Boozman reaches across the aisle for help on his Senate initiatives

In a time when most would say compassionate conservatism is dead, Sen. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanSenate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Dems go on the attack during EPA chief's hearing Bipartisan group of senators ask Trump to fund broadband in infrastructure plan MORE (R-Ark.) isn’t waving the white flag just yet.

Although he opposed President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, he has found areas to work on a bipartisan basis with Senate Democratic colleagues and thinks there are some aspects of government worth investing in.

Serving on the Agriculture and Veterans Affairs committees has given him an opportunity to work with members across the aisle on the new farm bill and the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Modernization Act for veterans.

Boozman teamed up with Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioColbert: Students taking action on gun violence 'give me hope' Lawmakers feel pressure on guns Florida lawmaker's aide fired after claiming shooting survivors were 'actors' MORE (R-Fla.) on the TAP Modernization Act, which will help veterans and their spouses take advantage of benefits to get them back into the workforce after service.

“My dad did 20 years in the Air Force, so I’m very sensitive to veterans’ needs,” Boozman said. “I understand that the benefits that they have are earned benefits and so the Transition Assistance Program is just an effort to really give them the information that they need as they transition from the military back into the private world and make it so they have all the tools they need for a successful transition.

“We’re all working here on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, to make sure that the people who need to get taken care of in the VA system really are being taken care of.”

Boozman’s prior experience as an optometrist has come in handy in the Senate. He has cosigned a letter to Education Secretary Arne DuncanArne Starkey DuncanTrump administration is putting profits over students Chicago to make future plans a graduation requirement: report Top Education official resigned over dispute with DeVos: report MORE with Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn Murray30 million people will experience eating disorders — the CDC needs to help Mulvaney remarks on Trump budget plan spark confusion Overnight Finance: Mulvaney sparks confusion with budget remarks | Trump spars with lawmakers on tariffs | Treasury looks to kill 300 tax regs | Intel chief's warning on debt MORE (D-Wash.) and Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinTrump should require federal contractors to follow the law Orrin Hatch, ‘a tough old bird,’ got a lot done in the Senate Democrats are all talk when it comes to DC statehood MORE (D-Iowa) on braille literacy for the blind

The letter was sent last week with 23 other cosigners.

Many students with disabilities set up an individualized education program, but case managers in schools don’t always encourage braille despite the fact that it may be the best option for some students.

“I understand this very well because I helped a school for the blind in Little Rock and helped them set up their program,” Boozman said. “Right now you have a situation where school districts are really taking care of everybody. Occasionally they have a population that is visually impaired.

“You might be legally blind and that means you couldn’t see a letter at 20 feet — you may not need a cane but you’re still considered legally blind,” said Boozman. “You might hold things a little closer and be able to see fine. But it might be that your vision is so bad that you have to magnify things so much to read that you’re not proficient in reading. 

“If you just see a letter at a time, well in order to read a book, that doesn’t really work, so you can be very proficient in braille and this is an effort for us to really help the schools establish some guidelines as to the direction kids need to go.”

Another area of bipartisanship in the Senate was the Agriculture Committee’s approval of the farm bill before the latest recess. Although Boozman didn’t support the measure in the end, he expects Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake MORE (D-Nev.) to allow a floor vote quickly and looks forward to proposing amendments to help southern farmers.

“Agriculture really is one of the few bright spots that we have in the economy,” Boozman said. “We’re in a situation now where we’ve gotten ourselves dependent on foreign oil, foreign energy supplies and the last thing we want to do is get ourselves in a situation where we’re dependent on foreign agriculture. We’re probably the cheapest nation in the world as far as percentage of paycheck going to our food.

“We talk a lot about protecting the middle class — the people that we want to give opportunities to, those that are struggling — but if you mess around and put in place some policy where food prices increase dramatically, what does that do to single moms, what does that do for people on fixed incomes? Those are the people who really get hurt,” he said.

Boozman also thinks the U.S. Postal Service is something worthy of federal investment. He was one of 13 Senate Republicans to vote for the 21st Century Postal Service Act in a rare show of Senate bipartisanship last month.

“I recognize the fact that I have a lot of rural post offices that don’t necessarily pay for themselves but as a nation we offer some services that don’t pay for themselves,” Boozman said. “I have seniors that are dependent on their medicines and the outside world through the post office.”

After first serving 10 years in the House, Boozman said he’s “enjoying himself” in the Senate but one of his frustrations with the transition has been the slow pace and gridlock there. He prefers to “roll up [his] sleeves and get things done.”

“I think that this is a huge election year and so there is a tendency to want to protect people from tough votes and these are difficult votes,” Boozman said. “You have to do what you think is best for your constituents and what’s best for America but that’s what you’re paid to be up here to do — to take those votes.”