Dr. Boozman's Check-up

The farm bill, honoring fallen heroes, reducing prescription drug abuse among veterans and more in this edition of the “Week in Review”

  • Commonsense Improvements to our Agriculture Policy: I offered four amendments to enhance the farm bill currently under consideration by the Senate. While the agreement reached for the final passage of the bill does not include these amendments, I do think these commonsense improvements to our agriculture policy merit consideration and I will continue to try to get them enacted through other avenues.
     
  • Honoring Fallen Heroes: Scott County Sherriff Cody Carpenter and Wildlife Officer Joel Campora gave their lives trying to save residents trapped by flood waters. Senator Pryor and I honored their lives on the Senate floor.

  • Reducing Prescription Drug Abuse Among Veterans: I helped introduce a bipartisan bill to address the issue of prescription drug abuse among our nation's servicemembers and veterans this week. The Servicemembers and Veterans Prescription Drug Safety Act would direct the Attorney General to establish drug take-back programs in coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

  • Put Arkansans Back to Work: A recent Gallup poll shows 86 percent of Americans want Washington to address jobs and the economy and with good reason. Read this week’s column on job creation in Arkansas

Member of Congress returned to Washington to resume legislative work yesterday. Here’s what’s on tap this week:

On the Calendar: 

  • The Senate resumes consideration of S. 954, the Farm bill, which is expected to take the remainder of the week. As we continue to take up amendments to the bill, I will be pushing for consideration of the ones I have offered to enhance the bill.

  • Multiple subcommittee hearings this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee where we will hear from officials about the budget requests of the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, the Federal Housing Administration and the legislative branch.

  • Over on the other side of the building, the House of Representatives is expected to take up legislation covering military construction projects and the Department of Veterans Affairs and legislation providing funding for the Department of Homeland Security. There will also be additional hearings aimed at the IRS scandal in the House this week.

  • Yesterday, President Obama signs the Stolen Valor of 2013 making it a crime to profit off fraudulent claims related to military honors. Learn more about this bill here. 

Worth Reading: 

  • President Obama “punts” on signing UN Arms Treaty right away, but indicates he is committed to doing so. If the President does sign the U.S. as a party to the treaty, it would have to be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate. I don’t believe that this amount of support exists amongst my colleagues and I am committed to voting against ratification. 
  • Stephens Media writes that suicide in Arkansas has risen significantly in the past decade and looks at efforts the state is taking to combat the growing problem. This is important in Washington as we look at how to address the shortfalls in our mental health system in wake of the mass shootings our nation has seen in recent months.  

In this edition of the “Week in Review”: More revelations of IRS abuses, important veterans’ legislation and much more.

  • Talking with Jonesboro’s KASU: I visited with KASU about the farm bill that is on the Senate floor right now, as well as the IRS scandal and the upcoming immigration legislation that is expected to be on the floor in June. You can listen to the interview here.
     
  • Promoting Water Research and Training Scientists: As Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, I joined with Chairman Ben Cardin (D-MD) to introduce a bill this week to reauthorize federal grant funding for water resources research institutes. Each federal dollar spent must be matched with two non-federal dollars. This is the highest match requirement of any federal research program. This program allows the Arkansas Water Resources Center and its sister institutions across the country to solve real-world problems related to our water quality and quantity needs.

  • Helsinki Commission Appointment: I am honored to be appointed to serve as a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, commonly referred to as the Helsinki Commission, which aims to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Europe and works to address and assess democratic, economic, and human rights developments firsthand. 

With Memorial Day approaching, the Senate unanimously voted this week to send an important bill to the White House that will protect the integrity of military honors.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 will make it a federal crime to profit from lies about military medals.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a 2006 law that made it a crime to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor and other prized military awards.  While the Court called the false claims contemptible," the Justices said that it was nonetheless protected speech under the First Amendment.

This bill fixes a flaw in the original law that led the Justices to strike it down by narrowing the scope to focus on those profiting from false claims. 

Along with the Medal of Honor, the bill also defines “combat badge” to mean the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Action Ribbon or Combat Action Medal.

Punishment includes fines, imprisonment up to one year, or both.

Our decorated veterans have sacrificed immensely to earn their awards. Anyone falsely profiting off of awards they did not earn degrade the sacrifices of our veterans. President Obama should sign this bill so that there is legal recourse for prosecution of such shameful acts.

There was a lot to talk about on Jonesboro’s KASU this morning. We discussed the Farm Bill that is on the Senate floor right now. We’re offering amendments to make the bill better and provide safety nets for crops across the country. We discussed the scandals including the IRS and the upcoming immigration legislation that is expected to be on the floor in June. You can listen to the interview here.

Abuses at the IRS, the farm bill advances, the water resources bill clears the Senate and much more in this edition of the “Week in Review.”

