Congressional Digest: Supreme Court nomination made, Boozman pushes veterans bill

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 177 views 

This week the President sent a nomination to the U.S. Senate for the nation’s highest court, while U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., co-sponsored a bill to help injured veterans get the financial help they need.

THE NOMINATION
Boozman and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on Wednesday (March 16) criticized the nomination of U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama.

During a ceremony at the White House, Obama said Garland, who serves as Chief Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is qualified to serve.

“Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution vests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice – particularly one to succeed Justice Scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time. The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law. They safeguard our rights. They ensure that our system is one of laws and not men. They’re charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our time,” Obama said Wednesday.

Boozman and Cotton said the nomination, which must face Senate approval, should not be dealt with during an election year.

“The President has a Constitutional right to nominate a candidate to fill this vacancy, but the Senate has made it clear that we do not intend move forward on it. The Constitution clearly defines the roles of each branch and the President’s ends with selecting a candidate for the vacancy,” Boozman said.

VETERANS SEVERANCE BILL INTRODUCED
Boozman and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., filed a bill this week to help veterans who suffer service-ending combat injuries from being taxed on the severance payment they receive from the Department of Defense.

The bill, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016, would seek to fix the issue by directing the Department of Defense to identify veterans who have been separated from service for combat-related injuries and received a severance payment, Boozman said in a statement.

The bill would also instruct the Department of Defense to determine how much the combat-wounded veterans are owed and allow veterans who have been improperly taxed to recover the withheld amounts. Boozman said the bill would make the issue clear and direct to understand.

“It is absolutely wrong to deprive combat-injured veterans of their full severance upon separation. This has to be corrected. DOD has unjustly withheld taxes despite clearly-written federal law and a court opinion to the contrary. We have a responsibility to right this wrong and ensure that our nation’s wounded veterans receive the benefits they are rightfully due,” Boozman said.

Boozman said the National Veterans Legal Services Program – a non-profit veterans group – discovered issues with the payment problem.

At least 165 Arkansas veterans have been denied severance payments due to the tax issue, Boozman said.

In the statement, Brandon Davis of Greenwood said the issue needs to be addressed.

“I was discharged from the Army due to combat-related injuries in 2005, a year after I was engaged in several enemy attacks during a deployment to Iraq. While I was going through the medical discharge process, I recall hearing that there was a computer problem related to disability severance payments, but no one ever explained what I needed to do to recover the money that was taken from me,” Davis said. “The government took eight thousand dollars from me without explaining that I could have recovered all of this money. This money would have helped me and my family as we adjusted to life after being discharged from the military. Because eleven years have passed since the money was taken, now I have no way to get it back unless this legislation is passed.”

NOTABLE LEGISLATION
Courtesy of the website, www.govtrack.us, the following are a list of notable bills approved this week in the House.

U.S. House
• HRes 639
H.Res. 639: Authorizing the Speaker to appear as amicus curiae on behalf of the House of Representatives in the matter of United States, et al. v. Texas, et al., (immigration lawsuit).

This was a vote Thursday (March 17) to agree to H.Res. 639 in the House.
Yes: 234 Republicans and 0 Democrats
No: 5 Republicans and 181 Democrats
Not Voting: 7 Republicans and 7 Democrats

• House Concurrent Resolution 121
H.Con.Res. 121: Expressing the sense of the Congress condemning the gross violations of international law amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Government of Syria, its allies, and other parties to the conflict in Syria, and asking the President to direct his Ambassador at the United Nations to promote the establishment of a war crimes tribunal where these crimes could be addressed.

This was a vote to agree to H.Con.Res. 121 in the House. This vote was taken under a House procedure called “suspension of the rules” which is typically used to pass non-controversial bills, the website noted. Votes under suspension require a 2/3 majority. A failed vote under suspension can be taken again.

Yes: 228 Republicans and 164 Democrats
No: 2 Republicans and 1 Democrat
Not Voting: 15 Republicans and 23 Democrats