate the hospitality of our citizens. This needs to serve as a reminder of the opportunities that cultural exchanges represent and the need to engage on trade potential. 

This is why I joined my colleagues Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Christopher Coons (D-DE) to introduce a bill that increases America’s competiveness throughout Africa by forcing better coordination between U.S. government agencies and departments, establishing comprehensive strategic goals and marshaling private investments to improve U.S.-Africa business activities. This bill challenges us to increase exports to Africa by 200 percent and gives us the incentive and a template for how to reach that goal. 

A key provision of our legislation—the establishment of a White House-designated senior coordinator to review current export strategies with the ultimate goal of significantly increasing our imports to Africa—was included in the law that authorized defense spending for this year.  

As I told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette the way you change the world is through personal relationships. This is a great chance to highlight the people and products of our state. 

Read more in this Arkansas Democrat Gazette story. [Subscription required]

In case you missed our interview with Jonesboro’s KASU radio, you can listen to the interview here. We talked about many of the issues under consideration in Washington including international affairs, the nominee for VA Secretary, immigration crisis and our upcoming agriculture tour that ends in Jonesboro in August.

Week in Review: July 21-25

Disaster declaration for Arkansas counties announced, Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee clears VA committee, Marshals Museum coin design unveiled and more in this week in review. 

  • Disaster Declaration: Severe weather in the state in June devastated thousands of acres of crops and pastures. A disaster designation for 23 Arkansas counties will allow farmers and ranchers to receive assistance to recover from losses caused by Mother Nature. 
  • Marshals Museum Coin Design: Designs for commemorative coins honoring the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service were unveiled. These great designs highlight the dedication and commitment of the men and women who serve in the U.S. Marshals Service as well as Fort Smith’s role in the history of this law enforcement agency
  • Duck Stamp Update: As good stewards of the environment, duck hunters are committed to preserving the habitat so future generations can participate in this exciting activity. I helped introduce the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014 to preserve wetlands and support future generations of Arkansas duck hunters. 
  • Airport Improvements: Four Arkansas airports will receive more than $500,000 in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airport facility upgrades and expansions. Improving our infrastructure is important to business growth and development. 
  • Fire Department Grants: The Williams Junction Volunteer Fire Department and the Jacksonport Fire Department received funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to improve their tools and training they need to respond to emergencies and keep the community safe. 
  • KASU Interview: In case you missed the interview with Jonesboro’s KASU you can listen here. 
  • Coming Next Week: Facebook Q&A on Monday, July 28 at 12 p.m. CT. Join our Facbook page to participate. 

Week in Review: July 14-18 

Religious liberties under attack, improving VA healthcare, securing Arkansas’s role in our national defense and more this week from Washington. 

  • Reforming VA Healthcare: As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I heard testimony from Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson about the state of VA healthcare. We need to work to change the culture at VA and work to better protect whistleblowers who are doing their part to bring integrity back into the system and I’m pleased to see the Acting Secretary working to address these challenges, but there’s more to do
  • Boozman Bulletin: The latest issue of the Boozman Bulletin was sent to Arkansans this week. If you want to get our e-newsletter sent to you sign up here

While the President requested emergency funding to help control the illegal immigrant crisis at the Southwest border, I have concerns with approving money without reforms to our immigration policy. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I asked administration officials about the plans for this request. Watch the administration's response in the video below.

The Senate unanimously passed my bill to enhance the oversight board that supervises the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), a vital institution that trains the men and women, including Arkansans, who ensure our country can extend its reach across the oceans.

In today’s world, we need trained merchant mariners who it can call upon during times of emergency, natural disaster, or foreign conflict. The Board of Visitors should help the Academy meet this need, and it should ensure that the Academy provides a first-rate experience to the midshipmen who have volunteered to serve our country in uniform.

Each federal service academy has a Board of Visitors. However, the Boards at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and West Point, are directly empowered by law to carry out thorough oversight activities. While current law creates a Board for the USMMA, it does adequately structure the Board to carry out its oversight duties. My bill will change that and give the Board some real authorities to ensure that the Academy provides a first-rate experience to the midshipmen who have volunteered to serve our country in uniform.

I encourage the House to quickly consider and pass my bill.