Dr. Boozman's Check-up

If you missed my interview with Steve Barnes on Arkansas Week last Friday, AETN has the entire episode on its website available to stream. You can watch our discussion on sequestration, the federal budget, tax policy, entitlement reform, Second Amendment rights, Senator Hagel's nomination for Defense Secretary and immigration reform here

With Congress out of session in observance for the President’s Day district work period, I was excited to get to travel around Arkansas this week. My travels included stops at the Little Rock Air Force Base, AETN, Verizon’s regional headquarters in Little Rock and the University of Arkansas.  

  • AETN “Arkansas Week” airs tonight:  Earlier this week, I sat down with Steve Barnes to tape an episode of "Arkansas Week." That episode airs tonight on AETN at 6:30 pm central. Please tune in to watch our discussion, much of which focuses on sequestration. 
  • Sequestration: The automatic across-the-board cuts known as sequestration are set to begin on March 1st if Washington does not act to stop them. While I believe cutting spending is essential to putting our country on the path to fiscal responsibility, indiscriminately cutting everything is not the best policy. We don’t need to take a meat cleaver to our entire budget. I am committed to holding the line on reducing government spending, but there is a more practical way to eliminate expenses that better utilize taxpayer dollars.

    The House has passed two bills to avoid sequestration, but the Senate Majority refused to bring them up for a vote. Majority Leader Reid recently put forward his caucus’s proposal to avoid the across-the-board cuts, but it is deeply flawed
  • Some tips to make your Spring Break travel easier: If you are planning an international trip in March or April, U.S. Passport officials strongly recommend paying the extra fee to expedite your passport. A standard application is taking six weeks or longer to process. An expedited application is usually two weeks. Learn how we can help here.

The cold weather often makes us long for warmer places. With spring break around the corner, you may already have a trip to the beach in the works. If your travel will take you overseas or across the border (trips to Canada and Mexico require a passport), then check to make sure your paperwork is in order.

If you are planning an international trip in March or April, U.S. Passport officials strongly recommend paying the extra fee to expedite your passport. A standard application is taking six weeks or longer to process.  An expedited application is usually two weeks. 

Passport information and forms

Answers to common questions about passport issues

If you have additional questions, feel free to call my staff member who helps with passport issues, Priscilla Gober, at (479) 573-0189.

As this week’s work in Washington comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to give you the highlights of this week:

  • State of the Union: This week’s big news event was President Obama’s State of the Union address. Unfortunately, the end product did not live up to expectations. Read my response here
  • Keystone XL Pipeline: I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in a colloquy on the Senator floor calling on President Obama to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to provide well-paying jobs for Arkansans. Watch my speech here
  • Sequestration: The Senate Appropriations Committee held its first hearing of the 113th Congress yesterday and we focused on an issue of utmost urgency—sequestration.  Read about the hearing and watch my questions to administration officials here
  • Black History Month: February is dedicated to celebrating the contributions and efforts of African Americans to our nation’s heritage and culture. We commemorate the heroes of the African American community who fought injustice and triumphed in the face of adversity in this week’s column.

 

The Senate Appropriations Committee held our first hearing of the 113th Congress today and we focused on an issue of utmost urgency—sequestration. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan were among the witnesses who testified. The Senate Appropriations Committee has posted each of their prepared statements online if you are interested in reading their testimony.

Since each member is allotted only a short time for questions, I directed mine to Federal Controller Danny Werfel from the Office of Management and Budget and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter.

First and foremost, I wanted Mr. Werfel to state on the record that veterans’ benefits would not be adversely affected under sequestration. He did confirm that veterans’ programs administered directly by the VA, including VA hospitals, would not be impacted.  I have been hearing a lot from concerned veterans and their families about whether their health care and other benefits will be affected by sequestration, so I felt it was important to clarify that situation.

I also asked Mr. Werfel to explain how sequestration will disproportionately impact air travel in rural America and pressed Undersecretary Carter on the extent to which sequestration will reduce flying time for Air Force pilots, in turn jeopardizing military readiness, and how the Department of Defense is plans to address a $3 billion shortfall in the TRICARE program. 

The reality is soon all our resources will be consumed by serving the debt. We can’t afford that. Sequestration is not the optimal solution, but we must reduce spending. However, the cuts can, and should be done, in a smarter way and we should be working toward that.

Americans rely on Washington to be responsible with their hard-earned tax dollars. It’s clear that our nation is on a fiscally irresponsible path and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and make some difficult decisions so our children can inherit a strong country.

Click the video below to see how administration officials responded to my questions.

Tonight, at 8 pm cst, President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union speech. I look forward to sitting in the House chamber and listening to the President lay out his plans for the coming year. Peter Urban of Stephens Media caught up with members of the Arkansas Congressional delegation and asked us what we want to hear from the President tonight. The key takeaway is that we all want to hear specific proposals from President Obama, especially when it comes to cutting the budget and creating jobs.

