story by Ryan Saylor
The August Recess is over and members of the Arkansas Congressional delegation have returned to Washington.
The topic on nearly everybody's mind as Congress reconvenes appears to be President Barack Obama's request of Congress to authorize military action against the government of Syria. The request is in response to what the Obama administration says is Syria President Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons against his own people recently as part of the nation's multi-year civil war.
But what did members of Congress hear from their constituents when they were home in their districts during the August Recess? What were their constituents' top concerns?
The following are responses received from members of the delegation representing the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas in Congress. Each member was asked by email to explain what issues the majority of constituents wanted to discuss with them during their time at home during the recess. Their full and unedited responses are as follows:
• U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.:
“Agriculture is Arkansas’s top industry. We are serious about job creation in the Natural State, so we must be in tune with the needs of the agriculture economy and our rural communities. Washington’s decisions on agriculture policy will have a dramatic effect on our state’s economy. Our farmers, ranchers, processors, and foresters are concerned about the long-term prospects and the predictability of their business and urging a collaborative effort in agreeing on farm policies.
“I would like to get rid of Obamacare because it adds a tremendous amount to our debt and deficit and it is wasteful spending. We will work to hold the line on reining in spending and reducing the growth of government in the upcoming continuing resolution so we can continue to fund the government and to provide necessary services but we do need to continue efforts to cut back on wasteful programs that are abusing taxpayer dollars.
“Like the majority of Arkansans, I have not been convinced that military engagement in Syria is in our best interest. Arkansans are clearly opposed to our involvement in the country’s civil war and the President has not convinced us that his plans will be effective, that he has an end-game and that we can be confident of the real intentions of the rebels. I will share their concerns with my colleagues as we debate this proposal in the Senate, but as it stand right now, I intend to vote against authorizing U.S. military force.”
• U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle:
"Obamacare was the number one concern Congressman Cotton heard from constituents over the August recess. Arkansans are worried about every aspect of this job-killing legislation –from it's cost, assault on religious freedom, and the impact it will have on their access to care."
• U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.:
“Whether I was touring a manufacturing plant or talking with folks at a local diner, Arkansans told me over and over again that they were concerned about our economy. And I agree. That’s why I’ve been fighting to strengthen our economy by streamlining our regulatory system, boosting our agricultural sector, and ensuring our kids can receive an affordable college education. I’ve always said that the best ideas come from Arkansas. I’ll continue working with folks back home to secure a stronger future for our families.”
• U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers:
“Syria, Obamacare, the size, spending, and role of the government; these are just a few of the many issues with which Third District Arkansans are concerned and shared with me at my town halls during the August work period. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to discuss these issues with my constituents, and I will be mindful of their concerns as I return to Washington.”