Congressman Bruce Westerman

Washington
209 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3772
Fax: (202) 225-1314

Bruce’s Take

December 3, 2021

Though the House passed a number of bills this week, the one many of you have reached out to my office with concerns about is H.R. 550, the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act. Contrary to some media reports, the bill does not create, fund, or support a government-run vaccine passport system, nor does it give the federal government any new information regarding the vaccine status of individuals.

H.R. 550 would allow $400 million in already authorized spending at the Department and Health of Human Services to provide grants to state governments to improve and expand the information data security of state-controlled Immunization Information Systems (IIS), like Arkansas’ system. With so many bad actors – individuals and hostile governments like Russia, China, and North Korea – constantly trying to steal sensitive information or exploit holes in data security, the bill is meant to help close those holes and protect our health information.

Additionally, this bill actually prevents abuse of power by the Biden Administration. Earlier this year, Democrats authorized millions of dollars in the American Rescue Plan to “improve IIS,” but included little to no language defining what that meant. H.R. 550 corrects this glaring omission by Congressional Democrats by outlining exactly how IIS should be improved and preventing taxpayer dollars from being used for anything outside of strict data security modernization.

IIS has existed for years in almost every state, including Arkansas, and it has never been, nor would I ever support it becoming a vaccine tracking database where the government can share your personal information with others or harass you about your vaccine status.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, I encourage you to call my office. My staff and I are happy to address any concerns or answer any questions you may have.

November 19, 2021

Today, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s multi trillion-dollar reconciliation bill designed to remake America in their image, giving the government control of American lives from the cradle to the grave. The last-minute Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score estimates this bill will increase the deficit by over $350 billion, but even more damaging are the threats to the foundations of our freedom by this bill’s radical leftist policies.

Joe Biden may consider this bill the hallmark of his presidency, but I consider it a black mark and a sad day for the American people. This bill will result in government intrusion, more taxes, higher prices, empty shelves, and wasted opportunities. Democrats are choosing to ignore the CBO’s score, spending money we do not have to create programs the American people do not want, much less need.

November 12, 2021

As we celebrate our nation’s veterans this week, I hope we will all pause and count the many blessings we have in this country because of the sacrifices of others. We are fortunate to live in the United States of America, but our freedom does not come without a cost.

Our veterans have served our country with honor, sacrificing time with family and loved ones back home. To our veterans and families of veterans, thank you for your service.

Those who have served our country deserve the best when they return home. This year, I was proud to vote “yes” on the Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act . This bill will allow veterans and Gold Star Families free access to our national parks and forests. After time spent fighting for the land of the free, the least we can do is guarantee free access to these lands for veterans and their families.

 

Veterans History Project

The Veterans History Project is the largest oral history project in U.S. History. The Library of Congress collects items and narratives, including videos, written memories, tape recordings, correspondence, and visual materials. If you or a veteran you know would like to contribute to the Veterans History Project, please reach out to my office at (501) 609-9796. We would be happy to assist you. For more information or to hear stories from veterans, visit the Veterans History Project website .

 

November 5, 2021

Greetings,

It’s Groundhog Day here in the House. For weeks now, Democrats have promised that today was the day to pass their massive spending packages, announcing a vote would be called but ultimately leaving us hanging as they sorted out their own politics. Late last night, House Democrats released a new version of the reconciliation bill that is nearly 2,100 pages long and announced we would hold a vote today.

The Congressional Budget Office, which is the non-partisan scorekeeper that tells Congress what the legislation will cost, won’t be able to score the bill for weeks. This is a critical step in the budget process, and Democrats are racing to skip it because they don’t really want to know how much debt they’re going to impose on the American people. A massive piece of legislation like this one should not be rushed and processes should not be ignored.

Even without a complete score, we know this legislation would result in a rise in inflation, the government competing with the private sector for jobs, and bankrupt our economy. Americans are already hurting from higher prices on everything from gasoline to groceries, and the last thing we need is to worsen the struggle harder for hard-working Arkansans.

If we ever get to actually vote on the Democrats’ bloated, nearly $2 trillion bill, I will vote “no.” The American people deserve better than Groundhog Day! This bill is no way to run a country.

Until next week,

October 29, 2021

It is no secret that President Biden’s economic spending plan is full of disastrous policies that will wreck our economy.

While this bill is stuffed with destructive items, it is important to note what it excludes – the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is a nearly 45-year-old bipartisan protection of pro-life Americans to prevent federal funds from paying for abortions.  President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have caved to the Progressive wing of their party and, through  this bill, that protection will end.

Leaving it out of this year’s legislation puts millions of lives at risk and force millions of Americans to pay for the abortions of others. This is a severe betrayal of those who strongly believe that abortion ends the life of a child. As a nation, we have come so far from the pro-abortion mantra of “safe, legal, and rare” to now “routine, encouraged, and federally funded.”

Biden claims he wants to “Build Back Better.” Funding abortion with federal taxpayer dollars will tear us apart. Every life is valuable. Every life should be protected. It is crystal clear where Democrats’ priorities lie.

October 21, 2021

This week, I led the House Arkansas Congressional Delegation in a letter to the Department of Education strongly opposing any Federal vaccine mandates on schools.

Through its previous actions, the Biden Administration has demonstrated that it supports federal vaccine mandates without regard for the liberties of individuals and businesses. I consider this to be blatant overreach.  As the Administration considers implementing a similar mandate on schools, I wanted to ensure Arkansas’ voice was heard on the issue.

Daily Caller has the exclusive. Read more below.

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By: Henry Rodgers

Republican Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman and a group of House Republicans sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, expressing their opposition to a federal vaccine mandate for public school students.

Westerman spearheaded the letter, first obtained by the Daily Caller, and was joined by Republican Arkansas Reps. Steve Womack, French Hill and Rick Crawford. In the letter, the lawmakers say parents should be responsible for making decisions they believe are best for their children and that the Department of Education should not pursue a federal vaccine mandate for students.

“I led this letter to Secretary Cardona with the Arkansas House delegation to express our opposition to any kind of federal vaccine mandate the DOE may consider for public school students. These issues have historically, and properly, resided with states and local school boards. Parents should always be empowered to do what they believe is best for their children, and are able to directly hold local school boards and state officials accountable for their actions,” Westerman told the Daily Caller before sending the letter.

“America’s school children have been through an incredibly challenging two years. Arkansas’ schools have been a shining example of safely reopening without any intervention necessary from the federal government. It would be a mistake for the Department of Education to pursue a federal vaccine mandate,” Westerman added.

In the Senate, a group of Republicans introduced legislation that would protect Americans’ personal health records and prohibit a number of federal agencies from requiring proof of vaccination or the use of a vaccine passport.

In late August, Biden urged more private sector companies to impose vaccine requirements after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer vaccine.

The Pentagon will require all military service members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

#ARChamberWeek

It was great to visit with the Arkansas State Chamber during their annual meeting in Washington, D.C. We discussed a variety of issues that impact our local and national economies including labor shortages, supply chain bottlenecks, immigration, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Spring Internships

Applications for Spring Internships are now open! Join my team in our nation’s Capital to learn more about our government and how we serve the Fourth District of Arkansas. Send a resume and cover to Will Matney at William.Matney@mail.house.gov.

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October 15, 2021

President Biden has created and ignored multiple crises in our country. Many of them go hand-in-hand, creating a perfect circle of problems that is impossible to escape from without significant policy changes. Unfortunately, President Biden is sitting on the sidelines while hardworking Americans pay the price.

Let’s start with the labor shortage. President Biden paid millions of Americans to stay home and not come to work. What are we facing now? 4.3 million Americans have quit their jobs, and our workforce is slacking. A simple walk down main street will testify to the severity of the problem.

This leads to a breakdown in supply chain. Without a proper workforce, the supply chain can’t meet demand. Our transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing industries are suffering.

Without enough workers, industries are not able to generate enough product to meet demand or transport what they produce to the consumer. When demand is high and supply is low, prices rise, and the result is inflation. Working families have felt the sting of rising prices everywhere from the grocery store checkout line to the gas pump. Inflation is now at its highest in 13 years and Federal Reserve officials warn it could stick around much longer than they thought.

Biden has shut off domestic supplies and placed a reliance on foreign goods such as gas. But with not enough transportation workers, these goods can’t make it to shore. Inflation is taxation on working families, not a “high class problem” like Biden’s Chief of Staff claims.

It’s like we’re running on a hamster wheel that won’t slow down. Americans deserve better.

October 7, 2021

My annual agriculture tour of the Fourth District is one of the best weeks of the year. I get the chance to travel the district end to end and meet with some of the hardest working men and women who keep America on her feet.

All the people I’ve met with, from business owners to employees, have an important lesson to teach about their daily lives that I can take back with me to Washington. Too often, Washington doesn’t realize the consequences of its policies on hard-working Americans outside the Capital Beltway, and trips like these are the antidote to that poison.

At every stop, I heard from owners and farmers how supply chain and labor shortage issues have detrimentally strained their businesses. Labor shortages and rising inflation are choking our farmers, and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. are not helping. The massive spending bills being considered by Congress will only exacerbate the already desperate situation. As money is poured into the economy and folks continue to choose not to work, farmers will be forced to raise their prices or go out of business.

This wasteful spending will have disastrous consequences far beyond what any politician in Washington can imagine. The inflation felt by consumers now will be nothing compared to what is to come.

I am wholeheartedly against the $4.3 trillion reconciliation bill and the $1.2 trillion  “Bipartisan” Infrastructure Bill. I call on my colleagues to consider the true cost of what they propose. It is not “zero dollars” as President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi claim. These bills will cost people their livelihoods.

