Across almost the entire political spectrum, Americans support reforming the tax code. A broken tax code affects all of us in Central Arkansas. When businesses suffer from a broken tax code that limits growth, it affects all of us. When I ran for Congress in 2014, I committed to seeking solutions that lead to job creation and rising income and wages for hardworking Americans. I am working to champion skilled and vocational job creation and expand good training and career opportunities for all Arkansans.
As a former local business owner and community banker, I know the limitations that our current tax code places on our local economic growth. I am committed to finding solutions to our tax code, which is why I co-sponsored H.R. 27, the Tax Code Termination Act, which would repeal most of our current tax code by the year 2020 and require Congress to have a new federal tax system in place by July 4, 2019. Our families, businesses, and entrepreneurs all want—and deserve—a tax code that is not only fair and simple, but one that will also spur economic development and growth. I wanted to see who would defend the status quo.
In 2016, House Republicans outlined an approach to tax reform that would cut taxes for most Arkansas families, and let nine out of ten Arkansans have a simpler method of filing during tax time. Also, we proposed an overhaul of business taxation to close loopholes, broaden the base, and make the U.S. tax system internationally competitive. Also, importantly, for our families our tax revisions doubled the child tax credit and provided needed funds for health care and other family needs. This has resulted in higher wages, new job creation and career opportunities, and companies investing millions in new plants and equipment in America and not overseas.
With the benefits of rightsized regulatory reforms and now the family tax cuts and restructuring of our tax system, our economy is growing and we need more people in the workforce. America still has the lowest labor force participation rate since the 1970’s. This means Americans age 25-54 aren’t working full time. Our great country needs these workers! The dignity of work is a core value for our families and a deep rooted part of our American culture.
We need to encourage students to stay in school and graduate. I support skilled training initiatives that benefit high school students and high school graduates, who don’t want to pursue a four-year college degree, but need to get more skills and apprenticeships to fill the job openings in Arkansas.
We need those mid-career men and women that feel stuck in their jobs to have the opportunities to learn new skills to successfully shift career goals. For example, I met a former homebuilder, who is now a radiation technologist with a major healthcare system. His two apprenticeships and additional training allowed him to make the change while being paid.
We need those on public assistance programs to have the chance to work as they transition from dependence to independence. Solid work requirements for all able-bodied people on welfare will lift people out of poverty.
We need transitional housing and skills development for those ex-offenders coming out of incarceration. I was pleased to see the President highlight this during his 2018 State of the Union speech. I’ve sponsored H.R. 799, the Shift Back to Society Act, which establishes a pilot program with historically black colleges and universities to provide education programs for offenders that are transitioning out of prison and back into the community.
Washington spending is out of control and bankrupting our country. The federal government needs to quit trying to fix everything with a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach and instead shift power back to state and local governments. Right now, the federal government is too big and spends too much. I have re-introduced the “Golden Fleece” award to expose the most outrageous wasteful government spending in Washington.
To get our spending under control, we must reform mandatory spending programs, cut low-priority spending, and stop performing functions best left to state and local governments or the private sector. We need a cultural change in which the federal government is a smaller, more efficient, effective, and a much less expensive and intrusive part of Americans’ lives. Getting collective action by a majority of Congress and the President is difficult. With two-thirds of all federal spending mandatory and not subject to the Congressional appropriations process, citizens need to be educated on this critically important goal.
While in Congress, I have co-sponsored two versions of balanced budget amendments to the U.S. Constitution to bring our spending in line. We must take the necessary steps to ensure that all taxpayer dollars are being used wisely, and we can no longer kick the can down the road on mandatory spending. Our children and grandchildren depend on us to solve our debt problem and give them a brighter future.
Social Security is a promise that the federal government has made to hardworking Arkansans, who have paid into the program and have earned these benefits. I am committed to strengthening Social Security for today’s seniors and future beneficiaries. Further, I believe we must protect and strengthen Social Security, while eliminating fraud and abuse in this program.
The 2016 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds estimated that the Social Security retirement trust fund will be exhausted by 2034. Congress must do more to effectively reform Social Security, prevent unprecedented cuts to benefits, and ensure that Social Security beneficiaries receive the benefits that they have earned and paid into.
