Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Senator Boozman Answers Your Questions

"From the Mailbag"

Dec 22 2011

Senator Boozman answers questions about the Keystone Pipeline XL, the failure of the Joint Congressional Committee or what is more commonly referred to as the Supercommittee and the National Defense Authorization Act in this edition of "From the Mailbag."

One Tuesday Senator Pryor and I met with leadership of the 188th Fighter Wing and the Arkansas National Guard to discuss projected funding challenges facing the Air National Guard. We understand the importance of the 188th to the community, state and the country and will work to support a continued mission for the 188th.

Earlier this week, I visited with Saxon Coates of KBJT-KQEW 1590 AM in Fordyce about the failure of the Supercommittee, the need for a balanced budget amendment, the economic instability in Europe, U.S. withdrawl from Iraq & the Keystone pipeline among other issues. Listen to it by clicking on the link below.

The Keystone XL Pipeline would not only add more to the energy supply of our country, it would pave the way for hundreds of thousands of American jobs overtime, including hundreds immediately in Arkansas.

Unfortunately, last month President Obama delayed his decision on the permit to build this until after the 2012 election, despite the Administration spending three years reviewing the Keystone XL permit and conducting two comprehensive environmental evaluations of the project.

We’re seeing the impact of this delay in Arkansas. Little Rock’s Welspun Tubular Company, hired to help manufacture the pipe, is now forced to lay off employees.

“We had to make a staffing reduction with some of the temporary employees. Due to the KXL pipeline not being shipped out. We have 500 miles of pipe just sitting in the yard, expected to be shipped out, that some of the employees were working on," President Dave Delie told Fox16 on Tuesday.  

I am a strong supporter of the Keystone XL Pipeline and I’m working with my colleagues to move this important project forward. Jobs need to be our number one priority. That’s why I am a cosponsor of the North America Energy Security Act, legislation that would reverse President Obama’s delay in granting a permit and require a construction permit to be issued within 60 days of passage.

“[H]ere’s what I know:  However many jobs might be generated by a Keystone pipeline, they're going to be a lot fewer than the jobs that are created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance.” -  President Barack Obama, 12/08/11

After announcing he will block the construction of the proposed 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to U.S. refineries, President Obama upped the rhetorical ante by claiming the project would not create many American jobs to begin with.

Are you sure about that Mr. President?  Even your allies in the powerful unions would probably disagree with that statement.

Here is what they have had to say about the Keystone XL Pipeline project:

AFL-CIO: "For America's skilled craft construction professionals, any discussion of the Keystone XL project begins and ends with one word: JOBS… Throughout America's Heartland, the Keystone Pipeline represents the prospect for 20,000 immediate jobs, and as many as 500,000 indirect jobs via a strong economic multiplier effect… without one single dollar of government assistance." (Mark H. Ayers, President, Building And Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, "For The 99% Of Americans, Keystone = JOBS," Huffington Post, 11/3/11)

LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA: "…not just a pipeline, but is a lifeline for thousands of desperate working men and women." ("Unions Furious At Obama For Killing Pipeline Jobs," Fox News, 11/10/11)

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS:
"'The Keystone Pipeline project will offer working men and women a real chance to earn a good wage and support their families in this difficult economic climate,' said… James P. Hoffa." (TransCanada, "U.S. Pipeline Contractors Association And Unions Pledge Their Support For Keystone XL Project," 9/14/10)

Our country lacks an energy policy.  We are also facing a jobs crisis of enormous magnitude.  And our president is standing in the way of one decision that can help address both of these problems—the Keystone XL pipeline.

We need to move forward on this project.  Our economy needs it.  Our national security needs it.  For that reason, I have cosponsored legislation that would require a construction permit to be issued for the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days of passage.

Remember Pearl Harbor

Dec 07 2011

Seventy years ago, a Japanese surprise attack on our Pacific fleet stationed in Pearl Harbor left almost 2,400 Americans dead, another 1,178 wounded, destroyed over 300 U.S aircraft and heavily damaged a dozen U.S. warships.

“A Day of Infamy” is what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 in a speech before Congress.  One day after FDR’s speech, Congress declared war on Japan, officially bringing the U.S. into World War II. 

Japan’s sneak attack on our Pacific fleet was a defining moment in American history.  This was not a war of our choosing, but after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was not only thrust into the war, but determined to make the world a better and safer place as a result.  The rallying cry of “Remember Pearl Harbor” was born out of the ashes.

Today, when we think of the mantra “Remember Pearl Harbor” we do so not out of a sense of anger, for which it was first cried, but out of a sense of gratitude.  Our World War II veterans, including the veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack, shaped the modern world for the better.  Their sacrifice, bravery and heroic acts are the reason that the world is a better place.  The fact that Japan is now a strong ally, trading partner and close friend of the U.S. is evidence of that. 

