This week in the nation’s capital, lawmakers took up issues involving trade and security, while two Supreme Court cases late in the week drew the ire of the state’s congressional delegation.
KING V. BURWELL
The United States Supreme Court voted 6-3 Thursday to uphold the use of federal subsidies dealing with the Affordable Care Act.
The decision drew comments from the state’s congressional delegation.
“The government must follow the law as it’s written, which is why I believe the Court wrongly decided to approve President Obama’s unlawful implementation of Obamacare. While I respect the Court’s decision, Obamacare remains a fundamentally flawed law that is hurting thousands of Arkansas with higher premiums and copays, higher taxes, and lost jobs. I will work with my colleagues to roll back this unworkable law legislatively and pursue the free-market approach to health care that Arkansans deserve,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said.
“Arkansans continue to grapple with the multitude of problems that Obamacare has brought on. From lost coverage to higher out of pocket costs, to fewer choices for patients and more bureaucratic control of the healthcare system, this law has let the American people down. The Court’s ruling doesn’t change that. In fact, Justice Scalia pointedly noted in the dissent that the Court went to great interpretive lengths to protect the law. It is up to Congress to replace this program with market-based solutions that will bring the changes that Obamacare, and all its broken promises, simply cannot deliver. I will continue to work with my colleagues to repeal and replace this failed program and give the American people real reform that puts them back in charge of their healthcare decisions,” Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said.
“Today’s decision is disappointing, but it doesn’t change the fact that the President’s healthcare law is bad policy that is increasing costs and reducing patient choice for millions of Americans. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass real, patient-centered healthcare reform that is both affordable and consumer friendly,” Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said.
“Even though the court did not rule in favor of the American people, Fourth District residents can rest assured that I will not stop fighting for them to change this overreaching and harmful law,” Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs said.
OBERGEFELL V. HODGES
The United States Supreme Court also voted 5-4 Friday to make same sex marriage legal in all 50 states, with the majority opinion from Justice Anthony Kennedy saying the protection was granted through the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
“My views are rooted in my faith and are shared by the majority of my constituents and fellow Arkansans. I am disappointed that the Supreme Court took away our constitutional sovereignty to make decisions about the sanctity of marriage for ourselves, and I continue to believe that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman. Now, more than ever, we must work to ensure the closely held religious beliefs of millions of Americans are protected,” Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers said.
“The opinion of five lawyers, not elected by the American people, should not and cannot define what millions of Americans affirm as the true and divine institution of marriage. Despite ruling two years previous that this decision rightly belonged to the elected officials in each state, the Supreme Court today removed the people’s right to uphold their own beliefs, which are based on deeply held religious and personal convictions, and instead chose to force their own definition of marriage onto the entire country,” Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said.
BOOZMAN: MONEY NOT THE ISSUE IN SECURITY BREACH
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., chaired a hearing this week looking into the data breach of nearly 18 million current or former federal employees in the federal government’s information systems.
Boozman, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, heard from several witnesses about the breach.
One witness – Richard Spires, who is the former chief information officer for the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service – said the battle has been ongoing.
“In fact, I would urge Congress and the Administration to avoid a tactical approach that addresses narrow technical fixes based on these latest breaches – the weaknesses that led to these types of breaches are deeply rooted and require sweeping changes in our approach to IT and cybersecurity management and practices. Further, the weaknesses in the federal government’s IT security posture are almost always based on IT practices that have been in place over many years. I served in the Bush and Obama Administrations and saw the same systemic problems in both. This should not be viewed as a political issue, but a call to action to fix a set of issues that can not only have a beneficial impact on securing data and systems, but improve IT management and delivery of systems as well,” Spires said.
However, Boozman said throwing money at the issue alone will not solve it.
“It is easy to suggest more money is the solution. That seems to be the response the Administration leans on every time there is a problem. But it is often the wrong choice, especially in situations like this where it appears that the problem is something much greater than a lack of resources.
The American people have lost faith in their institutions. The last thing they will do is trust Washington to solve a problem when it can’t even protect the personal information of those it employs. There needs to be a dramatic change in the status quo,” Boozman said.
BOOZMAN, COTTON VOTE YES ON TRADE BILL
The United States Senate voted 60-38 this week to approve Trade Protection Authority, with both of the state’s United States Senators voting yes on the issue.
Both Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, and Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, supported the idea, which has been debated for several weeks in Congress.
“International trade supports over 340,000 jobs in Arkansas. That’s one in every five jobs,” said Boozman. “That number will continue to rise as we open new markets for Arkansas’s agricultural producers, small businesses and globally engaged workforce. When we trade our goods and services with other nations, we improve market access for American exports, grow our economy and create jobs at home. That is why we have a responsibility to pursue the strongest free and fair trade agreements that we can negotiate. TPA helps bring our potential trading partners to the table while maintaining Congress’s important role in the process.”
“Trade Promotion Authority is a win for our state economy. Expedited consideration of trade agreements will yield greater access to world markets for products produced or grown in Arkansas. Our exports will grow exponentially, resulting in both higher revenues and more jobs for the Natural State. This legislation also contains important safeguards to ensure the President’s trade negotiations occur in a transparent manner and that Congress retains oversight of the administration’s negotiations. Rest assured, I will fight back against any misuse of this economic tool,” Cotton said.
BOOZMAN, HILL INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO HONOR SGT. HAROLD GEORGE BENNETT
The work of a Perryville man who was executed in Vietnam 50 years ago was recognized this week.
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. and Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, filed legislation this week to honor Sgt. Harold George Bennett. Bennett spent 179 days as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War and was executed on June 25, 1965.
Both Boozman and Hill said Bennett was a hero.
“Sgt. Bennett was a true American hero whose hometown seeks to honor him with this tribute. This post office designation will honor Sgt. Bennett’s service and sacrifice and reflect the appreciation we share for his courage and contributions to our country,” Boozman said.
“Sergeant Harold George Bennett is a highly decorated war hero whose military service is deserving of a tribute that will last for generations to come. Naming this post office after Sgt. Bennett is a small token of our immeasurable appreciation for his and his family’s commitment to this Nation,” Hill said.
Sgt. Bennett served as a Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) advisor during the war operating out of South Vietnam. On December 29, 1964, during a firefight with Viet Cong guerillas, Sgt. Bennett was taken prisoner.
On Wednesday, Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock went to the floor of the House of Representatives to honor the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team.
The team went to the College World Series this year in Omaha, Neb. Hill said the team “embarked on one of the greatest turnarounds in program history” and faced a difficult start early in the season.
The team won 25 of its last 35 games and went to the NCAA Tournament, winning both the regional and super regional tournament, Hill said.
Hill also congratulated Head Coach Dave Van Horn, who has gone to the College World Series four times as coach of the Hogs.
Watch the video of Hill’s speech here.