Arkansas’ federal lawmakers discussed the 2016 congressional budget as well as honored Arkansans for their service and sacrifice.
Sen. Tom Cotton and his wife, Anna, also welcomed a bouncing, baby boy to the world this week, but that didn’t stop the state’s junior senator from having a high-profile debate with Iran’s foreign minister.
COTTON, WIFE BECOME PARENTS
On Tuesday, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., took to social media to announce the birth of his first child.
“Happy to report Anna and I welcomed baby boy Cotton to the world last night! Mom and baby are healthy and happy. We are so blessed,” Cotton posted on Twitter Tuesday morning.
Cotton, who was sworn in in January, later went to Twitter to announce the baby’s name.
“Hello, world! Since everyone is asking, my name is Gabriel,” Cotton posted.
COTTON: OVERSIGHT NEEDED IN IRAN DEAL
On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., criticized comments made by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif about lifting sanctions against the Middle Eastern country.
“President Obama promised sanctions would only be lifted when Iran’s compliance with restrictions on their nuclear program were verified. But earlier today, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif once again contradicted the President’s interpretation saying: ‘If we have an agreement on the 30th of June, within a few days after that, there will be a resolution before the UN Security Council under Article 41 of Chapter 7 which will be mandatory for all member states whether Senator Cotton likes it or not.”
“Sanctions relief isn’t about what I like, but what will keep America safe from a nuclear-armed Iran. But I suspect Foreign Minister Zarif is saying what President Obama will not because the President knows such terms would be unacceptable to both Congress and the American people. The repeated provocative statements made by members of the Iranian leadership demonstrate why Iran cannot be trusted and why the President’s decision to pursue this deal and grant dangerous concessions to Iran was ill-advised from the beginning. These aren’t rhetorical tricks aimed at appealing to hard-liners in Iran; after all, Mr. Zarif was speaking in English in New York. Rather, they foreshadow the dangerous posture Iran will take and has taken repeatedly — including as recently as yesterday with the interception of a U.S.-affiliated cargo ship — if this deal moves forward.
“More, they reaffirm the need for Congress to approve any final deal and to conduct oversight over the Obama Administration’s actions. As we consider the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, I urge my colleagues to ensure we pass legislation strong enough to stop a bad deal in its tracks and protect the American people from a nuclear Iran,” Cotton said.
Cotton and Zarif traded exchanges on Twitter in the aftermath of the speech.
HOUSE APPROVES CONFERENCE REPORT ON BUDGET
The House of Representatives was busy on Thursday, approving a conference report on a Senate resolution dealing with the congressional budget.
The House voted 226-197 to set the budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts Oct. 1 and forecasts budget levels for Fiscal Years 2017 through 2025.
Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said the non-binding resolution provides a blueprint for the future.
“The House cleared the final hurdle on the grueling road towards passing a budget. Now, for the first time in nearly 14 years, the House and Senate will pass a 10-year balanced budget that sets the stage to send a full repeal of the President’s healthcare law to the President’s desk. By passing this balanced budget that eliminates wasteful government spending, repeals Obamacare, preserves Social Security and Medicare for current beneficiaries and future generations, and commits to providing a strong national defense, we are helping hardworking families thrive in America and putting our Nation back on the path to prosperity,” Hill said.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, echoed the statement.
“With the passage tonight of the joint budget resolution in the House, Congress has taken an important first step to fiscal sanity. This is a first step because our work is not done. Just as it has taken America a long time to get $18 trillion in debt, it will take us a long time to get out of that hole. This budget will balance in the next decade while producing $5.1 trillion in savings. At the same time, it includes workforce requirements for entitlement programs that will put able-bodied, working age adults back to work so the federal government will no longer give a hand out, but a hand up to Americans who are in temporary need of help. I commend Chairman (Tom) Price (R-Georgia) and the members of the conference committee from the House and Senate on this great accomplishment,” Westerman, who serves on the House Budget Committee, said.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said the resolution made history.
“When I was elected to Congress, I made a commitment to Third District Arkansans to cut spending and to make the necessary reforms to put our nation’s finances on a sustainable path; passing a budget resolution is essential to this process. But passing the budget resolution we have today – the first 10-year balanced budget approved by both chambers since 2001 – reflects our commitment to working together to take the important and necessary steps to get America back on track and ensure that we are not only spending responsibly, purposefully, and within our means, just like families across the Third District, but also leaving our country better than we found it for our children and grandchildren. I was proud to support it,” Womack said.
Hill, Westerman and Womack voted yes on the resolution, while Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro voted no.
HILL REMEMBERS ANNIVERSARY OF CENTRAL ARKANSAS TORNADOES
On Thursday, Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, spoke on the House floor about the anniversary of a tornado that hit Mayflower, Vilonia and Paron.
The following is what Hill said Thursday:
“This past Monday, April 27, marked the one-year anniversary of the devastation that occurred when a tornado struck the Mayflower, Vilonia, and Paron communities, destroying more than 400 homes and costing 16 people their lives. The theme of this year’s anniversary is, ‘Remember our loss; celebrate our recovery,’ and I have had the opportunity to visit with folks in these communities to hear their stories of courage and resilience,” Hill said.
Hill also honored the work of local residents during the trying aftermath.
“While I mourn those lost, I am thankful for the health and safety of Martin and Kristin Patton, and the miraculous survival of their family whose home literally disintegrated around them. I am thankful of the leadership of Vilonia Mayor James Firestone and Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland, who, with county and local leaders, are charting toward the future. In the face of tragedy, they furnish us with an inspirational model of solidarity and hope. I applaud the recovery efforts and dedication of these great Arkansas communities.”
HAMMERSCHMIDT HONORED FOR SERVICE TO NATION
The four members of Arkansas’ U.S. House delegation honored a former lawmaker this week for his work on behalf of the state and nation.
Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro; French Hill, R-Little Rock; Steve Womack, R-Rogers; and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, paid tribute to John Paul Hammerschmidt.
Hammerschmidt, who served as third district representative from 1967 to 1993, died April 1 at the age of 92.
BOOZMAN TOURS NEA
On Friday, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., toured the Big River Steel superproject near Osceola and spoke with officials about the $1.3 billion project.
Boozman, who serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he was impressed by the scale of the project already under construction.
Osceola has seen somewhat of a renaissance in the past year or so, with construction at the mill and several other projects underway.
In addition to visiting Osceola, Boozman also spoke at the annual Airfield Reunion dinner Friday night in Walnut Ridge.