Dr. Boozman's Check-up

The Senate will soon begin debate on a budget. In this edition of "From the Mailbag" Senator Boozman discusses the importance of the Senate debating its first budget resolution in four years.

Here’s a recap of what we worked on this week in case you missed it.

  • Answers for Illegal Immigrants Release:  In late February, it was reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had released a “few hundred” illegal immigrants from custody.  The administration drastically misrepresented the number to the public and more than 2000 criminal illegal immigrants had been released from custody. We deserve answers about their release. This week we joined a group of U.S. Senators in support of a proposed amendment to the Continuing Resolution currently being debated in the Senate that would require the Department of Homeland Security to provide Congress with information about the illegal immigrants who are being released for what the administration says is budget considerations. 
  • UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) - The Obama Administration has expressed an interest in international small arms control initiatives that were resisted previously by both the Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration. I’m strongly opposed to the U.S. signing any UN Treaty that would regulate small arms. This week we cosponsored a concurrent resolution to prevent that from happening. Read more about it here. 
  • Defund the President’s Health care Law: I voted for an amendment that would prohibit funding for the implementation of President Obama’s health care law. This law does little to contain the cost of health care which is the real root of the problem. The amendment wasn’t approved but I will continue to fight against this overreach. 
  • Coordinated, Robust Energy Review: We need to promote energy policies that put our nation on the path to energy independence. I have long supported an all-of-the above energy plan that uses all our nation’s natural resources. This week we cosponsored the Quadrennial Energy Review Act of 2013 that would authorize a government-wide coordination council to submit a comprehensive review of current domestic capabilities and future energy needs. 
  • Protecting Air Traffic Control Towers: Irresponsible cuts from sequestration will put the flying public at risk, impair access to rural areas, jeopardize national and civil security missions, and cost jobs. I joined a bipartisan effort to stop the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) targeting air traffic control towers in sequestration to share the cost of the cuts to air traffic control evenly. In addition I joined with other members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation asking for answers on proposed local contract control tower closures from the FAA administrator.

 

In advance of the Obama Administration’s continued efforts to reverse the policies of the last two administrations and engage in a new round of negotiations of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a concurrent resolution was introduced in the Senate that outlines specific criteria that must be met in order for the Senate to ratify and recognize it as customary international law. 

The intended goal of the ATT is regulating global trade in conventional weapons, but this is a direct attack on our Second Amendment rights. I am vehemently opposed to the U.S. signing any UN Treaty that would regulate small arms. I believe this is a backdoor effort to chip away at every law abiding citizen's right to keep and bear arms. That’s why I cosponsored the concurrent resolution introduced today by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). 

We need to exempt domestic, civilian firearm ownership and use from the treaty’s scope, as it is governed by national laws and constitutions. 

This is not a new issue. Last July, the U.N. Conference on the ATT dissolved without consensus treaty text thanks in part to the efforts of my colleagues and I who expressed our intent to oppose ratification of any treaty that infringes upon our Second Amendment rights and freedoms as Americans. Unfortunately, the day after President Obama’s reelection, his administration announced its intent to reengage in treaty negotiations which will begin Monday. 

If the Obama Administration does sign the U.S. as a party to the treaty, it would have to be ratified by 2/3 of the U.S. Senate. It would not get my vote and I believe that this support does not exist amongst my colleagues. 

I believe in upholding our Constitution and will continue to represent the values we, as Arkansans, hold dear.   

It was a busy week in Washington. Let’s recap what you might have missed.   

  • John Brennan’s Confirmation:  Yesterday, John Brennan was confirmed as CIA Director despite the efforts of many of us to stop his nomination. I commend Senator Rand Paul for holding the President accountable and for his persistence in trying to get a simple question answered from the administration: “Do you believe that you have the legal authority to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil without due process?”

    While Senator Paul was pushing this on the floor, we were working behind the scenes to make sure we had the votes to sustain a filibuster if Majority Leader Reid tried to end it. While we got an answer to the drone question, there were many other troubling aspects of Mr. Brennan's nomination including the unanswered questions about Benghazi, which happened on his watch, and his support for closing our facility at Guantanamo Bay (GITMO). For these reasons, I voted against his confirmation. More: http://1.usa.gov/16bu7rr 
  • Fighting for our Farmers: The EPA is continuing its assault on America’s farms with another excessive regulation that would be costly to our nation’s agri-businesses. This legislation will prevent Arkansas farmers and ranchers from having to spend money on equipment just to comply with another extreme regulation. More: http://1.usa.gov/YRpI5z

