Dr. Boozman's Check-up
Aug 06 2013
A call to prayer began when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in the formation of our nation and we follow this tradition every day when the Senate and House of Representatives meet, each chamber begins with a prayer.
The Senate tradition began when a chaplain was appointed to the chamber in 1789. A case before the Supreme Court is challenging this practice.
The New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently ruled that the Town of Greece, New York had violated the U.S. Constitution by allowing town board meetings to be opened with prayer, even though the town's practice welcomed prayers from members of any religion or denomination as well as reflections from atheists. For example, the town has welcomed Christian, Jewish, and Wiccan prayer. The Supreme Court will take up this case in its upcoming term.
I joined Senator Marco Rubio, (R, FL) and many other Senate colleagues in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Town of Greece v. Galloway, the landmark case concerning religious liberty. The brief argues that the Court should reaffirm the Constitutional footing of the practice of legislative prayer.
In the brief, we wrote, "In this religiously diverse Nation, the best means of ensuring that the government does not prefer any particular religious view in the context of legislative prayer is not to silence some such prayers while allowing others. It is to allow those who pray to do so in accordance with the dictates of their consciences." Adding that “...allowing those who offer legislative prayers to pray in accordance with their own consciences is the approach that best serves the value of religious liberty that underlies the First Amendment.”Read the brief at the link below.
I joined several of my GOP Senate colleagues asking the White House about details on efforts by federal agencies to help implement the President’s health care law - specifically "agencies with no responsibilities" to implement or promote the law. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), at least 21 federal agencies have been identified as assisting in implementation efforts.
In a letter to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, we write: "We write to ask for information about the activities being undertaken by twenty or more federal agencies with no responsibilities under the President's health care law in the implementation and promotion of that law, specifically about what the agencies are doing, what funds the agencies are spending, and what authorities the agencies are using."
We are concerned about these efforts because as we state in the letter these responsibilities “appear to specifically require agencies to provide information and undertake activities in support of the health care law regardless of their statutory missions and responsibilities."
The letter states “Given that the Administration spent the last several months warning of alleged catastrophe from cutting approximately $85.3 billion out of a $3 trillion budget as part of sequestration, it is particularly surprising that unrelated resources, which previously could not be reduced, are now being used to implement or promote the health care law.”
We also pointed to additional efforts reported recently, such as Secretary Duncan’s statement in a recent interview that there is a team at the Department of Education currently helping with implementation.
Many of my colleagues have raised concerns over previous reports of administration efforts to promote the law outside of what Congress has allowed. Last month, 19 senators, including myself, wrote to Secretary Duncan questioning the Department of Education's involvement in implementing ObamaCare.
Click here to read the letter to the White House Counsel.
Aug 02 2013
Week in Review: July 29-August 2
The Senate adjourned for the August work period, but we got a lot accomplished in the final week.
- Farm Bill Goes to Conference; Appointed to Committee: I am grateful that Republican Leader McConnell and Ranking Member Cochran have selected me to serve on the conference committee. This is an experienced and knowledgeable group of senators who are all ready to work in good faith to get a fair bill for everyone.
- HEAL Act Introduced: Senator Pryor and I introduced the Honoring Ezeagwula and Long (HEAL) Act. Their bill would allow Private William Long and Private Quinton Ezeagwula, Arkansas service members attacked outside of a Little Rock Army recruiting center, to be eligible for the Purple Heart.
- Honoring the Life of Lance Cpl. Benjamin Tuttle: In a speech on the Senate floor today, I recognized the sacrifice of Marine Lance Cpl. Benjamin Tuttle, a graduate of Gentry High School, made for our country.
- Strengthen Health Care Access for Rural Vets: U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and I continued their push to support the men and women who have served our country by reintroducing a bipartisan bill that would improve access to health care services for veterans living in rural communities.
- Pushing for Furlough Protection for National Guard Military Technicians: The readiness of our National Guard depends on military technicians’ ability to do their job. Serving side-by-side with other Guard and military personnel, the role they play in the effectiveness of our military units is nothing less than essential. They should receive the same exemption as other members of the Armed Forces.
- Eliminate the Death Tax to Create Jobs: I introduced legislation that would permanently eliminate the federal estate and gift taxes that punish America’s small business owners and agriculture producers. This will help create jobs.
- Why it was Important to Restore the Lower Interest Rates for Student Loans: As tuition rises, the dream of a college diploma often feels out of reach for many young Americans. Read about why it was important to ensure federal student loan rates didn’t double.
- Chiseling Away at Obamacare: I support a full Obamacare repeal and continue to fight against the onerous rules and regulations imposed by the law. It’s bad for businesses, drives up the cost of our health care and is forcing Arkansans to lose their insurance. We’re exploring opportunities to stop this massive train wreck, chisel away at this law before more damage is done and get answers about how federal agencies intend to implement the President’s health care law - specifically "agencies with no responsibilities" to implement or promote the law.