In this edition of “From the Mailbag” Senator Boozman discusses his vision for immigration reform. “We need to look at securing the border and hold employers accountable and I have real concerns about amnesty.” He details what measures he will support on the Senate floor. Watch this edition here

As this week’s work in Washington comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to wrap-up what you might have missed:

  • USPS Mail Delivery Changes: The United States Postal Service announced it would stop delivering mail on Saturdays in early August. This is an effort by USPS to address its financial challenges. However, I do have concerns about this plan

  • Making the Most of the GI Bill: As public colleges and universities seek ways to recoup decreasing revenues, many have significantly raised the costs of out-of-state tuition. The cap for GI Bill benefits often falls short of that high out-of-state rate. That’s why Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and I have introduced a bill to require schools eligible for GI Bill education benefits give veterans in-state tuition rates regardless of the veteran’s residency status. In addition, we are taking some important steps forward in putting our veterans to work 
  • Immigration Reform: In this edition of “From the Mailbag”, I discussed my vision for immigration reform that includes securing the border and holding employers accountable. Here’s what measures I would support on the Senate floor. Watch the video here and then read more about my views on immigration in this week’s column.

  • Award Winning Arkansas Youth: Tiffany Easter of Sheridan and Blake Abston of Little Rock were honored as Arkansas’s top two youth volunteers of 2013 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program that honors youth for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Senator Mark Pryor and I offered our congratulations

Working on Behalf of Arkansans

Recognizing the Efforts in our Office

Feb 06 2013

Helping Arkansans is one of the most rewarding parts of being a Senator. Fortunately, I have a talented team of people who are all working toward the same goal. My staff in Arkansas and Washington is dedicated to working to resolve the problems that result from the red tape of the government. 

When I receive a compliment about a member of my staff, it shows their level of dedication to helping Arkansans. You know you have a good team in place when organizations outside of the office recognize their commitment to helping others. I am proud to recognize Zach Hartman, my senior legislative assistant who handles veterans’ and military issues for our office, for the honor he received from the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS). He was awarded the association’s Militia Award for his exceptional service to our enlisted Guardsmen. 

“Zach’s tenacious efforts on behalf of Senator Boozman to support the citizen-soldiers of Arkansas and the rest of the United States should be an inspiration to all public servants. His passion to preserve the mission and jobs associated with the 188th Fighter Wing and his sustained efforts on ensuring that nearly 290,000 retired citizen soldiers are recognized as veterans of the armed forces show that he is truly deserving of the EANGUS Militia Award,” EANGUS President John Helbert said. 

Zach is great crusader for Arkansans and we are very appreciative for his work on behalf of our veterans and enlisted personnel.

Spending and immigration reform dominated this week’s action in the Senate. Here’s a wrap-up of some of the big issues of the week:

  • Immigration Reform: A framework for bipartisan immigration reform was unveiled in the Senate this week. I am pleased that members on both sides of the aisle are involved in serious reform discussions, but I believe we have a long way to go before we have a bill that everyone can agree on. I shared my initial thoughts and concerns about the effort on my blog.

  • E-Verify: When we discuss how to deal with our nation’s illegal immigration problem, one vital component is providing employers the right tools to ensure they are hiring a legal workforce. That is why I am cosponsoring the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act of 2013. Introduced this week, the bill seeks to require all employers to confirm the legality of their employees through a federally approved system known as E-Verify, which has a proven track record of combating the hiring of illegal immigrants and is currently used by nearly 270,000 employers nationwide.

  • Talking Second Amendment, Aid to Egypt & “No Budget, No Pay” with Mountain Talk Radio:  On Tuesday, I joined the team at Mountain Talk Radio (KJMT-OD - 97.1 FM) in Mountain Home for their morning show. We discussed the debate over Second Amendment rights, aid to Egypt and my support for the No Budget, No Pay Act. If you missed it, you can listen to the entire interview online

  • No Budget, No Pay: Does the Senate need extra incentive to pass a budget? Given that it has been almost 1375 days since the Senate Majority has accomplished this basic task, we have to hold the members of our institution accountable. That is why I am an original cosponsor of the No Budget, No Pay Act, which withholds pay for members of Congress until they pass a budget. A similar bill passed as part of the debt ceiling extension that passed the Senate this week. Learn about the bill here.

  • Non-Emergency Sandy Disaster Aid: I support providing emergency relief to Americans whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, just as we do when disasters strike in Arkansas. That is why I supported the initial $9.7 billion aid package which was unanimously passed by the Senate without any controversy. However, I could not support the bill passed by the Senate this week. That bill included non-emergency spending that could be debated in the regular FY2013 and FY2014 appropriations process and paid for with offsets, which this bill did not include. Read my full statement here.