Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Yesterday, I joined Minnesota’s Senators Al Franken & Amy Klobuchar to introduce legislation aimed at addressing security concerns, like a lack of screening equipment and training at local courthouses.

This morning, violence struck at yet another courthouse when a gunman in a Middletown, N.Y. shot and wounded a court officer before he was shot several times and killed.

This is a stark reminder that our local courthouses, especially in rural and suburban areas, need to ensure employees and citizens are safe when they are attending to business.  Often, these smaller courthouses lack even basic security measures like metal detectors.

Courthouse violence is an issue that hits home.  Last September, James Ray Palmer entered the Crawford County Courthouse with intentions of shooting the judge.  The court was not in session and the judge was not there, which led Palmer began firing randomly shooting Vickie Jones, secretary of the circuit judge, in the leg.  Palmer was shot and killed by the responding officers.  Those heroic law enforcement officers from the Van Buren Police Department and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department were honored for their bravery at a ceremony last night.

The goal of our bill is to help prevent these tragedies from taking place.  By providing local courts with access to security training, giving states authority to use existing grant money to improve courthouse security, and cutting through bureaucratic red tape to give local courts access to excess federal security equipment we can dramatically improve courthouse safety and cut down the violent attacks that have recently taken place in courthouses across the country.

We are fighting to end accounting tricks and budget gimmicks to rein in spending and get our fiscal house in order with by supporting the Honest Budget Act.

This is a 9-part legislative package to put an end to some of Congress’ most blatant and dishonest budget gimmicks. Since 2005 alone, the gimmicks addressed in the bill have enabled more than $350 billion in deficit spending while fostering a wider culture of fiscal irresponsibility. The Honest Budget Act is a crucial step towards making Washington more responsible—and more accountable—with how it spends taxpayer dollars.

Gimmick Fixes In The HBA:

  • Make it harder to move appropriation bills unless a budget resolution is already in place;
  • Tighten the process for adding the “emergency” designation to spending measures, an often-abused method for avoiding the fiscal restraints imposed by the budget resolution;
  • Improve current law by measuring the cost of loan and loan guarantee programs using a market default risk rate that reflects the loans’ fair value;
  • Adopt a rule that would prevent scoring rescissions of budget authority as savings unless they produce actual cash savings in the budget window;
  • Prevent changes in mandatory spending programs from being used as budgetary savings in discretionary (non-mandatory) spending bills;
  • Establish a new scoring rule that would prohibit the use of timing shifts for the purposes of producing phony budget savings;
  • Make President Obama’s two-year federal pay freeze real by eliminating automatic within-grade step increases through the end of 2012;
  • Require transfers from the General Fund to bail out the Highway Trust Fund to be scored as new spending. Since 2008, turning a blind eye has led to $35 billion in transfers that were scored as “budget neutral”; and
  • Prevent abuse of advance appropriations by reinstating the budget point of order limiting Congress’ ability to defer increased spending to future years in order to make room for more immediate needs in the current year (and then argue later that the spending limits in subsequent years should be raised to accommodate the deferred spending).

Members in the House introduced companion legislation on Tuesday and I was happy to join my colleagues in both chambers to show my support for this bill in a press conference Wednesday.

Read the following story published in the Times Record about the Honest Budget Act and our call for passage. - Arkansas Lawmakers Back ‘Honest’ Budgets

The Obama administration is at it again.  With its latest overreaching mandate, the President is now demanding that many religious institutions—including church-run hospitals and universities—provide contraception in employee health plans even if they are opposed by the church.

There is a story in today’s edition of Politico on what led President Obama to this decision.

The key takeaway: 

“The handling of the issue offers a hint of Obama’s approach to governing and campaigning in 2012: When confronted with a position close to his heart — and dear to the base — Obama is increasingly inclined to side with people who will vote for him even if it means enraging those who might, but probably won’t, vote for him.” [Emphasis added]

The problem with governing in this manner is obvious.  Violating the religious liberties and conscience rights of faith-based institutions to appease your base is not leading by the values by which our country was established.  Instead, it’s yet another instance where President Obama has shown that his top concern in an election year is protecting his own job.

In an effort to fight this overreach, I cosponsored the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, a bill to repeal this violation of religious liberties.  Forcing religious employers to furnish birth control, even when that runs counter to their beliefs, is a blatant infringement on First Amendment rights.  This commonsense bill would protect religious organizations from being forced to compromise their beliefs at the whim of the Obama administration and exempt them from this mandate. 

The seemingly endless number of regulations this administration has handed down on the American people needs to end.  Let’s force the President to govern in a manner that respects the values of the American people, not just his base.  Passing this bill and restoring respect for religious liberties is a good place to start. 

Did you listen to our radio interviews on your drive into work this morning? If not, I want to share our conversations with Mark Smith from KASU in Jonesboro and Saxon Coates with KBJT-KQEW in Fordyce. We discussed tonight’s State of the Union address, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the ‘recess’ appointments, unrest in the Middle East and our recent visit to Northeast Arkansas. Listen to our discussion on KASU and to hear the KBJT-KQEW interview click on the link below.

1,000 Days...

Jan 24 2012

Tonight, President Obama will come before Congress and deliver his annual State of the Union address to the American people.  There is no doubt he will spend a considerable amount of time chastising Congress for what he feels is its “inaction” on his priorities.  Unfortunately, he will likely direct his frustrations at the wrong chamber. 

It is an eerie coincidence that the President’s State of the Union speech falls on the 1,000th day since Majority Leader Reid’s caucus has passed a budget, but a coincidence that can serve as a reminder to the American people about who is failing to heed their calls to get our spending in order.  Instead of lecturing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, President Obama should press the Senate Majority on its inability to pass a budget.  After all, “fiscal responsibility” is one of the President’s priorities, at least according to the White House website. 