- Pushing for Answers on the Mayflower Oil Spill: Senator Pryor and I, along with U.S. Representative Tim Griffin (AR-02) sent a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) urging them to release information regarding the Mayflower oil spill. After repeatedly dodging the question, ExxonMobil this week claimed that PHMSA is the only one with the authority to release the requested information.
- Rural Airports Get Grants: Senator Pryor and I, along with Congressmen Rick Crawford (AR-1) and Tom Cotton (AR-4) announced that six Arkansas rural airports will receive over $1.2 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants.
- Upcoming Mobile Offices: Members of my staff will be in Hope on August 6th and Piggett and Corning on August 8th for Mobile Office events. They will be available at the walk-in event to help Arkansans with problems involving the federal government and to hear their thoughts about legislative issues.
- Thank You to Our Interns: Our interns have been a great help to the people of Arkansas during their time in Washington. I appreciate their dedication and their commitment to working with the staff to address issues concerning Arkansans. They have taken advantage of the opportunities in Washington and learned about legislative process and how we serve the people of our state. I appreciate all they did for the people of Arkansas this summer.
Jul 26 2013
We wrapped up a busy week in Washington. Here’s what we accomplished.
Senate Passes Student Loan Relief: After a great deal of discussion between all sides, we were finally able to pass a smart compromise solution to restore lower interest rates on student loans through the Senate with the support of a majority of Democrats and Republicans. It goes to show that when everyone is willing to work together, we really can solve issues that matter to Americans.
Relief for Families Affected by the Mayflower Pipeline Spill: Senator Pryor and I introduced legislation that would ensure Arkansans who receive compensation from ExxonMobil for the Mayflower pipeline spill are not taxed by the federal government.
Working For Our Veterans: Provisions or versions of the following bills, of which I introduced were included in S. 944, the omnibus legislation passed by the committee this week.
Trying to Fill Inspectors General Vacancies: I joined with Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to introduce legislation to reduce lengthy vacancies in federal offices of inspectors general. The Verifying Agency Conduct and Needs Through Inspectors General Act (VACANT Inspectors General Act) would require the nomination of a person to each Inspector General (IG) position within 210 days of a vacancy, or the authority to fill the job would be transferred to Congress.
Highlighting Wasteful Obamacare Ad Blitz in Arkansas: Are you aware of the federal marketing, publicizing and advertising spending on the President’s health care law in Arkansas? The Associated Press revealed more than $24 million would be spent in the state making it the second highest level of spending per capita in the nation.
- KASU Morning Show: We visited with Jonesboro’s KASU this morning and discussed some of the topics under discussion in Washington including the Farm Bill, delays in the health care law, student loans and the economy. In case you missed the interview you can listen to it here.
- Arkansas Airports Receive Grants: Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and multiple smaller airports in Arkansas received grants for important upgrades this week.
- Preserving Senate Rules and Precedents: The Senate Majority Leader threatened to change the way the Senate operates because of a false assertion that the President’s nominees have been treated unfairly. The numbers tell a different story. Read how we were able to avoid the “nuclear option.”
- Johnson County Mobil Office: Members of my staff will be in Clarksville to help Arkansans with problems involving the federal government and to hear their thoughts about legislative issues this Tuesday.
Jul 26 2013
The United States along with 21 countries deployed troops to the shores of South Korea 63 years ago. Under the auspices of the newly formed United Nations, these partners had one goal in mind, to keep the Communists from the North from taking control of the freed country of the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
This year we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War truce. Often referred to as the “Forgotten War,” the Korean War lasted three years, beginning on June 25, 1950 and lasting until July 27, 1953.
Nearly 1.8 million Americans served in Korea to defend the freedom South Koreans cherish today. More than 36,500 American troops gave their lives during those three years, 461 of those were Arkansans.
We are grateful for the brave men and women who served for their sacrifice and service. Arkansans demonstrated their thankfulness at a ceremony at the State Capitol. Around 50 of Arkansans’ Korean War veterans came from all over the state to be recognized and honored for their sacrifice. We invited the Consul General of the Republic of Korea, Suk-Bum Park to attend the event and extend his thanks to these veterans.
We appreciate the commitment and dedication of our Korean War veterans and all the men and women who served or continue to serve our country. Their devotion and sacrifice mean more than we could ever express in words. As we move into the future, we will keep President Dwight Eisenhower’s statement about the Korean War in our minds: he hoped that “all nations may come to see the wisdom of composing differences in this fashion before, rather than after, there is resort to brutal and futile battle.”
Jul 24 2013
As the son of a father who did more than 20 years in the Air Force I understand the sacrifices that troops make to serve our country. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee I work to provide our veterans with the benefits they earned. Today the committee approved legislation that we authored as part of a larger package to improve veterans’ benefits.
Provisions or versions of the following bills, of which I introduced were included in S. 944, the omnibus legislation passed by the committee today.
S. 257, GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013: This legislation would require schools that accept GI Bill benefits to offer in state tuition to all veterans. The committee passed version was limited to those veterans who reside in the state of the institution and have separated from military service in the previous 3 years.