October 1, 2021

To say I am frustrated with the appropriations process would be an understatement. Congress has a responsibility to fund the government. We need to do this through the regular order process, which allows us time to ensure our taxpayer dollars are used in the best way possible.

Unfortunately, that was not the case this year. It hasn’t been the case for several years, but you can read more on the history of that here . Both Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have failed our country by ignoring these processes, refusing to pass appropriations bills, and placing partisan poison pills in them. Their solution to a problem they created? Pass the buck on government funding to December 3rd.

The reality is, this “solution” to a problem they created won’t help. Rather than delay a government funding process for political purposes, our leaders in Congress need to follow appropriate procedures and take care of business on time, by the start of the fiscal year.

For these reasons, I voted “no” on the continuing resolution this week. The American people deserve better.

Until next week,

September 24, 2021

The founding principle of the United States is that Americans are guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. House Democrats are stripping America’s most vulnerable citizens of the right to life by passing a bill with the erroneous title of the “Women’s Health Protection Act.” A better name for this legislation is the  “Abortion on Demand Until Birth Act.”

This extremist policy will create a national standard allowing abortions for any reason and at any stage of pregnancy, even up until birth. This includes discriminatory abortion on the basis of sex, race, and disability. Americans have long believed that all people are created equal. How can pro-abortion Democrats claim to support that fundamental, American, moral law and still justify abortions that directly discriminate against a child before he or she is even given a chance at a life? Children with disabilities aren’t less than those born with normal abilities. Baby girls aren’t inherently less important than baby boys. And children of all races deserve the opportunity to succeed. Promoting abortion on demand for any reason is a sickening display of blatant discrimination.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, this bill will override pro-life laws in states like Arkansas and prohibit new legislation that would protect unborn children. This is federal government overreach at its worst. I can not emphasize enough how much I oppose this legislation. Every American deserves a chance at life. I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless and work towards policy that gives every unborn child the rights they can’t fight for themselves.

September 17, 2021

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure marked up its portion of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package. The major takeaway- House Democrats have their priorities all wrong.

We have all experienced increased prices at the gas pump after President Biden closed the Keystone Pipeline and banned new oil and gas leases on federal lands. Since then, the Biden Administration has asked the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase oil production to help lower our costs. I offered an amendment that would force the U.S. to use our own resources before begging Russia and Iran for a bailout. Unfortunately, it was rejected.

To top it off, a luxury golf course and country club in Speaker Pelosi’s district will receive $200 million from this spending package. Hurricane Ida recovery efforts? $0. I will continue to work strategically with my colleagues against outlandish legislation like this. It is not right, and it is certainly not fair to hardworking taxpayers.

September 10, 2021

I had the pleasure of hosting several “Coffee with Your Congressman” events in Arkansas this week. It was wonderful to hear feedback on issues happening in D.C. and answer questions from participants ranging from the crisis in Afghanistan, employment issues, budget reconciliation, and inflation. These are all incredibly relevant topics that impact each of us in different ways.

One theme was consistent in the feedback I received – people are frustrated with the Democrats reckless spending and poor prioritization of issues. For example, I went back to D.C. at the end of this week to markup a piece of legislation that would spend billions of dollars on government programs that would kill existing industries. What my colleagues across the aisle don’t seem to realize is that many industries are already suffering because they can’t find people to come to work. Why would they want to make it harder for those businesses by adding government jobs to the competition? At each meeting I attended this week, this was a top issue.

Congress should be focused on the myriad of crisis’ our country is facing including Afghanistan, inflation, crime, and our southern border. We can’t hold these discussions on the House Floor without her opening the floor itself. Instead, Democrats are spending time out of D.C., marking up bills that will kill our economy, seemingly without concern for Americans attempting to return home from Taliban territory and addressing rising prices, rampant crime, and an overflowing southern border.

If you’re scratching your head on this, I understand. I’m right there with you. I will continue to work on policy that betters our economy, keeps Americans safe, and brings prosperity to our nation, and fight against anything that does the opposite.

September 3, 2021

I joined Sen. John Boozman on his annual agriculture tour this week. We made stops in Booneville, Charleston, Lonsdale, Malvern and Arkadelphia to visit with farmers, ranchers, and agriculture manufacturers.

Agriculture is the top economic driver in Arkansas, and there is so much good work that happens right in the Fourth District. That’s because of the fantastic people that are behind these operations. Their work isn’t easy, but it is incredibly important. I am grateful to Sen. Boozman for including me on his tour. Read more about the visits below.

Annual Agriculture Tour

First stop – Pendergrass Cattle Co. in Charleston. The Pendergrass family was so kind to open their operation for a round table discussion with local stakeholders and ranchers. It was great to hear from representatives of the Farm Journal Foundation, Tyson Foods, Riceland Foods, and Arkansas Farm Bureau.

From there, we drove south to Booneville and toured the USDA Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center. They are working on some great projects with GPS tracking for tractors and livestock collars. It really is amazing how modern technology allows innovation to better meet the needs of farmers and ranchers.

Day two kicked off in Lonsdale at the Farm at Barefoot Bend. This veteran-owned and operated family farm raises grass-fed cattle, organic pork, poultry and eggs. Owners Damon and Jana Helton are passionate about encouraging veterans in agriculture.

From there, we drove to Malvern for a tour of Seguin Moreau USA Cooperage. It may not come first to mind, but timber plays an important role in agriculture, and Arkansas has a great timber industry. At Seguin Moreau, white oak timber is used for barrels for wine and spirits.

It was great to visit with students at Centerpoint High School in Amity. These students are fortunate to learn about the agriculture industry firsthand- they have a meat processing facility on campus they can utilize.

Last, but certainly not least, we toured Helms Dairy Farm in Arkadelphia, one of the last operating dairy farms in the state. Thank you for having us!

Next week I will be traveling around the Fourth District hosting a series of Coffee with Your Congressman events. With all that has happened in Washington, D.C. and around the world, folks have a lot of questions about where to go from here. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person, discussing these issues, and answering any questions.

Find all details below. See you there!

August 30, 2021

We have seen a continued failure in leadership from President Biden as our country scrambles to leave Afghanistan. Americans have been trapped and left behind and poor policy has led to the deaths of 13 of our troops. It is a disgrace that we are treating our servicemen, citizens, and allies like this. It is completely unacceptable.

Simply put, our country deserves better. This President and his Administration have dodged questions, given little information, and redirected course too many times. I demand answers and I demand that we do not leave the country until every American is found and brought safely home.

August 20, 2021

President Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has resulted in chaos. We have seen updates stream onto our televisions and phone screens showing the devastating scenes in Kabul for the past week. This is a disgrace to the service members who were lost or wounded in combat in Afghanistan over the last 20 years. Now, American lives are at risk. You can read my full statement here.

It’s in these devastating times that we are able to reflect on how lucky we are to live in the land of the free. That freedom doesn’t come without a cost. I hope the veterans and families of those lost in Afghanistan understand how grateful we are for their service to our country over the last 20 years. It is a blessing to live in the United States of America, and not to be taken for granted.

August 13, 2021

It is a hot week in Arkansas’ Fourth District, but that hasn’t stopped my staff and I from getting out and about during the August recess. The week kicked off in Pine Bluff with stops downtown at Go Forward Pine Bluff and the Jefferson County Alliance, along with Chapel Pharmacy. There are so many exciting developments happening in the area.



While in Pine Bluff, I joined the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. NCTR employs nearly 700 people across 17 counties and contributes $70 million to the economy. Their partnership with the state of Arkansas and the Food and Drug Administration has allowed critical research projects that impact millions of Americans lives.

To commemorate this important work, I joined the Arkansas congressional delegation to introduce a resolution in the House and the Senate celebrating 50 years of NCTR. There are many opportunities ahead, and I look forward to seeing the innovative research and projects to come.

July 6, 2021

I recently lead a congressional delegation to McAllen, TX to see the results of the immigration crisis happening at our southern border. What we witnessed was shocking.

The make-shift facility we visited encounters roughly 4,000 migrants per day. The Border Patrol agents were completely overwhelmed and outnumbered. The stories of human trafficking victim’s abuse by the cartels were heartbreaking. These evil cartels have created a multi-billion dollar industry that exploits children and families, and our Border Patrol does not have the capacity to address it.

The clear solution is a barrier along our southern border, a measure I have always supported. The barrier would direct migrants to multiple access points so agents can easily process migrants and uncover any drug and human trafficking. We also need a more effective legal immigration system based on merit and the needs of the American economy to properly and efficiently allow as many legal immigrants as possible.

So many of these immigrants are looking for a better way of life away from the violence of the cartels and the abject poverty of their homelands, and I am grateful that we have a nation that is so attractive to others, but we cannot allow lawlessness to overwhelm our borders where drug smuggling and human trafficking go unchecked.

Until next week,

July 30, 2021

As you may be aware, this week the CDC reversed its guidance on mask usage for vaccinated individuals, and many cities across the country are reinstating mask requirements for indoor areas.

I understand the frustrations surrounding this news and the confusion that comes with it. What is even more frustrating is the hypocrisy in how the Administration is handling Coronavirus at the border versus within the nation it represents.

Last weekend, I visited the southern border in South Texas. While there, I witnessed hundreds of people illegally enter our country, be held in DHS funded centers, and released to our country with no COVID test or vaccine. These people were hopping on planes to the destination of their choice at the taxpayer expense, all with an unknown COVID protection status.

If our government is going to implement restrictions on its citizens, it must be consistent in its policies with non-citizens. It is unfair to our country to be so reckless. The crisis at our border is real. I will share more in next week’s update.

