Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Week in Review: April 15-19

Here’s a recap of the things we worked on this week in Washington.

  • Votes to Protect Second Amendment Rights:  Senator Boozman voted to protect the Second Amendment by opposing Majority-led efforts to erode the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. 
  • Spirit of Enterprise Award: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded its prestigious “Spirit of Enterprise” award to Senator Boozman for his support of pro-jobs, pro-growth policies during the second session of the 112th Congress.
  • Financial Literacy Month: April is designated as Financial Literacy Month. We are all capable of getting on the path to financial security – even Washington. There is no better time than now to start taking control of our personal finances.

Yesterday, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that Secretary Chuck Hagel has canceled the creation of a new military medal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) pilots and cyber warriors that was set to be ranked higher than the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. DOD said it would instead develop a special pin or device that would be attached to already existing medals or ribbons

This is a fair way to protect the integrity of medals like the Purple Heart and Bronze Star that are earned while serving directly under enemy fire.

Prior to DOD’s decision, and in response to concerns from the nation’s leading veterans’ organizations earlier this year, I joined Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to introduce a bill to ensure that the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart rank ahead of this proposed new medal. Our problem has never been the creation of a new medal for cyber warriors and pilots of UAVs, rather the fact that initial proposals intended to rank this medal higher than the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart even though it would honor service away from the front lines.

The Bronze Star is earned for acts of heroism in a combat zone and the Purple Heart awarded to those wounded or killed by the enemy while serving in our Armed Forces. A medal’s ranking indicates how it is supposed to be displayed, with the Medal of Honor ranking the highest among the military’s nearly 60 medals and ribbons. While we should acknowledge the important role that our UAV pilots play on the modern-day battlefield and recognize their distinguished service, we must recognize the preeminence of commendations for those commit acts of bravery in combat and are killed or injured in service to our nation.

Therefore, I am glad to see that DOD has backed off its plan to honor extraordinary achievement by UAV pilots and cyber warriors in a manner that equates the nature of their service with the sacrifices of those who serve in combat zones, risking life and limb, under direct enemy fire.

What to Expect in 2014

IRS Tax Changes

Apr 16 2013

Monday was the IRS tax filing deadline for 2012 taxes and we're already looking to next year. It’s not too early to examine some of the changes that will impact us when we file our 2013 taxes next April. The IRS offers this roundup of some of the differences we’ll see.

There are several changes that affect many taxpayers.

Beginning in tax year 2013 (generally for tax returns filed in 2014), a new tax rate of 39.6 percent has been added for individuals whose income exceeds $400,000 ($450,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return). The other marginal rates — 10, 15, 25, 28, 33 and 35 percent — remain the same as in prior years.

Itemized deductions in tax years 2013 are limited for individuals with incomes of $250,000 or more ($300,000 for married couples filing jointly).

Personal exemptions in tax year 2013 are subject to a phase-out that begins with adjusted gross incomes of $250,000 ($300,000 for married couples filing jointly).

The Alternative Minimum Tax exemption for tax year 2012 is $50,600 (single) $78,750 (joint), and is adjusted for inflation thereafter.

A snapshot of Individual tax changes for 2013

Net Investment Income Tax

A new Net Investment Income Tax goes into effect starting in 2013. The 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax applies to individuals, estates and trusts that have certain investment income above certain threshold amounts. The IRS and the Treasury Department have issued proposed regulations on the Net Investment Income Tax. Comments may be submitted electronically, by mail or hand delivered to the IRS. For additional information on the Net Investment Income Tax, see our questions and answers at www.irs.gov.

Additional Medicare Tax

A new Additional Medicare Tax goes into effect starting in 2013. The 0.9 percent Additional Medicare Tax applies to an individual’s wages, Railroad Retirement Tax Act compensation, and self-employment income that exceeds a threshold amount based on the individual’s filing status. The threshold amounts are $250,000 for married taxpayers who file jointly, $125,000 for married taxpayers who file separately, and $200,000 for all other taxpayers. An employer is responsible for withholding the Additional Medicare Tax from wages or compensation it pays to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year. The IRS and the Treasury Department have issued proposed regulations on the Additional Medicare Tax. Comments may be submitted electronically, by mail or hand delivered to the IRS. For additional information on the Additional Medicare Tax, see our questions and answers at www.irs.gov.

Here’s a recap of some of this week’s posts in case you missed them.

  • Senate Opens Debate on Gun Bill: Senate Majority Leader Reid opened debate on the Majority’s gun control bill this week. What we will be debating remains to be seen, but Majority Leader Reid has repeatedly suggested it will contain provisions that will erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans by creating a national registry of gun owners and limiting the type of firearms and ammunition that they can purchase. For this reason, I voted against allowing the debate to move forward
  • Talking Guns, Budget, North Korea & more with KASU: We talked with Mark Smith on Jonesboro’s KASU about a variety of topics facing our country including threats to our Second Amendment rights and the upcoming debate on gun control in the Senate. If you missed our interview you can listen to it here.

The U.S. Postal Service backed away from its plans to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. This is good news for rural Arkansans, senior citizens and businesses who rely on the postal service to deliver the goods they need to succeed. 

Legislation approved in March included a mandate to continue six-day delivery, something that Congress has annually approved since the 1980s. The USPS Board of Governors announced Wednesday it was left with no choice but to follow the rule. 

We must continue to help find a workable solution that helps the postal service continue its business while balancing its books. Last year the postal service lost nearly $16 billion. This is not an efficient way to run a business, but Congress has taken steps to help address these issues. 

