Dr. Boozman's Check-up

We’re visiting 15 counties in Arkansas this week as part of our annual Agriculture Tour. The tour takes on extra significance as we are running up against the September 30th expiration of the Farm Bill, legislation that dictates our nation’s agriculture policy. I’m honored to be on the committee that will reconcile the differences between the Senate and House bills. In this edition of 'From the Mailbag' we discuss what we want the final version of the legislation to include. Click here to watch.

There are critical deadlines that Congress must meet by the end of September to keep the government funded. In this edition of ‘From the Mailbag’ I discuss the issues that we have to resolve including the debt ceiling and our goals to rein in federal spending. Click here to watch.

We visited with Jonesboro’s KASU this morning about important issues under discussion in Washington and Arkansas. We’re kicking off our annual agriculture tour and farmers, ranchers are asking about the farm bill and we’re in a good position to help Arkansas agribusinesses get the safety nets they need. We also discussed the President’s health care law and the turmoil in the Middle East. You can listen to the interview in its entirety here.

I’ve been talking a lot about the farm bill during the August work period. This morning I was on KNWA’s morning show to discuss progress toward reauthorizing the bill. It was also one of the topics that we discussed on KARK’s Sunday morning show “Capitol View” this weekend. The farm bill defines and authorizes funding for agriculture’s safety net. Programs authorized by this law are vital to ensuring that we do not become dependent on other countries for our food supply, in the vein that we have of our energy needs. In the coming days, I will embark on an agriculture tour to highlight how important this bill is to Arkansas. It is my hope that we can begin working with our colleagues in the House of Representatives on a compromise between the two versions we passed when we return to Washington after Labor Day.

We have legislative break during August so this gives me the opportunity to spend more time traveling around Arkansas. Last Thursday we visited Little Rock and talked with KARK’s Mallory Brooks about some of the legislative issues we’re working on including the farm bill and our upcoming agriculture tour around the state. Click here to watch the interview.

You may have recently read that the Obama Administration delayed a consumer protection provision in the health care law that limits patients’ out of pocket costs. This is another broken promise. As you’ll recall, the President delayed the employer mandate provision earlier this summer. In the latest edition of ‘From the Mailbag’ Senator Boozman discusses this decision and his commitment to delay Obamacare for all Americans. Click here to watch.

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.

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.

  • 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
  • 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.

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.

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
  • 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.