July 23, 2021

Lately there are a few phrases I hear time and time again – “I can’t believe gas costs this much,” or “My grocery bill is not normally this high.” Prices for everything are skyrocketing, all thanks to President Biden’s reckless increases in government spending.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

  • Gas prices are up 45.1%
  • Car rentals are up 87.7%
  • Hotels are up 16.9%
  • Milk is up 5.6%
  • Fruit is up 7.3%
  • Bacon is up 8.4%

This is a real problem, and we are all suffering the consequences. And at the rate President Biden is forking out cash, we are just getting started. This is hurting small businesses, consumers, and in turn, our communities.

Inflation is taxation, plain and simple.

Until next week,

July 19, 2021

As your congressman, one of the most important parts of my job is helping you navigate federal agencies. Over the past few months, I’ve heard from many constituents who have experienced delays in receiving their individual tax refund and Economic Impact Payments (EIP).

Those who were eligible for the first and second EIPs but did not receive them in the initial disbursements were allowed to claim them as a Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax returns. As of May 15, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had 16.4 million unprocessed individual returns in the processing pipeline. The extra layers of verification required to ensure the Recovery Rebates are issued properly, coupled with labor shortages and COVID-19 protocols at the IRS, has created this backlog of refunds and rebates which results in slower processing time. When waiting on your refund and Recovery Rebate, please utilize the following information and resources regarding updated processing times:

  • The IRS is still disbursing the third round of EIPs, and most receive their third EIP when their 2020 tax refund processes.
  • To check on the status of your third EIP, please visit the IRS’s Get My Payment website.
  • If you are not claiming a Recovery Rebate on your tax return, you should receive your tax refund within 21 days of submitting your return.
  • If you are claiming a Recovery Rebate, it could take more than 60 days for the IRS to issue your refund and Recovery Rebate.
  • Your Recovery Rebate could be delayed due to errors on your application, missing information, or suspected identity theft or fraud. If the IRS contacts you to resolve errors, the resolution of these issues depends in part on how quickly and accurately you respond.
  • I encourage you to continue to check Where’s My Refund? for your personalized refund status and review Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions for additional information.

If you are having trouble inquiring with the IRS regarding the status of your third EIP, Recovery Rebate, or tax refund, please contact my Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. Please visit my website at westerman.house.gov for a complete list of areas in which we can help, or to sign up for my weekly newsletter. If you need assistance with any federal agency, please contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796. It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas.

Over the past few months, I have heard from many constituents looking to apply for or renew passports now that international travel restrictions have loosened thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine. This influx of passport applications coupled with labor shortages and COVID-19 protocols at the U.S. State Department has created a backlog of applications and slower processing time. To ensure your international travel plans are not disturbed, please follow these best practices:

  • If traveling within the next three months, start the process of applying for a passport or passport renewal as soon as possible, and select the expedited and overnight mail options.
  • If traveling within two weeks and you have not started the process of applying for a passport, please request an in-person appointment at any available passport facility. The appointment must be booked for a day and time within three days of your travel date. Please note: new appointment times are released daily, so I recommend refreshing the page until an appointment time displays on the website.
  • If you are within two weeks of your travel date and have not received your passport, please request the in-person appointment at any available passport facility.
  • Generally, you should not rely on an appointment to receive a passport. Please plan around the processing times outlined on travel.state.gov/passports.
  • To check on the status of your passport application, please visit the State Department’s website. If the information is not available, or you need help checking on the status, please contact my office with your passport locator number, date of travel, reason for travel, and application date.
  • Please keep in mind that many destinations and airlines require six months remaining passport validity for international travel.

Please visit my website at westerman.house.gov for a complete list of areas in which we can help, or to sign up for my weekly newsletter. If you need assistance with any federal agency, please contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas.

July 16, 2021

Great news out of Washington, D.C. this week! The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reversed their proposal that would have raised the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) population threshold from 50,000 to 100,000 people. This would have stripped 144 cities including Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, and Jonesboro of their MSA status, severely hindering their economic development by limiting their access to federal funding and grants.

Earlier this year, this issue was brought to my attention by the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, and the Jefferson County Alliance. In response, I led a bipartisan letter to the OMB with 51 of my colleagues urging them to reverse course, and I commend them on making this decision.

News like this often doesn’t make flashy headlines, but I am honored we were able to help keep our small cities in Arkansas in an MSA classification that will allow them to thrive. If you have any issue that may require assistance with the federal government, no matter how bag or how small, please reach out to my office. We are ready to serve you and help bring home more good news for Arkansas’ Fourth District.

July 9, 2021

After a relaxing Fourth of July weekend, I spent the week making stops across the district while the House was in recess. The week kicked off in Monticello and included visits in Clarksville and Hot Springs.

One highlight of the week was the ribbon cutting ceremony for a PBS transmitter. This transmitter will expand coverage into Logan, Scott, Johnson and Polk counties, and just in time for PBS summer learning programs to begin. This is great news for Western Arkansas!

July 9, 2021

Many of Congressman Westerman’s constituents received a letter from the Congressman updating them of a forum he co-hosted recently to address concerns about skyrocketing lumber costs.  Here is a copy of the body of the letter.

“As your congressman, I am pleased to inform you about a forum I co-hosted with my colleague and Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, Representative Dan Newhouse (WA-04), to discuss skyrocketing lumber costs and potential solutions to this complex issue.

As you may know, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail price of plywood has gone up 252 percent, Oriented Strand Board (OSB) has increased by 330 percent, and the price of an average, new, single-family home has increased by $35,872 in a year. These increases are largely driven by lumber’s price surge, which is caused by several factors: increased demand in common home building materials, including lumber, impairment of mill infrastructure, disruptions in the workforce due to COVID-19, and the Biden Administration’s restrictions on using lumber from national forests. 

While there is no “silver bullet” to stabilize prices, I am confident that through proper utilization of our natural forests, incentivization of better forest management, and investment in new sawmill capacity and infrastructure, lumber prices can return to pre-pandemic levels that are more affordable for consumers. Promoting an environmental policy that prioritizes the health of our forests will have a profound and positive impact on our nation that will not stop at lumber affordability, but will also help mitigate the wildfire crisis in the West, drive economic growth, and steward our land for future generations. To watch the full forum, please visit the House Committee on Natural Resources GOP’s YouTube channel.

It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas. If you or someone you know is having trouble with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, or any other federal agency, please contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796, or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. I also encourage you to visit my website at westerman.house.gov and House Natural Resources Committee website at republicans-naturalresources.house.gov to stay informed on what I am doing in Congress and sign up for my newsletter. “

July 2, 2021

Happy Fourth of July weekend! Whether you’re sitting by the lake, grilling hot dogs with neighbors, or keeping it cool indoors, I hope you’re able to take time to celebrate Independence Day with family and friends.

Capitol tours have remained closed this summer, and I have missed sharing our nation’s rich history with constituents. One of my favorite stories on the tour ties back to the Fourth of July. In the Capitol rotunda, one of the first paintings you see is the Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull. It depicts the moment when the draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress.

When you look closely, you see that Thomas Jefferson is stepping on John Adams’ toes. These two presidents were known for their rich debate and political differences, making this sneaky detail quite humorous. Oddly enough, both of these presidents passed away on the same day years later. That date was, you guessed it, July 4th, 1826. For more on this painting, head to the Architect of the Capitol websit

June 25, 2021

This week in D.C. was the first in a long time that felt close to normal. As you may know, Speaker Pelosi has slow-rolled the re-opening of the United States Capitol, contrary to what science has proven is safe. Because of this, tours have been closed to the public and visitors have had to take extra steps to enter the office buildings to attend a meeting with their representative. Petitioning your government is a First Amendment right, and these hurdles in place make it more difficult to do so. The threats of the pandemic have lessened, and it’s time for Congress to acknowledge that.

Just because it’s a little harder doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I was excited to welcome Melrita Johnson and Shaina Harvey from Pine Bluff into my office this week to discuss their work with Reform Arkansas, a group that assists at-risk foster children in Arkansas. This was the first in-person constituent meeting in my DC office since March 2020! I am grateful they were willing to go through the extra steps in place to come by. If you are in DC this summer, whether for vacation or for business, please give my office a call. We would love to see you and help make your visit the best it can be.

June 11, 2021

Transportation and Infrastructure is a historically bipartisan committee in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, House Democrats and the Biden Administration have decided otherwise this week.

I traveled to D.C. for a markup on transportation bills. The markup, beginning at 10:00AM, stretched to 5AM the next morning and hardly any amendments offered by Republicans were approved, including a few of my own..

While these circumstances are frustrating, I am hopeful that my colleagues and I can work together in future markups for bipartisan solutions that will benefit communities across the country. There is a lot of work to be done, and I am confident we can find common ground.

May 28,  2021

If you have been to the fuel pump in the past couple weeks, I’m sure you have noticed that fuel prices have skyrocketed. It is no coincidence that the last time fuel prices were this high was when Biden was Vice President.

President Biden’s policies have hindered our economy. After shutting down our pipelines, ending the jobs of thousands of American workers, he gives the thumbs up to Russia to build their own pipeline by removing all sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Now, we are all paying the price at the pump.

I believe that Americans should be put first. We have plenty of natural resources at our fingertips that President Biden will not let us touch, while killing jobs. It does not have to be this way. I will continue to work on policy that promotes our economy while simultaneously promoting good stewardship of our nation’s resources.

May 7, 2021

This week we celebrated the hard work of two careers that never seem to get enough credit where it’s due- our nurses and our teachers. I think it goes without saying that after the year we have had, they deserve a standing ovation.

Teachers give our students the gift of knowledge, serve as mentors, and shape them into young leaders. Nurses care for the health of our loved ones, comfort us in trying times, and celebrate with us when we are healed. We saw in 2020 how truly essential their work is, and how they go above and beyond to ensure the top education and care for the people around us.