  • Careers for Veterans Act: I cosponsored the Careers for Veterans Act, a bill that would help create long-term, sustainable jobs for America's veterans by transitioning the skills they gained through their service into jobs in the civilian workforce. By making licenses and credentials in their chosen fields more accessible, this bill will help our nation's veterans and their families by opening up career opportunities for them without adding to the national deficit. More: http://1.usa.gov/WaS267 
  • Protecting the value of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals: After hearing from the nation’s leading veterans organizations, Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and I introduced a bill to ensure that combat medals like the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart rank ahead of a new medal honoring service away from the front lines. More: http://1.usa.gov/YIKozG 
  • White House Makes Political Decision to End Tours: This week, the White House made a clearly political decision to cancel all public tours, even ones that were previously confirmed. If you intend to visit Washington DC in the immediate future, and wanted to tour the White House, I would like to offer our most sincere apologies for the inconvenience the White House has caused to your plans. While we completely understand and share in your frustrations, please know that our office will welcome you and can gladly arrange a U.S. Capitol tour. More: http://1.usa.gov/YuRaJl 
  • Leveling the Playing Field for Domestic Wood Products: I joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Forest Products Fairness Act to provide new opportunities for American forestry producers by allowing their products to qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program. More: http://1.usa.gov/WaSL7f 
  • Keystone XL Clears Another Hurdle: It’s important to develop an energy policy that uses our natural resources and puts us on the path to energy independence. We can start moving our country in this direction with the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which recently cleared another major hurdle. More: http://1.usa.gov/YQXCJT & http://1.usa.gov/YhEPVM 
  • Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Courthouse Violence: As we know too well in Arkansas, there is an elevated risk of violence in courthouses. We saw this when a gunman walked in to the Crawford County Courthouse, opened fire and was ultimately stopped before killing anyone by swift-acting law enforcement officers. As we look for fiscally responsible ways in which Washington can help our towns and cities protect their courthouses, it makes perfect sense to allow them to use existing federal money to improve courthouse safety. This bill is the smart way to give law enforcement the tools they need to help to stop these unnecessary acts of violence in our courthouses. More: http://1.usa.gov/12zZYTs

I'm a cosponsor of legislation that would protect the value of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. Read the story published yesterday in Military Times on this important issue.

Senate bill would reduce rank of drone medal

By Rick Maze - 

Thursday Mar 7, 2013

Congressional opposition continues to grow to a Pentagon decision to create a new medal for drone operators that ranks higher in precedence than the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Four senators — two Republicans and two Democrats — introduced a bill Wednesday that would prevent the new Distinguished Warfare Medal from ranking ahead of medals awarded for direct combat. It allows the Defense Department to go ahead with an award for extraordinary achievement in cyber warfare and for operators of unmanned aerial vehicles, but it would make certain the new medal ranks behind the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

The bill, S 470, is supported by the nation’s two largest veterans organizations, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Similar legislation was introduced Feb. 26 in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, chief sponsor of the Senate bill, said he understands warfare is changing but medals earned on the battlefield are for those who have “made unparalleled sacrifices and deserve out everlasting respect.”

“The front lines of conflict are changing, but the folks who serve directly in the theater of war are at greater risk, and we should fully acknowledge the risks that their service brings,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which has heard complaints about the Pentagon decision from many veterans organizations.

Original cosponsors of the Senate bill include Republicans Dean Heller of Nevada and John Boozman of Arkansas and Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

“The proposed ranking of Distinguished Warfare Medal above medals like the Purple Heart and Bronze Star blurs the line between the risk that is taken by those who are serving directly under enemy fire and those who are not,” Boozman said.

Heller said he recognizes that everyone in the service faces challenges and makes sacrifices, but what they face differs depending on their skills and duties. “In a world where the nature of war is ever-changing, this legislation allows service members to be recognized for their contributions while also preserving unique honors for those who have served on the battlefield,” Heller said.

Manchin said he supports the new award but not its ranking. “Awards earned in combat for heroism, patriotism and a commitment to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy every day should not rank below a medal earned in relative safety. Even though the standard practices of war are changing, the risks combat warriors face daily should meet the most renowned awards,” he said.

“While we acknowledge the important role that our drone pilots play on the modern-day battlefield and believe they should be recognized for their distinguished service, that recognition should be made 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,” Boozman said. 

http://www.militarytimes.com/news/2013/03/military-bill-would-knock-down-rank-of-drone-medal-030713w/

I commend Senator Paul for holding the President accountable and his persistence in trying to get a simple question answered from the administration: “Do you believe that you have the legal authority to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil without due process?” It is without a doubt a question that deserves a clear and straightforward answer from this administration before we can move forward with the confirmation vote for the director of the CIA.

It is one of the reasons we are working to prevent the Senate Majority from ending debate on John Brennan’s confirmation until we get answers. This effort has been going on, and continues, on multiple fronts. While Senator Paul was pushing this on the floor, we were working behind the scenes to make sure we had the votes to sustain a filibuster if Majority Leader Reid tried to end it. And we are still working to ensure that we have the votes to block cloture until these questions can be answered.

Even prior to the beginning of his confirmation process, Mr. Brennan has been reluctant to provide specific information to lawmakers regarding the Obama Administration’s targeted strike program for the use of drones on suspected terrorists overseas. The lack of transparency, from the man who is widely known to be the chief architect of the program, is bothersome. His refusal to provide answers is not for a lack of knowledge, but is a continuation of the administration’s belief that it does not need to answer to the American people.

My concerns with Mr. Brennan go further than just the questions over President Obama’s targeted strike program.