As time passes, it is all the more important that we pay respect to the sacrifices of those who were killed that day and preserve and remember the firsthand accounts of heroism that took place while America was under attack.  While the Greatest Generation won’t be with us forever, their sacrifices and heroics will live on.  Let us never forget their legacy and this day that changed our world forever.            

Where's my refund?

Dec 02 2011

Are you missing a tax refund check? The IRS is sitting on $153.3 million in unclaimed refund checks because of mailing address errors.

More than 99,000 taxpayers are due refund checks. These undelivered refund checks average $1,547.

For more information about these unclaimed checks go to IRS.gov. If you think your refund check may have been returned to the IRS as undeliverable, go to Where’s My Refund.

We’ve received a lot of comments and questions about the detainee provisions included in the recently passed S. 1867, The FY12 Defense Authorization Bill and I wanted to pass along this information that answers and addresses some of those questions.

This language is not as broad as some have implied, nor has it been deemed unconstitutional.  Rather, it is a carefully crafted provision to help defend our nation against the threat posed by al-Qaeda, while still upholding the Constitution. 

The provision is written in such a manner that it applies to a very narrowly defined category.  To be detained under these provisions, a suspect must be deemed to be a member of al-Qaeda or its affiliates and be involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States. 

American citizens accused of carrying out or planning an attack against the U.S. and being affiliated with al-Qaeda still have the right to appear before a judge as is the case under current law.

The reality is that we need to treat these enemy combatants according to the laws of war, not the laws of our criminal court.  Terrorists, traitors, and those who declare war on the U.S. need to be tried in a military tribunal.  The current, and previous Administrations have followed this policy, which is based on precedence that dates back to George Washington.  The fact that the policy has been upheld by the Supreme Court also lends credence to the need to codify the language into law. 

Additionally, it is important to note that the current Administration’s veto threat is really only based on the fact that the language in the bill does not allow President Obama to close Guantanamo Bay, grant constitutional rights to terrorists, and try them in a civilian court.

The amendment offered by Senator Udall to remove the entire detainee provision would allow President Obama to proceed in that direction.  This would be the wrong course of action to take while we’re still fighting this al-Qaeda, which is a sworn enemy of our country.

Myths & Facts About the Detainee Provisions

The Obama Administration, with some Senate Democrats as their proxy, has launched several misleading arguments against these sections of the bill. The arguments are undermined by Supreme Court precedent, past practice, or common sense.

Myth: Section 1031 is inconsistent with the AUMF and Constitution “because it would authorize the indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial.”

Fact: First, the Supreme Court has already rejected this argument against Section 1031, when it held in the Hamdi case the detention of enemy combatants without the prospect of criminal charges or trial until the end of hostilities to be proper under the AUMF and the Constitution as long as there is a procedure in place for prisoners to challenge their classification as an enemy combatant. Those procedures currently exist. Notably, the person challenging his detention in that case was a U.S. citizen.

Justice O’Connor specifically took on detainee Hamdi’s argument that he was subject to indefinite detention without criminal charge, acknowledging the possibility that “Hamdi’s detention could last for the rest of his life.”  She found this to be of no moment, however, because longstanding law-of-war principles authorize the detention of enemy combatants “for the duration of the relevant conflict.”

Second, the true animating purpose of the section is to reaffirm the President’s authority to detain terrorists. Its definition as to who is authorized to be detained is taken essentially verbatim from the Obama Administration Justice Department’s legal briefs submitted in Guantanamo detainee habeas cases arguing who the President is authorized to detain under the law of war.  Section 1031 is current Administration policy as held lawful by the Supreme Court.

Military commissions have been used throughout our nation’s history to prosecute enemy combatants. For example, George Washington used a military commission to prosecute British spy John Andre for conspiring with Benedict Arnold. President Roosevelt used them to prosecute German saboteurs who had infiltrated the United States during World War II. In that case, the enemy alien saboteurs prosecuted in a military commission were captured on U.S. soil and included among them at least one U.S. citizen.  The decision to prosecute al Qaeda terrorists in a military commission rather than in a federal criminal court is supported by history and national security.

Myth: Cases involving terrorists captured on U.S. soil being transferred to military custody have “spawned extensive litigation and raised major statutory and constitutional questions concerning the legality of the government’s actions.”

Fact: Jose Padilla, an American citizen al Qaeda terrorist captured on U.S. soil, did challenge the legality of his military detention. The final judicial pronouncement was that the President possessed all the authority he needed to hold in military custody a U.S. citizen enemy combatant taken into custody in the United States.  The detainee provisions of the defense authorization bill reaffirms that position, and the legal authority for them is sound.

Myth: It is a “bragging right” for the United States that more than 400 have terrorists have been tried in federal court since September 11, while only six military commission cases have been concluded.

Fact: First, the idea that treating terrorists like criminals by trying them in the civilian justice system will increase America’s standing in world opinion is demonstrably false. As former Attorney General Mukasey has noted: “[W]e did just that after the first World Trade Center bombing, after the plot to blow up airliners over the Pacific, and after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. In return, we got the 9/11 attacks and the murder of nearly 3,000 innocents. True, this won us a great deal of goodwill abroad—people around the globe lined up for blocks outside our embassies to sign the condolence books. That is the kind of goodwill we can do without.”