Thank you to nurses and teachers for all that you do. We appreciate you!

April 23, 2021

I hope you have had a nice week of “Spring” in Arkansas. We really do get all four seasons in Arkansas, but that doesn’t mean we always get them when we’re supposed to. I am looking forward to warmer days that are perfect for turkey hunting and crappie fishing.

Yesterday, I voted “no” on statehood for Washington, D.C. The push for D.C. to become a state is not motivated by earning proper representation as Democrats claim. The Founders never intended for the nation’s seat of power to be a state. If Democrats were truly concerned with representation, they would push for the residential areas to be conceded to Maryland and Virginia. This is just another example of a political power grab by the Democrat majority. Unfortunately, the bill passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate do not pass this legislation.

April 16, 2021

This week, I introduced the High Risk Rural Roads Safety Grant Program Act alongside my colleague Rep. Tim O’Halleran (D-AZ). As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Road Safety Caucus, I am proud to be an original cosponsor of bipartisan, common sense solutions such as this bill.

Growing up in rural Arkansas, I know firsthand that many roads in rural areas can quickly become very dangerous, making a negative impact on our day-to-day lives. If you, too, live in a rural community, it’s likely you’re spending quite a bit of time in the car to get to and from work, take your children to school, or attend church. It is essential that the roads we drive on are safe and well-kept to potentially save lives. I hope to see this bill quickly move through the legislative process and pass into law.

April 9, 2021

Greetings,

It was fantastic to be in Arkansas this week to honor people across the district as “Hometown Heroes.” Several weeks ago, my office and I posted on social media asking for Fourth District residents to nominate those who had gone above and beyond to serve their communities in the past year. Dozens of stories were submitted, and some people were even nominated more than once. After an incredibly difficult year, it was heartwarming to read these stories and visit with those who have poured their time and energy back into their communities.

I was fortunate to meet with people from all different backgrounds- law enforcement, educators, restaurant owners, pharmacists, church employees, the list goes on. However, in speaking to each person this week, one common theme was shared amongst them all, and that is that they could not have done the work they did without the help and support of many other people along the way. I think this speaks volumes.

When you look at Arkansas’ Fourth District on a map, it covers 33 counties from the Ozark Mountains all the way down to the Louisiana state border. Several counties are quite different from others, whether that be in leading industry, population size, or even the geography. When you put those things aside, our large district shares the same resilient spirit, driven largely by many of the Hometown Heroes I met this week. These Heroes and many others like them are the lifeblood of our communities and the reason that Arkansas is a fantastic place to live.

I look forward to sharing the stories of Hometown Heroes with you over the next several weeks. Follow along in the newsletter updates and on my Facebook page.

Until next week,

Bruce Westerman

Arkansas’ Fourth District

April 2, 2021

On January 19, 2021, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to increase the population threshold for a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The current population threshold, which has been unchanged since 1950, is 50,000 or more persons. Declassified cities will either lose access to some federal programs or see greatly diminished federal funding from those using the MSA designation as a qualifying factor.

This proposed rule change would negatively impact the Fourth District, particularly the cities of Hot Springs, Texarkana and Pine Bluff. That is why I sent a letter to the OMB in March requesting a reversal of the proposed rule change. The OMB provided no reasonable justification for changing a 70 year precedent that could detrimentally hinder the economic development of communities in Arkansas and across America. It is important that our communities are given the opportunity to grow and thrive, and I will continue monitoring the status of this proposed rule change.

March 26, 2021

As we ease into the Spring season, I know many of us are eager to get outside, enjoy the nice weather, and see our family and friends again. It has been just over a year since the pandemic began, and after an incredibly difficult season of life, we are finally getting back to normal. Thanks to Operation Warp Speed, we developed a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 within a year of the pandemic onset. In Arkansas, vaccines are open to Phase 1-C, and new cases numbers are significantly lowering. This is great news!

Because of these measures, Arkansas’ economy is continuing to open up, people can attend Church, and other gatherings are permitted that fit the safety guidelines. One event I was glad to attend this week was the Arkansas’ Cattlemen’s Association Area 6 Regional Conference at Camp Couchdale. These men and women have gone above and beyond in the last year, just as they always do. I remember this time last year when scares of a meat shortage were all over the news. Our cattlemen got creative, adapted to the situation, and continued to work hard to put food on our tables. It was great to see a few of them this week.

Wishing you and your family a blessed weekend.

Until next week,

Bruce Westerman

Arkansas’ Fourth District

March 19, 2021

There is a crisis at our Southern border, and President Biden and House Democrats are choosing to ignore it. If anything, they are enabling it. In a recent interview, President Biden asked that no more migrants cross our border illegally, but no policies were put in place to stop this.

Not only does an open border allow criminals and bad actors into our country, but it also gives way for parents to illegally send children into our country without their parents. The prolific number of unaccompanied minors traveling across the border are being exposed to sex traffickers, drug cartels, wild animals and other dangers. The Biden Administration has delivered false promises that children crossing without their parents will have a better life, when in reality, the traumas they experience along the way are much worse.

Border security is national security, and President Biden has put our nation at risk. This is unacceptable, and I am calling for change. You can hear more in my speech on the House Floor.

Until next week,

Bruce Westerman

Arkansas’ Fourth District

March 12, 2021

In an attempt to limit our Second Amendment rights, House Democrats passed legislation this week that would restrict access to firearms. The two bills they passed would slow the process to a crawl for law abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights and would create a national firearm registry. Contrary to Democrat’s big promises, these bills would not realistically prevent gun crime.

Let me be clear- those who choose to own guns should obtain them legally, understand how they work, and use and store them properly. Rather than end gun crime, these laws will make it harder for law abiding citizens to access the firearms they need. By effectively creating a national firearm registry, the federal government dramatically overreaches its power to infringe on the rights of every American. The Constitution clearly states our right to bear arms, and that is a right I will continue to fight for every day in Congress.

March 5, 2021

The security of our elections is a concern I know many of you share, and it is an issue I do not take lightly. That is why I introduced the “Verification and Oversight for Transparent Elections, Registration, and Identification Act,” or in short, the “VOTER ID Act.” This bill would require states to conduct post-election audits and publicly share the results before key election certification dates. It would also ensure that states have control of their elections, as they are supposed to, without federal takeover. Steps like these are necessary in restoring faith in our election practices.

Unfortunately, my Democratic colleagues have a different idea of “election security.” This week, House Democrats passed H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” or as I think is more appropriately named, the “For the Politicians Act.” This bill will federalize all elections, eliminate all voter identification requirements, and provide DC politicians with millions of taxpayer-funded campaign dollars. These are alarming concepts that will minimize the rights we have as individuals to vote freely and fairly and reduce our confidence in how elections are executed nationwide. I urge the Senate to strike down this partisan legislation and vote “no.”

For more information on each of these bills, you can watch my speech on the House Floor here.

February 19, 2021

I hope you are staying warm and keeping safe this week. Arkansas has braved a tough winter storm, and while it has brought beautiful winter scenery across the state this week, I know for many it has made day-to-day life difficult. My prayers are with each of you, and if there is anything our office can be of assistance with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

During my time in Congress, I have always been proud to champion religious freedom and our First Amendment rights. Time and time again, we have seen Democrats try to strike God from the oath of office or remove God from the Pledge of Allegiance. I had a firsthand experience with that this month at the Natural Resources Committee, where Democrats attempted to strike God from the oath. I was proud to take a stand for religious liberty and ask that they put God back into the oath, which they did.

As your representative, it is an honor to take a stand for what is right. I will always fight to make sure that our values are represented and protected in Congress.

February 12, 2021

As we cross the one-year mark in fighting the global Coronavirus pandemic, we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to the great work of Operation Warp Speed, we have multiple safe and effective vaccines available to the public. I encourage everyone to take the vaccine once it becomes available to you.

While this is a very personal decision to make, I encourage each of us to receive the vaccine so that we can protect our families and our communities, and we can soon return to normal life as soon as possible. For the last year, we have all faced different challenges and adapted our lifestyles as we awaited a solution.

The vaccine will not solve all our problems, of course, but it will put America back on the right track. I hope you will all consider taking the vaccine for the sake of those who are hurting. I know Arkansas is strong and resilient – we will get through this together.

February 5, 2021

In his first two weeks in office, President Biden stacked up 29 Executive Orders. Most notably, he has cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline permit and halted any new oil and gas leases on federal lands.

Without a significant decrease in demand for oil and natural gas – which we know won’t happen overnight – the U.S. will resume importing energy from overseas sources where we cannot control environmental regulation and where dependency on foreign oil endangers our national security.

Our fragile economic recovery and already high unemployment rates cannot handle the strain of these Executive Orders. Arkansas alone will lose over $3.5 million in revenue from oil and gas leasing on federal lands that would have otherwise been used to protect and conserve our state through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

A study by American Petroleum Institute found that the U.S. will lose a million jobs by 2022 and $700 billion in GDP by 2030. President Biden has no plan to replace these lost jobs with those in clean energy any time soon.

Instead, the free market should be allowed to use American innovation and ingenuity to continue improving clean energy sources and create clean energy jobs gradually. Rules and regulation will not help the environment or a suffering American workforce. It will only fulfill promises to the radical left who are out of touch with real American families.