In 2017, I introduced H.R. 1540, the Social Security Disability Insurance Return to Work Act, which would modernize the Social Security Administration’s classification of disability beneficiaries. The bill incentivizes returning to work for beneficiaries, who have recovered from their disability, such as an illness. According to the Congressional Research Service, the employment rate among working-age individuals with work-limiting disabilities has fallen from 24.4 percent in 1981 to 14.4 percent in 2013. Many disability beneficiaries are unlikely to return to work even if they have recovered and are ready to go back to work. In 2013, only 0.4 percent of all beneficiaries were removed from disability rolls due to re-employment. Due to the low return to work rates, it is essential that Congress act to implement an efficient, consistent, and accurate disability determination in order to encourage return to work and save taxpayer dollars.
I am committed to look for other long-term solutions, and I will work with my colleagues to institute common sense, bipartisan solutions to ensure the availability of essential Social Security benefits to seniors and disabled individuals both now and in the future.
Recently, the Congress reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years. As a former member of the board of directors of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, I know the benefits of this important program for our families. CHIP is strongly supported by a bipartisan majority and by me.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare was more than just a malfunctioning website. Big government, “one size fits all” $2.2 trillion solutions simply do not work in our large, complex country. Overly broad statutes have too many unintended consequences. Particularly, this law is harming Americans by providing fewer choices, higher healthcare costs, and countless tax increases. It is also chipping away at the critical physician/patient relationship. We need to replace it with reforms that lower healthcare costs for all Arkansans. We need to reject the ever-expanding culture of dependency and encourage our able-bodied citizens to pursue lives of virtue, hard work, and civic service. President Obama promised us we “could keep our plans,” that our insurance premiums would fall, and health care access would improve. The reality is that time and time again over the past three years I have heard your complaints about increases in premiums, shockingly high deductibles leading to loss of health care coverage, and costs that are out of reach for many families.
Our healthcare system faces some serious problems; we need targeted, surgical, carefully considered reforms that acknowledge the complexity of our health care system. I have repeatedly voted to repeal this broken healthcare law and start over with reforms that actually lower healthcare costs, protect pre-existing conditions, and improve access for all Arkansas families. I will not defend the status quo. Our families deserve better.
Like our health care system, changes are needed in the American education system. I believe the lack of equal access to a quality education is the civil rights issue of our day and that we must demand success, accountability, and results in every classroom. Some of these key approaches were in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that the Congress passed in 2015, plus additional flexibility for state and local districts. I have taken a lead role in helping historically black colleges educate Arkansans released from prisons, so they can become productive members of our society.
I believe strongly that all our children – those college bound and those that will begin their career directly after high school – need quality direction and curriculum that helps prepare them for their “pursuit of happiness.” That’s why I am so pleased to promote policies that encourage concurrent credit and skilled workforce programs – two strategies that better prepare our young people, increase affordability of education, and build the talent we need for our state’s growing economy.
I meet regularly with our Second District School superintendents, students, and teachers to discuss ways that I can best advocate for them in Washington.
Our strong national security is an essential issue facing the Congress and our nation. As a member of the House Financial Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, I have used my expertise to provide our national security personnel the resources they need to fight and defeat terror at home and around the globe. The mission of ISIS is not only to terrorize third world and developing countries, but also to come to the U.S. and other western nations—as we have seen in San Bernadino, California and Paris, France. ISIS strives not only to take the lives of innocent people, but to destroy our way of life, faith, religious beliefs, and rights. Fortunately, the President brought new leadership to the allied fight against ISIS. The U.S. led direct, coordinated strategy has destroyed the Caliphate’s command and control and freed their territory across Iraq and Syria.
As a businessman with over three decades of financial, management, and banking experience, I have worked diligently with my colleagues to find solutions that will improve traditional interdiction of terror finance in the banking, trade, and business sectors. Further, I used my experience to help design legislation to reform our Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws.