- S. 695, Veterans Paralympic Act of 2013: This legislation reauthorizes the VA adaptive sports program to provide disabled veterans with opportunities for recreational therapy through sport. The committee passed version would make administrative change to the program and extend the authorization through 2015.
S. 889, Servicemembers’ Choice in Transition Act of 2013: This legislation would provide veterans with additional tools to ensure the successful utilization of VA benefits. The committee passed language included the provision to require that transitioning servicemembers receive information regarding disability-related employments and education protections.
I am also an original sponsor of S. 495, Careers for Veterans Act and S. 629, Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act of 2013 introduced by Arkansas’ senior Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) would give Guard and Reserve retirees with 20 years of service the honor of being called a veteran.
I also cosponsored the following stand-alone bills that were passed during the mark-up:
S. 893, Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013: This legislation would provide veterans receiving compensation with a cost-of-living adjustment for 2014.
S. 572, Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act: This legislation would protect the Second Amendment rights of veterans who utilize a fiduciary to help manage their finances.
- S. 287: This legislation would amend the definition of homeless veteran to include women who are fleeing a domestic violence situation or abusive relationship.
Jul 23 2013
We visited with Jonesboro’s KASU this morning and discussed some of the topics under discussion in Washington including the Farm Bill, delays in the health care law, student loans and the economy. In case you missed the interview you can listen to it here.
Jul 19 2013
In case you missed it here’s a recap of what happened this week in Washington
Thanking our Troops: I had the opportunity to visit with Arkansas soldiers during a recent trip to the Middle East. You can read who I met with in our weekly column.
- Keystone XL Pipeline: A new National Journal poll shows overwhelming public support for the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. Read more about the poll and why the President should approve the project.
- Small Business Obstacle: A recent survey of small businesses by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows how unpopular the President’s health care law is among business owners and what they have planned to avoid the increased costs of the mandate. Read my thoughts about the results of this survey.
- Role of the Education Department: In a recent interview, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed how the department would be helping with the execution of the President’s health care law. I joined several of my GOP colleagues in sending a letter to the secretary questioning the department’s involvement in the implementation of the law.
Russellville Airport Receives Grant: The airport will receive a $156,622 grant. The money will be used to seal coat and remark the airport runway.
President Obama recently gave a speech outlining his plans for a climate change initiative that will drive up the cost of energy across the country. It included new benchmarks for the Keystone Pipeline, which has already cleared far more hurdles than most projects are put through before approval.
This new poll should give him pause to reconsider.
The National Journal/Congressional Connection Poll finds overwhelming public support for moving the Keystone Pipeline project forward. More than two-thirds of respondents, 67 percent, support building the pipeline to carry Canadian oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. This support cuts across political lines, as it includes 56 percent of Democrats.
Is President Obama really prepared to side with the small minority (less than a quarter of Americans if you use this poll as a measuring stick) in opposition to the pipeline?
The President’s team recently disregarded well-established guidelines on cost-benefit analysis to generate an increased “social cost of carbon.” In other words, they broke the rules to make carbon emissions look more costly than they really are. Now, Keystone pipeline opponents are using the administration’s flawed analysis to demand further reviews of the pipeline.
Stalling the Keystone Pipeline is incomprehensible when American families are struggling. The project will create thousands of well-paying jobs. It will help reduce our dependence on sources of oil outside of North America. It is an important component of an all-inclusive national energy policy, which needs to be one of our top national priorities.
This is why many find the President’s recent speech troubling, especially in light of his intentions to act unilaterally on this initiative. It is why I joined my Republican colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) to ask Chairwoman Barbara Boxer to reconsider her decision to exclude Obama Administration witnesses from today’s climate change hearing.
In our request to Chairwoman Boxer we wrote, “The potential of these government actions to exacerbate the serious economic problems that currently persist justifies asking a panel of federal witnesses, charged with implementing the President's agenda, to testify as to the scope, purpose, and consequences of such unilateral action.”
The Administration is clearly lining up against the majority of Americans on the Keystone Pipeline. My hope is that at future hearings, Chairwoman Boxer will invite Obama Administration officials who can explain to the American people why that is.
Jul 17 2013
Despite the Obama administration’s one year delay of the implementation of the employer mandate provision in the President’s health care law, small business owners are concerned it will negatively impact their businesses.
A recent survey of small businesses by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows how unpopular the law is and what business owners have planned to avoid the increased costs of the mandate.
Among small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate, 50 percent say that they will either cut hours to reduce full time employees or replace full time employees with part-time workers to avoid the mandate. 24 percent say they will reduce hiring to stay under 50 employees.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t come as a surprise. My colleagues and I warned about the consequences on the business community when the bill was being rushed through Congress.
Our job creators deserve a degree of certainty so they can plan for the future of their business. Obamacare burdens small businesses and creates greater uncertainty. We need health care reform that contains costs rather than increasing costs to businesses.