January 29, 2021

Since the Supreme Court made Roe v. Wade the law of the land in 1973, more than 61 million babies have lost their lives through legal abortions. This atrocity has gone on long enough. Life is the most basic right of every man and woman created in the image of God and the first right guaranteed in our Declaration of Independence.
Now, the Hyde Amendment, a bipartisan agreement prohibiting taxpayer funded abortions in Medicaid since 1976, is under attack from the radical left. The American people do not want the Hyde Amendment to be revoked. Studies show the majority of Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion and support at least some restrictions on abortion.
In addition, President Biden has announced an end to the Mexico City Policy, which prevents taxpayer funds from being used to promote abortion as women’s health care overseas – a restriction 75% of the American people support. While he preaches unity, President Biden ends one of the few policies agreed upon by the majority of Americans. This only serves the will of radical Democrats, not those he claims to represent.
I believe in supporting not only the unborn, but also the women and families who are in difficult situations so that abortion is never the only choice. Thousands of non-profits across the nation offer resources and financial assistance to women who need help during their pregnancy. Adoption is always a fantastic option, with about 2 million couples currently waiting to adopt. That is 36 couples for every child placed for adoption.
Join me in standing up for what is right and protecting the most vulnerable among us. Speak out in your communities in defense of the voiceless, and let women know they always have the option to choose life.

Until next week,

January 22, 2021

As the men and women of the Arkansas National Guard return to their homes, they can be proud of the incredible service they provided to our country. After the U.S. Capitol was attacked on January 6, 2021, 500 Arkansans answered the call to protect Washington, D.C., and the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris.

I was alarmed to learn on Thursday that National Guard heroes were banished to freezing parking garages to rest after 12 hour shifts. We can do better honoring those who have given up their time and safety to protect us. Thankfully, the Guard members were quickly moved back inside the Capitol where there is plenty of room.

These men and women have conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and integrity in their time in Washington, D.C., and we owe them a debt of gratitude.  As always, the Arkansas National Guard stands ready to defend our country and serve our communities in some of our greatest times of need. Thank you, as well, to the families of these brave men and women who waited patiently for their loved one’s return. If you see a guardsman in Arkansas this week, make sure to thank them for their service to our country.

January 15, 2021

I voted against impeaching President Donald J. Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives. This week’s rushed process is not in keeping with one of the House’s most solemn responsibilities. Unlike previous impeachment votes, there were no hearings and very little debate of the serious charges brought against the president. I carefully considered my colleagues’ arguments and determined that our constitutional duty to carefully consider the power of impeachment must not be circumvented for the sake of expediency. This rushed impeachment sets a dangerous precedent for future Congresses. In addition, Joseph Biden will become president in five days. This vote does nothing to remove President Trump before that time.

One week ago, I experienced the attack on the Capitol firsthand. I make no excuses for the president or any others involved, and I pray that our country never again experiences an event like this. All those involved must be held accountable for their actions, and they must receive justice according to the constitutional rights they have as citizens of this country.

Political rhetoric and the events of the past week have highlighted divisions in Congress and across the United States. It has divided our friends and our families. Even in my immediate family, there are differences of opinion on impeachment. It’s in our states, communities and churches. My prayer is that we end the divisions and move forward together seeking a more perfect union.

Until next week,

January 8, 2021

Greetings,

While members of Congress were peaceably and constitutionally debating the electoral votes on Wednesday, rioters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in death, destruction and a national disgrace. This is unacceptable, and I condemn these actions in the strongest terms.

The Constitution explicitly outlines that federal elections are state legislatures’ responsibility, giving Congress a final check with a provision to object to electors. I’ve said all along that we should let our court system work, and I supported a variety of legal challenges to investigate election fraud allegations. However, I did not object to the final count of electors.

Wednesday’s failed votes in Congress did nothing to change the outcome of the Nov. 3 election, nor could they have changed it had they passed. As much as we may not like the results of an election, resorting to mob rule is wholly un-American. We can – we must – be better than this.

Through some of our country’s darkest days, we’ve maintained a peaceful transition of power. This year should be no different. We cannot flirt with undoing the very foundation of our Constitution and pretend that it will all work out in the end.

My oath was not to defend a party or a person, it was to defend the Constitution of the United States. I will never stop fighting for the Constitution and conservative ideals in Congress, and I know many of you feel as though your voice isn’t being heard. It is, but changes must be done through the appropriate channels. Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate strong leadership and work to restore trust in our election process through independent audits, oversight and more.

This much is clear: what happened this week on many different levels must never happen again.

Until next week,

January 1, 2021

Greetings, and Happy New Year!

I hope you found time to enjoy the Christmas season safely with family and friends. 2020 was a trying year, there’s no doubt about it. Each of us faced unique challenges under the circumstances of a pandemic. Yet as we enter 2021, we have hope that these times will end soon and we can return to normal life.

Even in the midst of a difficult year, I was reminded of the resilience of Arkansans and Americans and how they serve our communities and our country. We owe many thanks to our frontline caregivers who continue to care for the sick and put their own safety at risk to fight the pandemic. We can be grateful for our farmers, food processors, truck drivers, and grocery store associates who make sure we have food on our tables each day. We also can give a round of applause to our teachers who found new, creative ways to educate our children. I can’t thank each of our essential workers enough.

We have all found new ways to connect and adapt to the circumstances so that we can continue to work. At this time last year, I don’t think I’d ever even heard of Zoom! Looking back on 2020, I’m grateful for the technology that gave me the ability to connect with constituents remotely. I must say, though, I’m looking forward to when I can permanently log off of virtual meetings and see each of you in person again.

I’m excited for the year ahead, and I hope you are as well. We won’t be back to normal right away, but with a little more patience and diligence, we will be able to meet in person, hug our loved ones, and celebrate with our family and friends.

December 24, 2020

Greetings!

“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

These are some of the greatest words ever written, because they signify the incredible hope and joy that Christ brings. Today we celebrate his birth in Bethlehem, and we rejoice in the light of his love.

It’s been a long, difficult year, and I pray you are able to find peace this holiday season. We still have so much to be thankful for.

Have a very merry Christmas!

December 18, 2020

This week in the House, we are running into the same problem we have seen the past several years: funding the government. It is no secret that I don’t agree with how the House proceeds with this each year. Large spending bills negotiated behind closed doors with little time to read or debate them don’t give me an opportunity to determine whether or not the bill itself is good legislation or something that could damage our country.

We shouldn’t be racing against the clock at the eleventh hour for something so serious. It is our constitutional obligation to properly fund our government and the many agencies it employs. This shouldn’t be taken lightly. If anything, it should be our top priority. However, Democrat leadership has allowed many other legislative items to come first, such as federal legalization of marijuana and “Tiger King” legislation.

I hope to see our leadership change this process. I will continue to follow negotiations closely and provide updates when possible.

December 17, 2020

I am pleased to inform you that on Dec. 11, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, is safe, effective and will be available to every American for free. This is an important milestone in defeating COVID-19, and I encourage all Arkansans to learn more about the vaccine as it becomes available so that we can continue to restore, rebuild and renew our great nation.

How will the vaccine be distributed in Arkansas?

  • Arkansans have already begun receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 25,000 doses were received in Arkansas, and a second allocation is expected Dec. 20-26. As other vaccines receive EUAs, our supply will increase and these timelines could be expedited.
  • Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has proposed a phased approach to vaccine distribution. It is important to note that prioritizations are subject to change and transition between phases will depend on vaccine supply and whether those in the current phase have been sufficiently vaccinated.
  • Phase 1 (limited vaccine availability) – high-priority groups
  • Phase 1-A
    • December 2020
    • Health care workers in the highest risk setting for exposure to the virus
    • Long-term care (LTC) residents
    • Other health care workers and first responders
  • Phase 1-B
    • January through February 2021
    • Essential workers, such as day care workers, K-12 and higher education employees, food industry, correctional facility workers, utilities, truck drivers and essential government and infrastructure workers
  • Phase 1-C
    • February through March 2021
    • Persons at increased risk for severe disease, such as adults with chronic health conditions and those aged 65 and older
    • Those who reside in congregate settings
  • Phase 2 (increased vaccine availability) – the general population
  • Phase 3 (widespread vaccine availability) – all persons needing vaccination
  • To learn more about Arkansas’ COVID-19 vaccination plan, please visit ADH’s website.

Will I have to pay out-of-pocket for the vaccine?

  • No, the vaccine will be free. The federal government has already purchased hundreds of millions of doses on behalf of all Americans. Vaccine administration costs will be covered by private insurance or the government for those uninsured or on government plans.

Where can I receive the vaccine?

  • Hospitals and local pharmacies will be administering the vaccine during the initial distribution phases. Other pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and Walmart will assist in later phases. As a reminder, these first-available vaccines will require two doses, three to four weeks apart.

Who can receive the vaccine?

  • People ages 16 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine at this time.
  • People ages 18 and older will be eligible to receive the Moderna vaccine.

I hope this information is helpful and that you will reach out if you have questions. My office stands ready to be of service if you or someone you know is having trouble with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, IRS or any other federal agency. Feel free to contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. I also encourage you to visit my website to stay informed on what I am doing in Congress or to sign up for my weekly newsletter.

December 15, 2020

As the year draws to a close, I am pleased to inform you that my colleagues in the House of Representatives have chosen me to be the next Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee for the upcoming 117th Congress. I have served on this committee throughout my time in Congress and I look forward to leading the committee in the development of pro-growth solutions to environmental and natural resources issues.

All my life, I’ve been passionate about natural resources. From growing up near Hot Springs National Park, to learning to hunt and fish as a child, to using my engineering skills to design natural resources manufacturing facilities to serving as the only licensed forester in Congress, I believe my life experience has uniquely equipped me for this role. I look forward to leading on this committee that addresses issues that are relevant to rural, resource-heavy areas like Arkansas’ Fourth District, which contains more than 2 million acres of federal land, including the Ouachita National Forest, Buffalo National River and Ozark Mountain range.