The Washington Examiner’s editorial board today reminded the President that members of his own party are holding up his supposed priorities.  Moreover, they are shirking their responsibilities to the American people by refusing to produce a blueprint for the nation’s spending.  Instead of making any tough decisions about where spending is truly necessary, Senate Majority Leader Reid and his caucus have continued to run up our national debt to record levels while forcing America to accept what they pass in last-minute bills to avoid a government shutdown.  This is not how anyone serious about addressing excessive federal spending operates.

The President can show that he is serious about getting our fiscal house in order by calling on the Senate Majority to pass a budget.  It is a good opportunity for him to offer more than lip service on the issue by pressing his own allies in Congress to act.  However, it is unlikely that will happen considering he will be late with his own proposal this year

What is more likely is that President Obama will once again blame House Republicans, the only legislators who produced a budget that passed.  It is the only budget that has received support since his inaugural address to Congress.  Mr. President, it is time to stop blaming those who are offering solutions and direct your attention to those who have failed to act—the Senate Majority. 

Honoring our Veterans

Jan 24 2012

250,000 veterans call Arkansas home. In Washington we work to ensure these patriots get the help they deserve for putting their lives on the line and serving our country in uniform.

These men and women selflessly sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, values and interests of our country. Unfortunately, our troops don’t always receive the medals they earn during their military service and we are helping honor them for their service during medal presentations.

Our Military and Veterans Liaison, Col. Steve Gray (ret.), has traveled all across the state recognizing the service of our veterans. Here are three of the stories from the past week about well-deserved honors for Arkansas veterans.

Medals finally come to Vietnam War hero – Newton County Times

Area Veterans Receive Long-Awaited Medals – 40/29

Six Arkansans Receive Military MedalsTimes Record

The March for Life

Jan 23 2012

The way we treat the voiceless and most powerless among us speaks volumes about our priorities and values as a society.  Today, thousands of Americans flocked to the National Mall to give a voice to those who cannot speak and power to those who cannot defend themselves: the unborn.

From the child in the womb to the hospitalized senior, we share moral responsibility to respect the dignity of all human beings—regardless of their political clout in Washington.  The fact that in our society—the unborn do not receive the most basic of human rights—is what motivates us in the fight for justice.   It is these principles that have been driving thousands of Americans to the National Mall every year on the anniversary of the misguided Roe v. Wade decision.

I want to commend everyone who participated in today’s events on the National Mall as well as the Arkansans who took part in yesterday’s March for Life in Little Rock.  I will continue to stand in defense of the unborn and fight policies that run counter to our nation’s core values. 

We’ve had a very busy three days traveling around Northeast Arkansas to eight counties. We appreciate all of the warm receptions and more importantly getting to hear from Arkansans about this issues they face in this current economic environment. There are a variety of issues our country is challenged with and we will be discussing them in the coming days and weeks as the Senate convenes for the Second Session of the 112th Congress.

Some of you may have read about our stops in the local paper but in case you missed it here is what some of the locals papers are saying:

Boozman criticizes pipeline decision - Jonesboro Sun

Boozman talks jobs, savings during Blytheville visit – Blytheville Courier News

Yesterday the Obama Administration announced it would not issue a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. You can read my statement here. This is not the right approach to job creation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates this would create 250,000 over the course of the project with 20,000 immediate jobs.

Newspapers from around the country examined the President’s decision and decided it was not the right policy in our current economic climate where 8.5 percent of Americans are looking for employment.

Here is a look at editorial page headlines across the country today:

Obama’s Keystone pipeline rejection is hard to accept  - Washington Post

“…on the substance, there should be no question... clearly, constructing the pipeline would still result in job gains during a sluggish economic recovery.”

Pipeline politics: Misguided Obama blocks Keystone pipeline – Chicago Tribune

“Obama made a decision that will cost the U.S. good jobs. He seems to think those jobs will still be there when he gets around to making a decision on the pipeline. But they may well be gone for good.”

The Anti-Jobs President – The Wall Street Journal

“Only last week the White House issued a "jobs" report praising domestic energy production, but that now looks like political cover for this anti-jobs policy choice.”

Over the past few weeks, the chorus of concerns over Congressional efforts to address online piracy has intensified.  I can say, with all honesty, that the feedback I received from Arkansans has been overwhelmingly in opposition to the Senate bill (S.968, the PROTECT IP Act) in its current form.  That is why I am announcing today that I intend to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act.

I will have my name removed as a co-sponsor of the bill and plan to vote against it if Majority Leader Reid brings it to the floor in its current form.

The PROTECT IP Act seeks to address an issue that is of vital importance to the future of intellectual property rights in the modern era.  However, the concerns regarding the unintended consequences of this particular bill are legitimate.  Therefore, we should not rush to pass this bill, rather we should be working to find another solution so that the epidemic of online piracy is addressed in a manner that ensures innovation and free speech is protected.  I have confidence that we can do this, but not as the PROTECT IP Act stands today.

Online piracy hinders creativity and steals jobs.  Much of this criminal behavior comes from rogue websites operating in countries like Russia and China.  Their ability to operate threatens American ingenuity by distributing copyrighted material free of charge.  We must work to ensure that copyright holders are protected if we want to defend American ingenuity, ideas and artwork.

The goals of the Protect IP Act are commendable, but the potential for damaging unintended consequences is its major flaw.  Moving forward, I will work with my colleagues, the stakeholders and the American people to find a workable solution that protects intellectual property rights while promoting an open and vibrant Internet. 

I want to thank you for raising your concerns about this bill.  Your voice has been heard.