Dr. Boozman's Check-up

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 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.

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.

Agriculture is our state’s number one industry and as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee I’m committed to preserving the safety and security of our nation’s food supply. That’s why I’m concerned about recent comments made by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about meat and poultry inspections due to sequestration. 

I joined some of my Senate colleagues from rural states in sending a letter to Sec. Vilsack about the fear his comments are sparking among consumers, American workers, and producers about the food inspectors and the safety of meat because of spending cuts. 

“The comments you have made in the press, to farm groups and at the recent USDA Outlook Forum suggest you view there is a rigid legal duty to furlough all employees at USDA without concern for USDA’s statutory duties or for the health and safety of consumers,” the letter states. 

Instead of going through the federal budget with a scalpel, the President and his administration are in denial about the threat that our out of control spending poses to our nation's financial security. Now the President threatens us with a worse-case scenario if we refuse to raise taxes and move forward to reduce our rate of government growth by two percent. The United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) can continue to meet the demands of food inspection while working under these budgetary guidelines and the President should provide less fear mongering and more leadership on how to implement the sequester he proposed.

Click here to read the letter.

1,400 Days

Feb 27 2013

Across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, are set to go into effect Friday. There are a number of reasons for how we got here, but one in particular defies logic: the Senate Majority hasn’t passed a budget in 1,400 days.

You know what happens when you go more than three and half years without a budget? You wake up to find you have added over $5 trillion to your already staggering amount of debt.

Year after year, we run trillion dollar deficits. Our national debt now sits at a jaw dropping 16.6 trillion dollars. Despite this, the Senate Majority still hasn’t put its spending plans on paper.

The average American family doesn’t have the luxury to spend in this type freewheeling manner. If you or I tried to run our household this way, the bank would cut us off.  However, there is no penalty when the Senate does it—until now.

Now, members of Congress will face consequences for failing to pass a budget. Included in the recent debt ceiling extension is a provision that withholds pay for members of Congress if a budget is not agreed upon. It’s a simple idea. If you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid.

With that law now on the books, the Senate Majority has a newfound appreciation for the budget process and promises to pass one this year. Given the way they have rejected the need for a budget over the past 1,400 days, we must remain committed to pushing them to follow through on that pledge. 

To keep the pressure on the Senate Majority, we have unveiled a new website that documents the importance of a budget and the costs to the country for failing to govern by one. Take a moment to visit the site’s “Action Center” in the bottom left hand corner to help spread the word. 

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.