This committee will also be at the forefront of addressing climate issues and stewarding a healthy environment. In the 116th Congress, I introduced the Trillion Trees Act, which would plant 1 trillion trees worldwide. This bill is based on a report by scientists in 2019 that estimated that planting 1 trillion trees globally would sequester the equivalent of two-thirds of all manmade carbon since the Industrial Revolution. Clean air and clean water are the hallmarks of a healthy environments, and healthy forests are critical to both. Trees are the “lungs of the earth” and managing them correctly is one of the most sustainable and effective actions toward addressing carbon emissions and reducing the frequency and severity of wildfires. In this position of leadership, I will continue to develop and advocate for science-based solutions to climate change and environmental issues.

It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas. If you or someone you know is having trouble with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, IRS or any other federal agency, feel free to contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. I also encourage you to visit my website to stay informed on what I am doing in Congress or to sign up for my weekly newsletter.

December 11, 2020

The FDA endorsed the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this morning. The vaccine is on track to be granted emergency authorization for administration, potentially as early as next week. This is great news!

Thanks to Operation Warp Speed, our scientists have worked hard to create, test, test again, and manufacture this vaccine. It will first be distributed to at-risk populations and to health care workers. Our state officials will determine additional distribution protocols. I understand that many are concerned about how quickly this vaccine was developed. Even though our scientists worked around the clock to deliver this quickly, it still went through extensive and rigorous testing to ensure it is safe and effective.

In the meantime, each of us can still do our part to protect ourselves and our loved ones against the virus. Please continue to wear masks in public, social distance, and sanitize frequently. And if you are able, the Arkansas Blood Institute is in desperate need of blood and convalescent plasma donations. You can visit their website or call (888) 308-3924 to register. It’s an easy, potentially lifesaving way to give back this holiday season!

December 7, 2020

As your congressman, I am pleased to inform you of opportunities to donate blood and plasma and personally contribute to the coronavirus relief effort at a time our nation needs it most. COVID-19 has caused our nation’s blood supply to plunge, and even while America is reopening, blood donations have not bounced back. The Arkansas Blood Institute (ABI) has recently stated they are in desperate need of convalescent plasma to save the lives of those in critical condition due to COVID-19.

Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 have blood that contains this convalescent plasma which carries antibodies for the virus. A single plasma donation can provide potentially lifesaving plasma for up to four patients fighting COVID-19. However, if you have tested positive for the virus, the Food and Drug Administration asks that you be recovered for at least 14 days before donating. Those who donate blood, platelets or plasma through the Red Cross through at least March 2021 will be automatically tested for COVID-19 antibodies to see if they have had the virus and could be eligible to donate convalescent plasma.

Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 are still encouraged to donate, as every donation is potentially lifesaving. Thankfully, COVID-19 is not a blood-borne disease and you are unlikely to contract the virus from giving blood if you follow appropriate personal hygiene guidelines such as wearing a face covering, frequently washing your hands and maintaining social distancing when possible. To donate plasma through the ABI, please register here or call (888) 308-3924. To find a blood drive near you, please visit the AABB or Red Cross’s website, or call (800) RED-CROSS. If you cannot donate now, please consider donating in the future and encouraging those in your community to donate. It will take everyone doing their part to restore this critical piece of our nation’s health care system so we can continue to care for the most vulnerable.

It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas. If you or someone you know is having trouble with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, IRS or any other federal agency, feel free to contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. I also encourage you to visit my website to stay informed on what I am doing in Congress or to sign up for my weekly newsletter.

December 4, 2020

I’m so pleased to let you know that on December 3, my Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives selected me as the next Ranking Member of the Committee on Natural Resources. All my life, I’ve been passionate about natural resources. From learning to hunt and fish as a child, to using my engineering skills to design natural resources manufacturing facilities, to serving as the only licensed forester in Congress, to working on the Natural Resources Committee my whole tenure, I believe my life experience has uniquely equipped me for this role. These are issues that are deeply personal to me and affect every American, no matter where you live.

I’m incredibly honored and humbled at the prospect of stepping into the lead Republican role on the committee. Conservatives have a rich history of leading in conservation, and this committee is a battleground for energy and environmental issues. I believe Arkansas will continue to be a great example for natural resources issues, showing the world how we can have a strong economy and a healthy environment at the same time.

I can’t wait to get started!

November 27, 2020

I hope you had a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday. This time of year brings family and loved ones together, and while that likely looked a little different for each of us, there is still much to be thankful for.

For as long as I can remember, I have spent many fall days from sunrise to sundown out in a deer stand or a duck blind. Hunting and the outdoors are something I am deeply passionate about. I learned how to hunt with my brother from a young age, and I’ve shared a love of the outdoors with each of my four children.

In Congress, I am proud to sponsor legislation that promotes and supports outdoor recreation and hunting. I work on these issues in my role on the House Natural Resources Committee and actively pursue opportunities in Arkansas to visit wildlife management sites, work with the U.S. Forest Service and other state and federal entities that impact recreational opportunities.

If you are like me and have been counting down the days for hunting seasons, I wish you luck. I encourage everyone to be safe and smart when using firearms and hunting game, and if you have any questions about the hunting zones and regulations in your area, you can visit the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission website.

November 20, 2020

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I am reminded of how much we have to be thankful for, even in the midst of trying times. It’s very easy to look at 2020 and think only of the difficult things the year brought, but I hope this season of thanksgiving gives each of us the time to reflect on all of the good we have in our lives and the hope we have in our country.

History says the first Thanksgiving was celebrating in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the tradition has carried on in America for centuries to follow. Even in times of hardship, Americans pause to celebrate the holiday and express gratitude for our blessings. It is a part of who we are as a country, and this year, maybe even more than normal, it is important that we continue this tradition.

Our families, our friendships, and our faith are reasons we can all be thankful. Whether you are celebrating with your household or connecting in new ways, I wish you and your loved ones a safe and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

November 13, 2020

It’s been a blessing to finally see some fall weather in Arkansas, especially before I head up to D.C. for legislative business. The past few weeks, I’ve been keeping busy with work in Arkansas while the House has been in recess, but there is much to be done in Congress and I look forward to getting back to work on essential policy.

One highlight of the district work period was hosting Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor in Hot Springs. Dep. Sec. MacGregor is a fantastic colleague and friend, and I am so glad she had the time to come see the beauty of Arkansas firsthand.

Her visit included stops on mountain biking trails, Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, a press conference on Lake Ouachita and a tour of Avant Mining. Much of the Fourth District consists of national park property, federal land and other entities that fall under the Department of Interior’s jurisdiction. Not only that, but I am also proud of the public-private partnerships our communities have established in these areas and hope they can serve as an example for similar regions across the country.

You can read more about Dep. Sec. MacGregor’s visit below.

Until next week,

November 6, 2020

The greatest privilege we enjoy as Americans is our freedom. It is fought for and earned by our nation’s veterans, and for that, we owe each of our servicemen and women our thanks. Without their dedication, sacrifice and commitment, we may not experience the liberties our founders declared in our nation’s earliest days.

Veterans Day is coming up on November 11, and I’m honored to have several family members who have served. My grandfather, Andrew Westerman, fought in World War II. My father-in-law Clayton French and my brother-in-law Clayton (Chuck) French both served in the Air Force, and Chuck actually wrote commentary that served as the inspiration for The Airman’s Creed.

I know many of you have fought for your country or know someone who has, and we need to preserve this heritage for generations to come. The Library of Congress leads an excellent program called the Veterans History Project. In an effort to highlight firsthand accounts from our veterans, the Library partners with members of Congress to help record and document their stories. This is a project I am proud to support, as keeping the memories of those who served alive is critical to understanding our nation’s history. If you or a veteran you know would like to contribute to this project, please contact my office at (501) 609-9796.

To all our veterans: thank you for your service.

October 30, 2020

It’s finally fall in Arkansas, and I enjoyed spending the past few days travelling across the state. I kicked off the week by joining Congressman French Hill on a visit to Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area. We discussed threats to flooded timber and how they impact Arkansas waterfowl and our economy. It’s important that we conserve these areas, and I’m glad that I was able to talk with Congressman Hill about actions we can take at the federal level.

Later in the week, I drove down to Camden for General Dynamics’ “Flip the Switch” event. The facility is expanding a solar power and battery energy storage project that will promote use of renewable energy in the area. I also stopped by Aerojet Rocketdyne for a tour of their facility. It was great to visit while I was in the area.

I hope you have a blessed weekend with friends and family.

October 16, 2020

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened to hear testimony from Judge Amy Coney Barrett as part of her formal nomination process to the United States Supreme Court. Judge Barrett is a superb nominee and will serve our country well as a Supreme Court justice, and I hope her originalist approach to the Constitution will reverse the Court’s trend of legislating from the bench. While Democrats used their time to advocate for partisan policy, Judge Barrett defended her judicial principles and showed the American people that she will be a fantastic addition to the Court. I look forward to the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Barrett.

I’m excited to share new developments regarding some bills I’ve been working on. Last week, I introduced the The Fair Care Act of 2020 alongside U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would solve many of the health care problems facing Americans, including covering preexisting conditions and expanding consumer choice to affordable health care options. You can read more about this bill in our joint op-ed. Also this week, President Trump announced an executive order establishing a U.S. interagency council of the Trillion Trees Initiative. This council goes hand-in-hand with my bill, the Trillion Trees Act, which the Trump administration supports. I hope to see each of these bills brought to committee for debate and to the House floor for a vote.

October 2, 2020

Last night, the House voted to pass the HEROES Act 2.0 or, as I think it’s better named, the ZEROES Act. While on the surface this bill sounds like a great solution to the problems surrounding COVID-19, the text says otherwise.