Second, the threat posed by many of the 400 people tried in civilian court—many of whom faced only immigration or false document offenses17 —is simply not comparable to the worst of the terrorists at Guantanamo, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his co-conspirators. It proves too much to cite the terrorist prosecutions in civilian criminal court as demonstrating the federal criminal system has a history of handling terrorism trials akin to that of the September 11 attacks.

Third, not all the experiences with terrorists in the civilian criminal justice system are worth repeating. Ahmed Ghailani, for example, was acquitted of all but one of the 285 charges brought against him in the civilian criminal justice system in connection with his participation in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings. There is also the case of Abdul Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the so-called Underwear Bomber, who was given Miranda rights and promptly stopped cooperating with investigators until his parents were found overseas and brought to the United States to talk their son into cooperating again.  It surely cannot be a counterterrorism practice worth repeating in the war against al Qaeda to tell terrorists they have a right to remain silent, then rely on the terrorist’s parents to cajole him into revealing intelligence information that could protect the American homeland from future attack

Fourth, the number of military commission trials has been small, mainly because President Obama, as one of his first acts in office, put every military commission case on hold.19 This includes halting the military commission trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who had offered to plead guilty in a commission. The President finally re-commenced the cases in 2011, meaning no military commission cases were allowed to proceed for more than two years.

The argument that the civilian criminal justice system is somehow inherently superior to the military commission system does not withstand scrutiny, and does not justify the Obama Administration’s reflexive policy to treat terrorists as common criminals, as demonstrated by its reticence to use military commissions.

Myth: The bill will deprive the Administration of the flexibility it needs in terrorism matters.

Fact: S. 1867 gives the President ample authority to waive the detainee provisions if the Administration would prefer to confer upon operational al Qaeda terrorists the full range of Constitutional rights available to U.S. citizens in civilian criminal courts.

Of course, the way the Obama Administration has used such flexibility does not instill confidence. Bringing Ahmed Warsame to the United States this past summer is just the latest in a trend of avoiding the military detention system. The same approach was attempted with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his co-conspirators, as well as done with Ahmed Ghalani for his participation in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings.

Even though it has been a week since Thanksgiving, memories of the delicious dinner my family and I had to celebrate the holiday remain.  I bet they do for you as well.  In fact, if you are like me, you may be regretting the amount of turkey and stuffing you had.  I’m pretty sure that one meal will have a lasting effect on my waistline.

But as this CNN story highlights, for some Arkansans, Thanksgiving was not a day of feasting.  In fact, for these individuals and families, avoiding going to sleep hungry is a daily struggle.

Ken Kupchick, marketing director for the River Valley Regional Food Bank in Fort Smith told CNN some heart-wrenching stories that they have encountered in Arkansas’s second largest city.  Ken spoke of a mother who used to volunteer at a food pantry and is now in need of the organization’s services due to mounting medical bills for her children.  He recounted a story of an elderly lady who went from financial security to sorting through the dumpster garbage at the local grocery store after her husband passed away and her monthly income disappeared.

I encourage you to read the CNN report as it is quite an eye-opening piece.

The hunger crisis is not just something that is happening in countries most of us will never set foot in.  Yes, we see those images on the nightly news, but the reality is we don’t have to go far to see that hunger exists here. 

According to recent studies, hunger is a struggle for one in six Americans and many of those suffering from food insecurities are children.  The most recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that Arkansas has the lowest food security and at has the worst rate of childhood hunger in the nation with nearly 25 percent of Arkansas kids going to bed hungry.  The difficult economic times our country is facing only serves to exasperate the situation for these Americans.

The positive news is that each of us can help but an end to it. 

In Congress, a bipartisan coalition of Senators committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity are working to raise awareness and resources to address hunger issues both here at home and around the world.  As co-chair of the Hunger Caucus, I am a proud supporter of our latest initiative—the “Hour for Hunger”—which encourages Members of Congress to commit one hour of their time during the holidays to help raise awareness and put an end to hunger in their communities.

Washington alone cannot cure our nation’s hunger problems.  It will take a concerted effort in our states, cities and communities.  There is a part for us all to play in fight.  Please consider making a donation to a hunger-relief organization, like a centralized food bank, or a food pantry at your church this holiday season.

Today the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a hearing on the continuing oversight of the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Hon. Gary Gensler, Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Hon. Mary Schapiro, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission testified before the committee.

While the hearing was to provide oversight implementation to Dodd-Frank, much of the hearing centered around the recent failure of financial MF Global.

Senator Boozman questioned Chairmen Gensler and Schapiro regarding the nature, and possible criminality of the recent collapse of MF Global that left thousands of investors, famers, ranchers and small business owners without access to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Ag committee has oversight jurisdiction over Title VII of Dodd-Frank, which governs commodities and futures trading.