Additionally, I voted for H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House of Representatives and is an important measure that funds our national defense priorities at home and abroad. This bill gives our troops a much deserved pay raise (the first pay raise in eight years) and pumps money into training. Our current combat readiness is at dangerously low levels.
Importantly, I was pleased to assist in securing funding for the much needed modernization of the C-130 Hercules fleet, the backbone of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard airlifters at the Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB). As Congress continues to address the important issues facing American security and military, I will continue to support the needs of our military to provide a strong national defense for the United States.
Further, I led the push for the Air Force and Air National Guard to maintain a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) that is located on LRAFB. By keeping this important national security investment worth more than $10 million facility at LRAFB, the Air Force was able to establish a new training mission located at the SCIF and, in the future, will be able to expand the cyber missions in Central Arkansas.
I believe it is imperative that we ensure that our veterans get the medical treatment they need in a timely and efficient manner. Those who have served our country deserve the best care and caretakers to maintain their health. So far in the 115th Congress, nine bills have been signed into law that hold Washington bureaucrats accountable for failing to adequately care for our veterans. These bills improve backlogs and wait times, improve VA workforce recruitment and training, and fund more than $2 billion for the Veterans Choice Fund.
During my first term in office, I ordered a report from the Office of the Inspector General to investigate cost overruns for the Little Rock VA Hospital construction project. The report found rampant and widespread mismanagement, delays, and VA financial mismanagement of taxpayer dollars—a $1.5 million dollar cost overrun for the implementation of $8 million of solar panels at the Little Rock VA. This VA financial mismanagement pattern has been found throughout the county. If it is a project as complex as hospital construction in Denver or one as simple as the appropriate installation of solar panels, the VA continues to waste taxpayer dollars as a result of mismanagement. I believe those dollars could be better spent on much needed administrative services to speed benefit analysis and claims processing. We must continue to monitor VA construction activities to ensure avoidable financial mismanagement and waste ceases. Besides an increased eye on VA overspending, we must make sure our veterans receive the VA benefits they deserve, great care, timely service, and decrease the massive care backlog. It is my priority to make sure the VA continues to be held accountable on all of these fronts.
Today’s national security begins with our ability to defend our nation’s borders from the flow of illegal traffic. I am an outspoken and positive voice on the issue of border security in the Congress. We must use all tools to reduce potential threats at our border. When I listen to our federal and state officials and officers who are on the front lines of our borders and speak with our border security and immigration offices, I have learned about the challenges and complexities they face on the border. I made three trips along the U.S.-Mexico border during my first term in Congress. It was important to see and understand the complexities of all sections of our southern border and that is why I will continue to participate in border visits.
People from all over the world are traveling to Mexico, discarding their travel documents, crossing the U.S. border, and taking advantage of American goodwill and regulations by using “credible fear” rights of persecution in their home country. I believe we must maintain our status as a beacon of hope for those who would like to flee a life of persecution in another country. However, we must be vigilant to protect Americans here at home and prevent those who are coming to our nation from abusing our laws or causing harm to the American people.
The House of Representatives is considering several bills pertaining to immigration reform. It is of utmost importance and priority that our final immigration bill provides a fair and equitable solution for those individuals in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; reforms our agriculture visa program to make sure those immigrants working in our nation’s agriculture industry are in our country legally; provides for increased security measures along our nation’s southern border; and empowers our border patrol to keep bad actors, such as terrorists or members of transnational gangs, out of our country.
I am an avid outdoorsman and believe that we must protect our public lands, such as National Parks and wilderness, so that our future generations can learn about our nation’s history and see the beauty of our country.
I had this in mind when I introduced H.R. 2611, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Boundary Modification Act, which exemplifies my commitment historic preservation and conservation. The bill passed by a unanimous vote in the House and Senate and was signed by the President. This important bill will help preserve the Central High neighborhood, which will forever stand as a living monument to the Little Rock Nine’s brave actions to integrate Central High School.
I am also working to expand the Flatside Wilderness area, which is located in Perry County in Arkansas’s Second Congressional District. My goal is to make the area more accessible to visitors and ensure Flatside Wilderness remains an integral part of what makes Arkansas – “The Natural State.”