We still have many unanswered questions about the Benghazi attack that happened under Mr. Brennan’s watch. To date, details about who knew what and when they knew it have been incredibly difficult to get from the administration. Mr. Brennan’s nomination should not move forward without those questions being answered.

Mr. Brennan has previously argued in favor of trying terrorists in civilian courts as opposed to treating them as enemy combatants. Additionally, he has argued in favor of closing Guantanamo Bay and bringing suspected terrorists to the U.S. for trial, a policy President Obama has pushed for since he was in the Senate. Will Mr. Brennan advocacy for this bad policy change as the director of the CIA?  

Without these answers, I will vote against cloture, oppose Mr. Brennan’s confirmation and actively work to stop his nomination from moving forward.  Until there is some accountability from the administration on these very important issues, our work to block Mr. Brennan’s confirmation will continue.  

Today, our Washington, D.C. office received the following correspondence from the White House Visitors Center:

“Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours.

We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular Spring touring season. For updates regarding this situation, please contact the White House Visitors Office 24 Hour Hotline at (202) 456-7041.

Sincerely,
White House Visitors Office”

Unfortunately, the White House’s clearly political announcement even extends to previously confirmed tours. If you intend to visit Washington DC in the immediate future, and wanted to tour the White House, I would like to offer our most sincere apologies for the inconvenience the White House has caused to your plans. While we completely understand and share in your frustrations, please know that our office will welcome you and can gladly arrange a U.S. Capitol tour.

At the end of last week, the State Department released its latest draft report on the environmental impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline. To the surprise of no one, it finds there would be no significant environmental impact along the proposed route to refineries in Texas. It also noted that other options to get oil from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast would be far more damaging for the environment.

The State Department was required to conduct a new environmental analysis after the project's route though Nebraska was modified in order to assuage Governor Dave Heineman’s concerns over the previously proposed route. The Governor supports the new route which checks off one more box on President Obama’s list of requirements.

The release of the draft report started a 45-day comment period, after which the State Department will issue a final environmental report. This is the final step before Secretary of State John Kerry will have to make a recommendation about whether the pipeline is in the national interest. The final report is merely a formality since study after study has shown that the project can be constructed and operated in an environmentally safe manner. I would be surprised to see the final report say anything to the contrary of that.

The Arkansas Congressional delegation is 100 percent behind the project. Keystone means jobs in the Natural State, so we have been working aggressively to speed the approval process. Most recently, Senator Pryor and I joined a bipartisan group of our colleagues to urge Secretary Kerry not to drag the decision out longer than it needs to be. It has already gone on too long. Let’s give our economy a boost by building the Keystone pipeline.

In case you missed it this is what we were working on in Washington this week: 

  • 1,400 days:  The out-of-control spending is partially to blame on the failure of the Senate to produce a budget in more than 3 ½ years.  This week we reached 1,400 days since a budget was last passed in the Senate. To pressure the Majority to do this basic governing responsibility, we launched a website highlighting the importance of a budget. Learn more here. 
  • Reinvest Recreation Fees: We joined efforts with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to introduce the Corps of Engineers Recreation Improvement Act.This legislation would reinvest recreation fees to improve facilities where the funds were collected. This would allow millions of dollars to be reinvested in Arkansas. 
  • Let us help you: Helping Arkansans is an important part of my job. In 2012 alone, my staff and I helped 2,775 Arkansas families with matters involving the federal government.  I encourage you to contact one of my offices if you need to discuss a problem you’re having with a federal agency so we can help to resolve your issue or cut through the red tape to get your question answered. 
  • “Arkansas Week” Interview:  Last week I sat down with Steve Barnes and talked about the issues we’re facing and the debates in Congress. If you missed it you can watch it here.

 

Recognizing the 52nd Anniversary of the Peace Corps

Making A Difference Worldwide

Feb 28 2013

We live in a world that grows smaller every day. We know that what happens in a different part of the world does affect us here in the U.S. and we have a moral obligation to help those in need with the resources and skills we have. 

We embraced the vision of President Kennedy who challenged students to serve their country by volunteering in developing countries with the creation of the Peace Corps. Today we continue this mission around the globe as 8,000 Americans selflessly serve their nation in 76 countries, contributing their time, energy and skills to encourage and teach people in developing countries. 

This week marks the 52nd anniversary of the Peace Corps. I want to offer my thanks and appreciation for all the men and women who are making a difference around the world through the Peace Corps. I am honored to represent numerous Peace Corps alumni and 22 current volunteers from Arkansas:  Erin Cox, Whitney Dean, Luiz Gustavo Dos Santos, James Forte, Luke Fries, Lydia Grate, Daniel Griffin, John Hart, Gigi Holder, Amber Kaufman, Erik King, Blake Matheny, Megan Mills, Nicolas Odekirk, Alicia Phillips, Allison Renfro, Jennifer Spradley, Terrance Stevenson, Benjamin Thomas, Zachary Wingate, and Kaitlyn Woods. 

These volunteers are our friends, family and neighbors. They are true humanitarians who are impacting the lives of people around the globe. We are proud of their commitment and their devotion to empowering people in developing countries through their efforts. I offer my sincere appreciation to all of the men and women who have served and are serving to make a difference in our world.