In an effort to provide flexibility to the postal service, last year the Senate approved the 21st Century Postal Act. This bill also provided some safeguards for consumers. For instance, we prevented USPS from establishing a general, nationwide delivery schedule of five or fewer days for at least 24 months after the enactment of the legislation and requirement the postal service to ensure that any change it its delivery schedule will not result in more than two consecutive days without mail delivery. 

This legislation wasn’t approved by the House of Representatives. The postal service, forced to find ways to cut costs, chose to do so at the expense of customers by ending Saturday delivery. However, the Government Accountability Office recently indicated that USPS does not have the authority to end six-day delivery without Congressional approval. The postal service, understanding that approval for that misguided idea wouldn’t be coming any time soon, has now backed off its threat to end Saturday delivery.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he intends to begin debate on the Majority’s gun control bill this week.

What we will be debating remains to be seen, but Majority Leader Reid has repeatedly suggested it will contain provisions that will erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans by creating a national registry of gun owners and limiting the type of firearms and ammunition that they can purchase.

As a result of these and other outstanding questions surrounding the bill, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) spearheaded an effort to oppose a motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.

I am committed to protecting the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding American. I share my colleagues concerns and will support their efforts to stop gun control measures by opposing the motion to proceed and cloture when it is filed. 

On the Radio

Apr 09 2013

We talked with Mark Smith on Jonesboro’s KASU about a variety of topics facing our country including threats to our Second Amendment rights and the upcoming debate on gun control in the Senate. If you missed our interview you can listen to it here.

An uprising in the Central African Republic (CAR) has put a wrinkle in the search for elusive war criminal Joseph Kony. The rebels who seized power in the CAR last month have not been recognized by the African Union (AU) and have exhibited hostility toward foreign troops, so Uganda, the AU and the U.S. special forces helping with intelligence and logistical support have halted their search for Kony.

Kony and his rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have caused untold pain to children and families in Central Africa over the past 25 years. It is currently believed that the weakened group is hiding in jungles straddling the borders of CAR, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The LRA is responsible for a litany of human rights violations including abduction, rape, torture and murder all committed under direct orders from Kony, a demented messianic guerilla leader who uses abducted child soldiers to carry out his heinous crimes.

In light of the news that Ugandan and AU troops have suspended their search, human intelligence becomes all the more important in the effort to capture Kony. This is why I am pleased to see the State Department announce a bounty for Kony and two of his top lieutenants. The bounty on Kony increases the chances locals would be willing to provide information that will help lead to his arrest.

The ability to offer a bounty didn’t exist until then-Senator, now Secretary of State John Kerry and a bipartisan group of our Senate colleagues passed a measure to expand the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program making it applicable to anyone who offers information that leads to the arrest or conviction of Joseph Kony. I was the lead Republican sponsor of this effort.

Prior to our successful effort to expand the program, it only applied to information leading to the arrest and conviction of criminals wanted for terrorism, narcotics trafficking and anyone indicted in the three international criminal tribunals—Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda. Our expansion of the program will provide incentives for offering information for individuals wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide; giving us one more instrument to help track this elusive war criminal down.

The key to capturing Kony is not superior firepower. Nor is it more troops. What we have seen time and time again in these manhunts is human intelligence wins out. Somewhere, someone knows his whereabouts and will come forward with information that will lead to his capture. Today’s announcement should help and I welcome it.

Earlier this week, the United Nations agreed to the Arms Trade Treaty. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, the Obama Administration voted in support of the misguided treaty.

Fortunately, in order for any treaty to take effect, it must be ratified by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. Based on previous statements and the fact that 53 Senators went on record a few weeks ago supporting an amendment to stop the State Department from negotiating this treaty, I do not believe the votes are there for ratification.

The administration is well aware of where the Senate stands on the issue.  Last year, I joined 57 other Senators in sending a letter to President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reminding them that the Senate has final say on treaties, and stated our unequivocal opposition to any treaty that would affect civilian ownership of firearms, challenge the authority of Congress to regulate firearms within the United States, or call for an international gun registry. 

Now that the Obama Administration helped pass the treaty, it is important to reiterate that we will fight ratification. It is the reason why I support a concurrent resolution that was introduced in the Senate stating the treaty should not be ratified. This treaty puts us on the same level as global bad actors, those countries that abuse human rights and arm terrorists, and a backdoor way to chip away at every law abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.  The Obama Administration should have recognized that to begin with, but clearly protecting the Second Amendment rights of every law abiding American is not on its priority list.  It remains on mine. I will work to ensure that this treaty never gets ratified.  

Here’s a recap of some of this week’s posts in case you missed them.

  • Senate Passes Two Boozman Amendments:  While the Senate Majority’s budget was deeply flawed, I did get my colleagues to agree to two of my amendments to the resolution. The first on would ease regulatory burdens imposed on community banks caused by the Dodd-Frank bill. The second one aims to protect private property rights. Read about them both here.

  • Advice & Consent:  Senator Boozman recently met with President Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Gina McCarthy. Hear what I have to say about the role of the Senate in confirming presidential nominees in the latest edition of “From the Mailbag.” 
  • Upcoming Opportunity to Improve Arkansas’s Waterways: In the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, we are working on a new “Water Resources Development Act.”  This bipartisan legislation would improve our nation’s water resources policy to expand opportunity, promote commerce, and reduce flood risks. I am working to includes reforms that speed up project delivery and provide new ways to finance water projects. My goal is to protect taxpayers and improve our water resources. Read how here
  • Talking Budget & Sequestration with KASU: For the first time in four years the Senate debated a budget resolution. I talked about the importance of this basic responsibility of governing as well as ways Washington is working to cut the budget and give flexibility to our federal agencies so they can eliminate the waste and abuse with KASU morning show host Mark Smith. You can listen to the interview here.