This legislation was filled with items on Democrats’ wish list. It removes federal funding from law enforcement, bails out the cannabis industry and provides stimulus checks to illegal immigrants. It is a partisan piece of legislation for a problem that requires a bipartisan solution. COVID-19 is a serious problem, and Democrats’ willingness to take advantage of the situation to pass liberal policies is absurd.

The Senate almost certainly will not hold a vote on this bill, making it a colossal waste of time by the House. While we could have been working to compromise on the best way to provide aid to our country for COVID-19, Speaker Pelosi refused to meet us in the middle. To make matters worse, the House is recessing for the next six weeks surrounding the election. The Speaker’s priorities are clear, and the American people are not at the top of the list.

September 25, 2020

This week, Congress convened in Washington, D.C. to pass a funding bill. It is no secret that I do not agree with how we handle government funding. Congress should pass a budget annually and with much consideration, not wait until the last minute to pass continuing resolutions that guarantee funding for only months at a time.

While the process is frustrating, it doesn’t mean there aren’t positive results in the legislation. This bill replenished the commodity credit corporation to fund farm bill programs and provide other forms of payment to our farmers and ranchers. Our agriculture industry is essential to our nation’s economy and wellbeing, and this funding will help ensure our farmers are supported and able to do their jobs well. I am glad this provision was included.

September 18, 2020

I traveled back to D.C. on Monday to kick off the next few weeks of legislative work. It’s hard to believe we’re already nearing the holidays and end of the year, and we’ve got a lot to accomplish between now and then.

Speaking of things to accomplish, I was honored to join Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and many of my colleagues this week in unveiling our vision for the future (you can see a photo below). Democrats have made it clear that their mission centers on policies that would defund, dismantle and destroy. This is not what America is about. We want to create a brighter future for generations to come by restoring our way of life, rebuilding the greatest economy in history and renewing the American dream. I look forward to making it happen.

I’ll be attending some events around Arkansas today and Monday, and I hope to see some of you while I’m in town. Arkansas will always be the best place to return home after a long week in D.C!

September 11, 2020

On the 19th anniversary of September 11, 2001, all Americans are taking time to reflect and remember the thousands of innocent lives lost. Life changed forever after 9/11. Today I’m thinking of people like Joe, a firefighter from Hot Springs who immediately went to New York City to help with rescue efforts. People like my wife’s nephew Roger, a Marine who deployed to Iraq and made the ultimate sacrifice. People like my friend John, who quit his job in engineering after 9/11 and signed up to serve in the Secret Service. 

The world seemed to stop turning that day, and I will never forget America’s shared grief. Whether or not you know someone personally affected by 9/11, I encourage you to take time today to pause and remember those who lost their lives and say a prayer for those who still mourn loved ones.

I will also never forget how we came together and resolved to fiercely defend our freedoms. On that day, there were no Republicans or Democrats; we were only Americans. It was a testament to our strength in unity and a hope for the years to come.

We will never forget. May God bless America.

“I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people – and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”  – President George W. Bush in an address to first responders

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” – Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl

“The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.” – Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Images courtesy of Biography and Christian Parley Commercial Photography

Just outside the U.S. Capitol rotunda is a plaque dedicated to the passengers and crew of Flight 93. Many believe this plane was headed to the U.S. Capitol, but the heroes on board the flight took back control, doubtless saving hundreds of lives and preventing the building from being destroyed.

September 4, 2020

This week, I concluded my Everyday Heroes Tour across Arkansas’ Fourth District. COVID-19 required many Arkansans to step up to the plate and keep our country fed, supplied and secure in our resources as demands increased significantly. I am glad I got to say “thank you” to some of those who went the extra mile for our country’s wellbeing.

The trucking industry is one that is often overlooked. We don’t tend to think about how our groceries and home supplies make it to the shelf, but without our truckers, our shelves would be empty. Thanks to companies like PLD Transport in Malvern and Morris Transportation Services in Hamburg, our goods always make it to the store and into our homes. We also can’t forget the gas stations and road stops that remained open during the pandemic. Without the employees at stops like the Hillbilly Hideout I-40 Travel Center, our truckers wouldn’t have had access to gas, food and safe places to rest. Our supply chain remained largely intact thanks to people in these industries.

We also faced a temporary shortage in paper goods as consumers rushed to stock up on toilet paper, paper towels and other paper products to prepare to stay at home for extended periods of time. The shelves were empty, and if you happened to stumble on a roll of toilet paper at the store, it really was your lucky day! However, loggers at Shelby Taylor Trucking in Sheridan and Ricky Nelms Logging in Crossett did not stop operations during COVID-19. Harvesting timber is essential not only for building materials, but to manufacture paper products, and because of those in this industry, our shelves are stocked again.

Finally, we owe our thanks to grocery store associates for staying open during the pandemic. From Walmart supercenters to CV’s Family Foods in Ozark, I don’t know what we would have done if these employees didn’t show up for work each day.

Thank you to each of our everyday heroes.

August 28, 2020

Hurricane Laura has devastated the Gulf Coast and several of our neighboring states. By the time it reached Arkansas, it had demoted classification to a tropical storm, but unfortunately we all know the severe damage a tropical storm can bring.

I know many people are without power, and floods and winds have destroyed farm lands and neighborhoods. If you have been affected and need federal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office. We’ll have to work hard to recover from the damages done by this storm, but I have faith that our communities will be able to take on the challenge.

I hope you and your family are safe. My prayers are with you all during this time.

August 14, 2020

During this pandemic, we’ve relied on doctors, nurses and health care workers to fight COVID-19 on the front lines. Medical professionals have put their own lives at risk to fight the virus and care for those infected. We know it hasn’t been easy, and to those who have been hard at work on the front lines, thank you.

This virus impacted more than just our health. Many people stayed home to work, educate their children and protect loved ones. While some are blessed with the ability to work from home, we owe a huge thank you to those who didn’t have that privilege. Truckers, grocery stores, food processors, first responders, foresters, farmers- all of those employed in these industries and others were deemed essential and continued to work as normal.

What many people didn’t see is how other essential industries had an increase in workload during the pandemic. We needed them to have food put on our tables, keep the grocery store shelves stocked, deliver goods to our home and manufacture products. Without the commitment of those who showed up to do these jobs each day, our economy would not have survivied.

This month, I am visiting with essential workers in Arkansas’ Fourth District to hear their stories about COVID-19. I will be sharing them in this newsletter, and you can watch video updates on my Facebook page. Follow along to hear from the everyday heroes that went the extra mile to keep us fed, supplied and safe at home during a global pandemic.

August 7, 2020

I’m back in Arkansas for several weeks and have some great socially-distanced visits planned across the district. COVID-19 has taken away many of our opportunities to meet in person, so I look forward to safely visiting with some of you this month.

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself and those around you is by wearing a mask. We know that masks help prevent COVID-19 germs from entering the air and infecting those around us. The tricky part about this virus is that many infected people don’t show symptoms, so wearing a mask ensures that those who are asymptomatic will not spread the virus to friends, colleagues and loved ones. I’m doing my part by wearing a mask, and I encourage you to do the same. I know it’s hot outside and it may not be comfortable, but the sooner we all get on board with wearing a mask, the easier it will be to slow the spread and get back to normal.

This week, I stopped by Tanner’s Team Sports in Hot Springs to pick up some cloth masks to wear around town and when I am in D.C. I’ve seen friends and colleagues wear masks to support their favorite sports teams, states and hobbies, and it was time to get in on the fun.

August 4, 2020

As a lifelong resident of Arkansas’ Fourth District and the only professional forester in Congress, I know firsthand the importance of protecting the environment. Growing up in Garland County, some of my favorite memories involve exploring Hot Springs National Park, camping in the Ouachitas and floating the Buffalo National River. Stewarding these abundant natural resources and national parks is one of my top priorities, which is why I’m pleased to inform you that the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 310-107, and I voted in favor of this bill. President Donald Trump signed it into law today, Aug. 4.

Unfortunately, our public lands nationwide have been plagued by deferred maintenance, with underfunded, outdated park infrastructure. To address this issue, the GAOA establishes the long-overdue National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will receive up to $1.9 billion per year to fund the maintenance. These improvements will range from fixing potholes to clearing overgrown trails and will ensure future generations are able to enjoy our public lands. The GAOA also invests in future recreational access by permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since its inception in 1965, the LWCF has been used to improve public recreational access and protect Arkansas federal recreation areas like the Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests and the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

While the GAOA is a step in the right direction toward better stewardship of public lands, we cannot stop there. I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue proactively managing our nation’s federal land and ensuring its health for years to come.

It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas. If you or someone you know is having trouble with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, IRS or any other federal agency, feel free to contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. I also encourage you to visit my website to stay informed on what I am doing in Congress or to sign up for my newsletter.

August 3, 2020

As your congressman, one of the most important parts of my job is to assist you when dealing with a federal agency. Many individuals find themselves frustrated by bureaucracy and red tape when working with the federal government, particularly the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). These agencies provide critical services to our retirees, and it’s my privilege to help you get the benefits you deserve. To better serve you, I have staff designated to answering questions and helping you with the following SSA and CMS-related issues:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
  • Retirement benefits
  • Medicare eligibility
  • Help with a SSA payment center
  • Obtaining a copy of your Social Security or Medicare card
  • Issues with your Medicare part A, B or D plans

If you need assistance with the IRS, feel free to contact my Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178, or email my Director of Casework Services, Tracy Cross, at Tracy.Cross@mail.house.gov. Please visit my website for a complete list of areas and agencies with which we can help. Exceptional constituent service is my highest priority, and I am best able to represent you when I hear your thoughts directly.

If you need assistance with any federal agencies, feel free to contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

July 31, 2020

Congress wrapped up July by passing the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). I’ve worked on this bill for more than a year with my colleagues in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and I’m pleased to see so many provisions for Arkansas make it into the bill. We have several navigable waterways in our district, and after last year’s historic flooding, we need improved water infrastructure more than ever. The bill now heads to the Senate and I hope to see it signed into law quickly.

