Weekly Columns

In order to represent the people of Arkansas, I need to hear from you. One of my responsibilities is to respond to Arkansans who write and call my office to me about the issues facing our country. It is my goal to respond to those who take the time to reach out and be proactive in our government. I encourage you to let me know how you feel about the issues and policies debated in Congress. I want to share answers to some of topics I’ve been asked recently.   

Please vote yes to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) because its hurts beneficiaries by annually threatening payment cuts that will impact their choice of physician and access to the care that they need.  –Mark, Jonesboro 

As a former Medicare provider, I understand the importance of fixing the physician payment formula. The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that breaks new ground by repealing the out-of-date SGR and transitions health care providers to a new dual system intended to reward quality of care over fee-for-service practices. More importantly, this legislation focuses on permanent reforms that will help guide our health care system towards quality, value and accountability while producing millions of dollars in savings for future generations. I look forward to supporting a long-term solution. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road and I expect the Senate will consider this legislation in the next few weeks. 

I am concerned about the possibility of a nuclear Iran – Sheila, Bismarck

A nuclear armed Iran would be a threat to the United States, our allies and the world as a whole. We are just now learning about this framework and it is imperative that it be fully vetted. What little that has been made public reinforces the concern that the Obama Administration gave up on efforts to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program in hopes of merely containing it.

Congress now has an opportunity to see in detail what the Administration has been negotiating behind closed doors. We must also have an opportunity to weigh in on it. This is why I support the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which would require congressional review of a nuclear deal if one is reached by June 30. 

I am concerned that EPA regulations will expose the U.S. to serious energy vulnerabilities. What can be done to prevent this? – Bob, Eureka Springs 

The EPA carbon emissions mandates target Arkansas for cuts stricter than 44 other states. These mandates will drive up the price of electricity, send jobs overseas, and lead to the construction of foreign factories in places like China, which will emit far more carbon dioxide and pollution into the global atmosphere.  

I’ve urged the President and the EPA administrator to reconsider this proposal. We may be able to pass legislation that would halt the plan, but the President would likely veto such a bill. Unfortunately, we probably don’t have the support needed to override a veto. We will try to limit the use of funds for this plan, but the President has a lot of flexibility to use resources provided for the broader Clean Air Act to implement his plan, so it is difficult to stop legislatively. This plan will likely face legal challenges because the use of the Clean Air Act in this manner is unprecedented. 

Many Americans, including me, support using our natural resources in all-of-the-above energy mix that includes renewables such as solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass along with reliable sources like coal, nuclear, and natural gas. I will support policies that protect our environment without driving up the electric bill for Arkansas families.