July 26, 2019

WEEK IN REVIEW

ImageTo start off this week’s From the Front, I would like to thank all of the Arkansans who stopped by my Washington office during their visits to our nation’s capital, including the Cook family of Rogers, the Kaelin family of Fort Smith, the Allen family of Fort Smith, the Comstock family of Bentonville, the Vasquez family of Bentonville, Mike Martin of Fort Smith, Greg Johnson of Batesville, Tim Baxter of Little Rock, James Rivers of Greenwood, Jesse McCombs of Lowell, David and Sarah Semrow of Bentonville, and Michel and Danielle Laflamme of Bentonville. Safe travels back to the Natural State!

The House convened and voted on a series of bills, including the Building Blocks of STEM Act (H.R. 1665), American Manufacturing Leadership Act (H.R. 2397), EFFORT Act (H.R. 3153), Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36), Vera Rubin Survey Telescope Designation Act (H.R. 3196), Energy and Water Research ImageIntegration Act of 2019 (H.R. 617), Department of Energy Veteran’s Health Initiative Act (H.R. 617), United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act (H.R. 1837), Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2019 (H.R. 1850), a resolution calling on the Government of Cameroon and armed groups to respect the human rights of all Cameroonian citizens, a resolution to end all violence, and to pursue a broad-based dialogue without preconditions to resolve the conflict in the region (H.Res 358), a bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make all fact sheets of the Department of Veterans Affairs in English, Spanish, and Tagalog (H.R. 2943), a bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out the Women’s Health Transition training pilot program through at least fiscal year 2020, and for other purposes (H.R. 2942), Ryan Kules Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019 (H.R. 3504), HAVEN Act (H.R. 2938), Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (H.R 3311), LEGION Act (S.504), a resolution opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel (H. Res 246), National Guard and Reservists Debt Relief Extension Act of 2019 (H.R. 3304), Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 3409), DISASTER Act (H.R. 1984), Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act of 2019 (H.R 3225), Restore the Harmony Way Bridge ImageAct (H.R. 3245), Post-Disaster Assistance Online Accountability Act (H.R. 1307), Autism CARES Act of 2019 (H.R. 1058), Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 2035), Stopping Bad Robocalls Act (H.R. 3375), PRIDE Act of 2019 (H.R. 3299), Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019 (H.R. 397), Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act (H.R. 3239), a bill to make technical corrections to the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act (H.R. 1365), Emancipation National Historic Trail Study Act (H.R. 434), Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas Equal and Fair Opportunity Settlement Act (H.R. 759), Newborn Screening Saves Lives Re-authorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 2507), PAST Act (H.R. 693), Department of State Authorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 3352), Short-Term Detention Standards Act (H.R. 3670), Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019 (H.R. 2336), Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (H.R. 3877), and the Venezuela TPS Act of 2019 (H.R. 549).

ImageOne of the most fundamental duties of Congress is to fund the government. I’m pleased that after months of uncertainty, a budget agreement has been reached thanks to the work of President Trump, his cabinet, and House and Senate Leadership. While this legislation was far from perfect, it brings much needed certainty and prevents the U.S. from defaulting on our national debt. I remain concerned about the spending levels and the lack of meaningful offsets that will impact our deficits and debt.

The principal reasons I supported this deal were that the President asked for a yes vote, it prevents sequestration, provides necessary resources for our men and women in uniform - and our veterans, and includes no poison pill provisions.  

To go a little more in-depth, the agreement takes off the table the chaos of another government shutdown, uncertainty of continuing resolutions, and the risk of a debt default. It doubles-down on our commitment to serving and protecting the American people by enhancing U.S. defense capabilities and ensuring our courageous troops have the resources they need to deter, fight, and win.

ImageIt was not long ago that our military was in the midst of a readiness crisis. There was a lot of damage done to our military during the Obama Administration, and we are trying to buy back America's military readiness. That was a critical part of my vote. As a 30-year veteran of the Arkansas Army National Guard, Chairman of the West Point Board of Visitors, and with the rise of threats across the globe - I could not allow for the threat of a sequester, which would devastate national security, to loom. The compromise also included big concessions from Speaker Pelosi. It blocked Democrat poison pill riders, upholds the pro-life Hyde Amendment, and maintains the President’s authority to address national security issues.

The bill should have done better when it came to offsets that help address our debts and deficits. I feel strongly that Congress must address the looming crisis of our debt for our children and grandchildren, but I also recognize a certain reality that is being overlooked.

ImageA decade ago we were spending $1.3 trillion on discretionary spending and $2.1 trillion on mandatory spending. Under this legislation, discretionary spending would be about $1.4 trillion next year, an increase of $114 billion. Meanwhile, mandatory spending would increase by $1.2 trillion, reaching $3.3 trillion. Mandatory spending growth is ten times as much. 

We have unfortunately dedicated too much time and attention to annual appropriations, and ignored autopilot mandatory spending, which is the real driver of our growing debt. Moving forward, lawmakers need to get serious about reining in deficit spending. This can be accomplished only if Congress examines mandatory spending, the largest and fastest-growing budgetary category. I highlighted these facts while I co-managed the bill on the floor on Thursday (watch my remarks).

ImageSo again, this bill wasn’t perfect - no compromise is. But under a divided government, this was the best option available. I was proud to support President Trump and this bipartisan agreement. I hope we can now move forward to address some of our other challenges, like focusing on mandatory spending, passing the USMCA, reforming our immigration system, and advancing an infrastructure package when we return from August recess.

In between the busy legislative calendar, I also had productive meetings with Arkansans and other organizations. It was great to meet with University of Arkansas representatives to talk about the Fulbright Program. The Fulbright College and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board work to preserve and advance Senator James William Fulbright’s (D-AR) legacy of peace through education. Amazing to think how the nationally recognized program was conceptualized by a U.S. Senator from the Great State of ImageArkansas! This week, I spoke to members of the Arkansas Farm Credit about the importance of the USMCA and also talked about the budget and appropriations process. Agriculture is critical to the strength of the Third District and our state, and I am proud that Farm Credit of Western Arkansas is located in Russellville! I also met with the Arkansas Soybean Association. We had in-depth discussions about tariffs, the impacts of recent floods, biodiesel, trade, and biotech issues. I then had the opportunity to meet with Arkansas members from the Future Farmers of America. I appreciated talking with their representatives from Harrison, Siloam Springs, and Batesville about agriculture education. 

ImageWith votes and meetings wrapped up, I made my way to the airport today to head back to the Third District. I had the privilege of speaking to Navy Ensign Justin Lee Archer before our flight. He was just commissioned this morning in Newport, Rhode Island and is a 2006 graduate of Elkins High School. He’s taken an oath to defend our nation and all that it stands for, no matter the sacrifice. Arkansas thanks him for his service!

I am looking forward to getting back to the Natural State and spending time throughout our great district in the coming weeks. I hope to see you around at one of my upcoming town halls, Coffee with the Congressman meetings, or events around AR-3, which will be announced in the coming days. Remember to keep an eye on my website or check out my Twitter and Instagram pages to stay up-to-date with the latest news from the Third District and Washington. Wishing you a great weekend!

From the front...


Congressman Steve Womack
Arkansas Third District

 

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