The decision by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Thursday to drop out of the Speaker’s race capped a big week on Capitol Hill in which Arkansas lawmakers also marked a key milestone in the state’s history.
The following is a breakdown of the week that was in Washington, D.C.:
McCARTHY TURNS DOWN SPEAKER BID, DELEGATION RESPONDS
All four members of the House delegation on Thursday expressed some shock as McCarthy made his announcement during a House Republican Caucus meeting.
McCarthy said, “I am not the one,” Roll Call reported during the meeting. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, resigned Sept. 25 after catching flack from conservatives in the House over a perceived lack of action on major issues.
U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said the announcement Thursday provides a new opportunity for the GOP.
“There are over 240 Republicans in Congress, and I have no doubt we will take this additional time to find a solid conservative who is ready to lead us in our mission to reduce the size of government and promote an economic environment where all Americans can prosper,” Hill said. “I will examine all candidates for Speaker and then vote for the person most committed to advancing policies that enhance economic growth and oppose policies that hurt our national security, our consumers, and the millions of Americans that want a full-time job.”
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said McCarthy made the right decision.
“Most were surprised by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s announcement, but he said it was in the best interest of the Republican conference and our work in the House of Representatives. Kevin said he was not able to unite our conference and therefore, he was not the right guy for the job,” Westerman said in a statement.
There are two announced candidates for speaker – U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Daniel Webster, R-Fla. However, there are reports that lawmakers were attempting to recruit U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., for the job. Ryan has said he is not interested in the House’s top post.
CRAWFORD INTRODUCES CUBA AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS ACT
A bill from U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, would work to help change the prohibition on American assistance and financing for certain types of exports for Cuba, under a bill filed Tuesday. Crawford introduced the bill, with House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.
The bill will provide limited American investment in agricultural businesses in Cuba, as long as the company is privately owned and run by Cuba.
“While the administration has called on Congress to repeal the embargo entirely, I think the correct approach is to make cautious and incremental changes to current Cuba policies in ways that benefit the United States. The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act would allow our producers to compete on a level playing field in the Cuban market, a significant opportunity for American farmers and ranchers,” Crawford said.
Under the bill, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act would provide new economic opportunities and jobs for America’s agriculture industry by providing access to a market that is valued at more than $1 billion per year, Crawford said. The bill would also enable limited American investment in Cuban agribusinesses, as long as stateside regulators certify the entity is privately-owned and not controlled by the government of Cuba, or its agents.
SEN. COTTON: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE NEEDS REFORMING
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said this week the federal Social Security Disability Insurance program is in need of financial reform. In a guest column for Talk Business and Politics, Cotton said the program faces several key hurdles in providing a service to 140,000 permanently and temporarily disabled workers.
“While SSDI is an important program that can provide last resort relief to the truly disabled, the program is in trouble. Since 2009, SSDI has paid out $155 billion more than it has taken in, and the SSDI trust fund is on a path to run out next year. Unless Congress acts, every Arkansan receiving SSDI benefits will see a 19% cut in benefits. This will mean the average beneficiary will receive $230 less per month, moving from barely above to below the poverty line.
“Another challenge is that the SSDI program no longer helps the temporary disabled return to work. SSDI doesn’t require applicants to be permanently disabled to enter the program – only to have a disability lasting longer than one year,” Cotton said.
BOOZMAN, HILL CELEBRATE 60TH BIRTHDAY OF LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE
On Friday, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, honored the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Air Force Base. On the House floor, Hill said the base has provided a strong mission in the defense of the country.
“I rise today to honor the men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base and the surrounding communities for their 60 years of dedicated service and sacrifice to the defense of our nation. In its long history it has had many important missions, including reconnaissance and bombers, and is now known as the C-130 capitol of the world,” Hill said.
“Little Rock Air Force Base is one of the most technologically advanced and well-run military installations in the entire country and, in my view, is clearly a center of excellence for our global airlift operations. It is the tactical airlift ‘Center of Excellence’ and trains aircrew members from our three services and more than 40 nations. The base builds the foundation of America’s combat airlift capability and trains the world’s best airlifters to ‘fly, fight, and win,’” Hill added.