Weekly Columns

2014 in Review

Jan 02 2015

As we prepare to kick-off 2015 and the excitement and promise of a New Year, it’s important to look back at what we’ve accomplished. I want to highlight some of the work we’ve done, recognize some important policies and judicial rulings and share why I’m optimistic about the next Congress. 

Veterans services dominated headlines earlier this year. Congress, with my support, acted to improve healthcare for our veterans. We made significant improvements toward ensuring our veterans have access to VA’s high quality health care services and toward ending the culture of complacency within the VA. Also included in the new law is a provision I introduced that requires schools eligible for GI Bill education benefits to allow veterans in-state tuition rates regardless of the veteran’s residency status. 

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am committed to protecting the benefits our veterans earned. That’s why I’ve been working with veterans’ service organizations pushing legislation that changes how veterans’ programs are funded because of the way they were being negatively impacted by delays to the annual appropriations process and the lack of a long-term funding plan.  The recent government funding bill that the President signed into law includes this measure that expands one-year advance funding for veterans benefits like disability compensation, pension and GI Bill benefits to protect them against budget fights and prevent interruptions in the services they earned. 

Earlier this year, Congress approved a five-year farm bill. The Department of Agriculture has begun implementing the law. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee I’m closely monitoring its practice. My staff in Washington and Arkansas are working closely with our state’s agriculture producers to assist with questions or concerns related to the farm bill enactment. 

Obamacare continues to be a topic of discussion across the state. I support efforts to repeal the law and replace the law with commonsense plans that puts patients in control of their healthcare. I was pleased the Supreme Court ruled this summer that the Obama administration overstepped its authority by forcing employers with religious objections to comply with its mandate that runs counter to their beliefs. In Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, the court preserved the right for business owners to object to overbearing government mandates that would violate their religious beliefs. 

The High Court announced in November that it will hear another case that challenges subsidies to Obamacare. Justices are expected to hear that case in 2015. I’m hopeful with a Republican controlled Senate we can continue to chip away at this law. 

In early 2015 we will use the power of the purse to push back against President Obama’s unprecedented executive immigration order. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires in February and I will work with my colleagues to approve measure that reign in this unlawful abuse of power. 

In the coming year I look forward to working with the new Arkansas congressional delegation and working on your behalf.  Big changes are coming to the Senate in 2015. I’m hopeful the Senate will return to regular order under new Senate leadership which means passing individual appropriations bills on time. With new leadership my goal is to create policies that encourage job creation, decrease the burdensome regulations and provide critical oversight. I’m confident great things are on the horizon and I’m grateful to be your voice as we lay the foundation for a new direction for our country.