An Arkansan has a newly minted role near the top of Congress’s budget-making hierarchy. U.S. Representative Steve Womack out of northwest Arkansas’s 3rd District is the new chair of the House Budget Committee. Congressman Womack talked with KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman as Friday’s government shutdown looms. Womack also addresses his initial support of the President’s immigration comments about Africa and Haiti.
Take a listen in the link above.
Rep. Womack says he suspects re-authorizing funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will be offered to Senate Democrats in order to get a Continuing Resolution passed to avert a government shutdown. 9 million low-income children nationwide benefit from the program. About 120,000 Arkansas kids benefit. Congressman Womack supported a five-year extension of the program in a November vote.
"The current impasse is in the hands of leadership right now. My guess is there will be some must-pass piece of legislation that will be offered to the Senate. If I were war gaming this situation with a looming deadline on Friday it probably would be CHIP that I would offer up to the Senate in exchange for at least a temporary spending bill to keep the wheels of government turning. "
He doesn't expect a resolution on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to be part of the budget deal. "I don’t think you’re going to see DACA. I think DACA is going to be de-coupled from this entire funding process," says Womack. About 8,000 Arkansans are protected from deportation through the program. 800,000 people participate nationwide.
Womack says he hopes to use his new leadership role in the Budget Committee to offer changes to a "broken" budget process to make it "more relevant to the contemporary political environment." The Republican lawmaker hopes to move forward on those issues after a CR deal is reached. Womack says spending caps have been "catastrophic" to national defense.
President Trump's slur regarding people who come from African nations, Haiti, and El Salvador has factored into complicating government funding talks. Congressman Womack defended the President last week in an interview with a NWA television station.
"I try to look beyond the exact words he uses," Rep. Womack said. "I wish he would choose his words differently and more carefully and vet those." "What I think the president is saying is that if you're only appealing to people from countries that are behind the times, depraved countries, if that's the element that you're appealing to, and of course a lot of those folks are wanting to come to America and pursue the American dream, then he feels like that we should make the same or a better appeal to people from other European countries et cetera that can come in here and actually fit into the society as we know it and do the kinds of things that will make America a prosperous nation," Rep. Womack told 40/29.
But speaking to KUAR, Rep. Womack took a different tact when asked if he stands by his and the President's comments.
"Sometimes it is best not to try to explain what somebody else is thinking. I made some comments about what the President was trying to say and that’s really not my place to do that. You know, the very fact is, this is a very generous country and a lot of people come here for a lot of reasons. I respect that. I don’t think it’s helpful, in fact it’s probably harmful, to get bogged down in discussion about who is better qualified to come here under some kind of immigration policy than others. Let’s just say this, we’ve been a beacon for all and should remain a beacon for all people."
Democratic 3rd District candidate Joshua Mahoney took to social media to slam Womack's initial defense of the President's remarks. Mahoney says Womack was "trafficking in racist comments and playing dog whistle politics."
"Northwest Arkansas is home to a growing and productive immigrant community. Today, Steve Womack basically defended Donald Trump's racist remarks about immigrants from "sh**hole countries." Womack piled on by calling those countries "depraved" and that we should make better appeals to European countries, which is code for "less brown and more white immigrants." Steve Womack is trafficking in racist comments and playing dog whistle politics."