  • Zero Tolerance:  Everyone needs to be treated fairly under the law. Clearly, there are employees at the IRS who do not subscribe to this principle. There must be zero tolerance for the actions of those individuals.

  • Ag Committee Passes New Farm Bill: This week in the Senate Agriculture Committee, we passed a bipartisan farm bill with my support. Learn more about this important legislation in this episode of “From the Mailbag.”

  • Water Resources Bill Passes Senate: This week, the Senate adopted the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a major water resources law that included two of my amendments.
     
  • National Police Week:  This week is National Police Week. I thank the law enforcement officers in Arkansas and across the country who dedicate their lives to protecting our children and communities and seek to bring criminals to justice.
  • Fighting Against Food Insecurity:  I appreciate the efforts of the Congressional Hunger Center which continues to be a leader in fight against hunger this front. I’m grateful to have been honored as the recipient of their “Bill Emerson & Mickey Leland Hunger Leadership Award” this week.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will vote on the farm bill today. Senator Boozman talks about the importance of this legislation to Arkansas' agriculture community in this edition of “From the Mailbag.”

Zero Tolerance

May 14 2013

On his radio show yesterday, Dave Elswick asked me about the reports that the IRS targeted conservative political groups during the 2012 election. In addition to targeting groups to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, it appears that IRS officials may have lied to Congress in an effort to cover-up the agency’s misdeeds.

On top of it all, we learned last night that it wasn’t just a few rouge agents in Cincinnati who were responsible for this massive overreach, but that IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters also sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors.

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered by top officials at the agency.

Who carried this campaign against conservative organizations out? Who ordered it? How many groups were targeted beyond what has already been reported?

The Associated Press reported that an inspector general’s investigation reveals that senior IRS officials—including the head of the agency’s division that oversees tax-exempt groups—knew about these unfair actions as far back as 2011. Who else knew? How high up the chain were they? Did they cover it up?

The good news is that people on both sides of the aisle—Republicans and Democrats—are rightfully outraged by this shocking abuse of power. We’re going to get to the bottom of this. People will be held accountable. At the very least, those engaging in these unethical actions need to be fired. If they broke the law, they need to be prosecuted. 

This scandal gives the already-maligned IRS a black eye. It reinforces people’s worst fears about Washington—that those in power will use any means necessary to maintain that power.

Everyone needs to be treated fairly under the law. Clearly, there are employees at the IRS who do not subscribe to this principle. There must be zero tolerance for the actions of those individuals. It’s time to clean house at the agency.  

Benghazi, the backlog at the VA and my first online town hall were at the top of the list of a very busy week in Washington.

  • The Questions Surrounding the Administration’s Benghazi Claims:  The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee heard testimony this week from career diplomats stationed in Libya about what happened before and during the Benghazi terror attack of September 11, 2012. Watch as I lay out my concerns about the accounts in this edition of “From the Mailbag.”
     
  • Unclog the VA: Our veterans and their families have sacrificed to serve our country and we must protect and provide the care they earned. That’s why I recently raised an extremely troubling problem with the administration that is affecting hundreds of thousands of our nation’s veterans—the claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

  • Staying in Touch While in Washington: I held my first Crowd Hall online town hall this week and fielded a number of questions on the online sales tax, immigration, tax reform, Obamacare, spending and more. Read all the questions, comments and my responses here.

  • Helping Servicemembers Transition to Civilian Life: We joined Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to introduce legislation allowing servicemembers to use their GI Bill benefits to provide them with the tools for a successful transition into civilian life by requiring that men and women leaving military life be given the choice of education tracks as part of mandatory Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) classes.

  • Reviewing Illegal Abortion Practices: You may have read about the horrible atrocities surrounding the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor who performed late-term abortions and is on trial for allegedly killing several newborn babies and a patient. My colleagues and I introduced a resolution Monday asking to review public policies that led to these illegal abortion practices and calls on Congress “to investigate and correct abusive, unsanitary, and illegal abortion practices.”

  • The AMMO Act: You’ve read the news reports, heard from your neighbors and friends or and maybe even seen firsthand that there is an ammunition shortage. I cosponsored the “Ammunition Management for More Obtainability (AMMO) Act of 2013.” This prohibits agencies covered by this legislation from purchasing or storing more ammunition than it retained on average between 2001 and 2009. The AMMO Act would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit federal agencies purchases of ammunition. Read more about it here
  • Visiting with Arkansas Teens: I met this week with Tiffany Easter of Sheridan and Blake Abston of Little Rock, who were recently named Arkansas’s top two youth volunteers of 2013 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Read their uplifting stories here

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee heard testimony this week from career diplomats stationed in Libya about what happened before and during the Benghazi terror attack of September 11, 2012. Senator Boozman talks about his concerns about the accounts in this edition of “From the Mailbag.”