Dr. Boozman's Check-up

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.

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.”

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.

On the Radio

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.

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

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. 

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.

Today I joined several of my GOP colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan questioning the Department of Education’s involvement in the implementation of the President’s health care law.

During a recent interview with Politico, Secretary Duncan discussed how the department would be helping with the execution of the President’s health care law. You can watch the interview here. The discussion on health care implementation begins at 9 minutes.

In our letter we say that “While we understand that the effects of the President’s health care law will be felt by parents, teachers, and their families, we are unfamiliar with how the Department of Education’s involvement in implementation will further the mission of educating our nation’s students.”

This is one of many agencies outside of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury that, according to recent news reports, intend to promote Obamacare, an effort outside its missions.

We asked the Secretary to answer some questions that the American people deserve answers to about the department’s participation including the authority, scope and cost. You can read the letter and the questions we’re looking for answers to.

We are continuing to work on a bipartisan solution to address the hike in student loan interest rates and I remain optimistic that we can resolve this problem. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road, which is what Majority Leader Harry Reid proposed, and the Senate rejected earlier this week. Americans currently trying to pay off student loans and those who will attend college in the future need a permanent solution. The commonsense proposal that we are working on would approach the issue with a market-based rate for all newly issued federal student loans based on the 10-year Treasury rate. These rates are locked in for the lifetime of the loan, but rates on new loans reset each year. This KUAR story details this bipartisan solution that I am working to get through the Senate.