We also voted on some partisan appropriations bills that have zero chance of moving past the House. We are supposed to have all of this passed and signed into law by September, but unfortunately our budget process is completely broken and partisan. I’ve always advocated for a return to regular order, where we work on bipartisan, effective budget solutions and pass them in time instead of waiting until the eleventh hour and cobbling together some rushed spending bills.

If you’ve been following the negotiations on Phase 4 of COVID-19 relief funding, you’ve seen that these negotiations continue to be at a stalemate. Personally, I am hoping to see a decrease in the $600 unemployment allotment, as I’ve been hearing from employers in Arkansas that they cannot get people back to work because they’re making more money home on unemployment. If we want to kickstart the economy, we must get America back to work. All of Congress is now on standby waiting to vote on potential Phase 4 legislation, and I will keep you informed as the situation develops.

July 31, 2020

As your congressman, one of the most important parts of my job is to assist you when dealing with a federal agency. Many individuals find themselves frustrated by the bureaucracy and red tape when working with the federal government, particularly the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These frustrations have only increased with backlogs caused by tax season, as well as office, staff and policy changes at the IRS due to the coronavirus and related relief legislation.

To better serve you, I have staff designated to answering questions and helping you with the following IRS-related issues:

  • Injured Spouse Claims
  • Held or stopped refunds
  • Installment agreements
  • Obtaining a tax transcript
  • Liens and Levies
  • Examinations and Audit Reconsiderations
  • A received notice by mail
  • Tax-related identity theft

If you need assistance with the IRS, feel free to contact my Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178, or email my Director of Casework Services, Tracy Cross, at Tracy.Cross@mail.house.gov. Please visit mywebsite for a complete list of areas and agencies with which we can help. Exceptional constituent service is my highest priority, and I am best able to represent you when I hear your thoughts directly.

If you need assistance with any federal agencies, feel free to contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

July 29, 2020

I am pleased to inform you that today, July 29, the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA), getting it one step closer to being signed into law. This bipartisan bill promotes prosperity and economic growth for Arkansas by strengthening our water transportation networks and flood resiliency.

As the lead Republican on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have spent the past year and a half working on this important bill and hearing from community leaders at numerous roundtables, hearings and meetings about how we can improve our water infrastructure. The common theme we heard in these meetings was the need to reduce the risk that communities face from floods and improve the project delivery process for the Army Corps of Engineers.

In recent years, Arkansas’ Fourth District has experienced severe flooding that destroyed property, disrupted lives and commerce and was at times fatal. Our navigable waterways are essential to supply chains and transporting goods, but proper infrastructure investment, such as improving the levee system, is necessary to mitigate future damage. I am proud we passed a bipartisan WRDA that addresses these needs by streamlining construction authority for communities that experience repeated flood loss, supporting long-term, resilient and sustainable solutions to keep communities safe from future flood events and supporting rural communities and levee districts as they partner with the Corps of Engineers to protect their communities. WRDA also adjusts the cost share for projects constructed on the Inland Waterways System to ensure expedited project completion and advances the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System deepening project, which will protect the water supply for users of the Ouachita-Black System in Arkansas.

I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important investment in Arkansas infrastructure signed into law. It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas. If you or someone you know is having trouble with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, or any other federal agency, please contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796. I also encourage you to visit my website to stay informed on what I am doing in Congress or to sign up for my newsletter.

July 24, 2020

Governor Asa Hutchinson has announced that Arkansas students will return to school for in-person learning in the fall. I welcome this news, as investing in our students’ education is a top priority, and we must do so safely. As a former school board member and father of four children who attended Arkansas public schools, I am confident that the governor and our school districts will work hard to make sure this happens in the safest possible way. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also released new guidelines this week with a heavy emphasis on reopening schools, saying children are less likely to contract or spread the virus.

It’s important for our students to be back in school learning, and it’s our responsibility to show them how we, as Americans, can solve problems and get back to work. We can do this by giving students and teachers more protective gear, shrinking class sizes, spreading desks apart or any other way to limit contact and prevent contagion. This pandemic has brought on many hardships, and while we have all experienced challenges in the past few months, we have also been working to find solutions for a new normal.

July 21, 2020

As your congressman, one of the most important parts of my job is helping you navigate federal agencies. Many individuals find themselves frustrated by bureaucracy and red tape when dealing with the federal government. To better serve you, I have staff designated to help in these situations who can answer your questions and make inquiries on your behalf. I have offices located in Hot Springs, El Dorado, Ozark and Pine Bluff staffed by trained aides who can help you in the following ways:

  • Assistance with Social Security and Medicare benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare premiums.
  • Request the status of an immigrant or non-immigrant visa application.
  • Request assistance from the Veterans Administration for pensions, disability, health care benefits and military records.
  • Nominations to one of the five United States Service Academies.
  • Assistance with the status of passport applications and expediting in emergency situations.
  • Assistance with the Internal Revenue Service, including tax refunds or income verification.
  • Assistance with a United States Postal Service issue.
  • Assistance with other federal agencies, such as the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Homeland Security.

Please visit my website for a complete list of areas in which we can help. Exceptional constituent service is my highest priority, and I am best able to represent you when I hear your thoughts directly. If you need assistance with any federal agencies, feel free to contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or Pine Bluff office at (870) 536-8178. It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

July 17, 2020

We’re approaching the end of National Forest Week 2020, and as a forester, I’m always glad to see our nation’s forests getting recognition. Many people don’t realize just how much forests do for our environment – from cleaning our air and water, to providing wildlife habitats, to supplying a wide array of paper products and building materials, to giving us endless places to explore, forests are the backbone of our ecosystem. Legislation like the Trillion Trees Act will ensure our forests remain healthy and strong for years to come.

It’s also becoming clear that COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon, and we must continue taking every possible precaution to slow the spread. However, we also shouldn’t shut down schools for the foreseeable future. Not only does this harm students’ education, but it also makes childcare incredibly difficult for working parents who can’t afford in-home help. We are a nation of innovation, and I believe we can find a creative solution to bringing students back to school safely. You can read more of my thoughts on my Facebook page.

July 16, 2020

I’ve been pleased to see 42,500 Arkansas businesses benefit from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) over the past three and half months, totaling more than $3.3 billion in direct assistance. These funds have protected many small businesses across Arkansas from bankruptcy or closing permanently while revenues were down due to COVID-19. Businesses in many industries have benefited from PPP funds – from restaurants to transportation services to agricultural producers – and $132 billion remains unclaimed in the program.

The PPP resumed accepting applications on July 6, after President Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act into law, and will keep the applications open through Aug. 8, 2020. If you have not already, I encourage you to apply for this forgivable loan that can provide your business with cash flow assistance needed to stay in business and keep employees on payroll through this pandemic and economic recovery. All small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, sole proprietors, independent contractors, gig economy workers or 501(c)(3) non-profits are eligible for the program.

The Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act eased requirements to secure loan forgiveness, making the program more accessible to businesses that are slower to reopen, or spend more on rent and other expenses. Businesses now have 24 weeks instead of eight weeks to spend PPP funds, and the portion of the loan that must be spent on payroll has been reduced from 75 percent to 60 percent. Loan recipients will not be penalized if workers who have been offered their jobs back for the same hours and pay do not return. The program has also been updated to allow loan forgiveness recipients to defer payroll tax payments. These unclaimed funds will not be available indefinitely, so I urge you to contact your lender and apply today.

I am eager to continue working with my colleagues to reopen the economy, support vaccine development and strengthen our infrastructure needed for the nation to recover from the effects of COVID-19. To receive updates about COVID-19 in my newsletter, please visit my website. It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas.

July 10, 2020

I was glad to see the United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA) go into effect on July 1, 2020, replacing the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The USMCA strengthens protections for rural areas like ours by increasing access to foreign markets for agricultural producers, creating more manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and enhancing our nation’s leadership in technology and innovation.

The USMCA is a trade agreement that finally puts our farmers and ranchers first by addressing unfair foreign systems that put our dairy, poultry and grain producers at a disadvantage. The agreement will expand access to two high-value, critical markets for Arkansas poultry: Mexico and Canada. In Arkansas alone, more than 7,000 manufacturing jobs depend on exports to Canada and Mexico, not to mention the thousands of jobs in our agricultural industry. Recent statistics show that Canada accounts for 23 percent of Arkansas’ agricultural export market, and Mexico accounts for 17 percent.

This agreement will give U.S. dairy products access to an additional 3.6 percent of Canada’s dairy market, and it changes Canada’s grain grading system that puts American wheat farmers at a competitive disadvantage. Under this updated trade deal, Canada has agreed to grade U.S. wheat no less favorably than its own. Canada will also stop undercutting American dairy products in foreign markets, giving our dairy farmers a fair playing field in those markets.

This new agreement will make it easier for small businesses to participate in international trade by lowering costs and eliminating unnecessary red tape. In Arkansas, about 80 percent of exporters are small businesses. The International Trade Commission estimates that the USMCA will add 176,000 jobs to the United States, increase agricultural exports by $2 billion and result in a $65 billion total increase in gross domestic product. These benefits could not be more important as our economy reopens and recovers from COVID-19. I applaud President Trump’s administration for negotiating a deal that will ensure businesses in the Fourth District of Arkansas have access to open markets that will allow them to be competitive in a global economy.

It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District. If you or someone you know is having trouble with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, or any other federal agency, please contact my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796. I also encourage you to visit my website to stay informed on what I am doing in Congress or to sign up for my newsletter.

July 10, 2020

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees every American the right to religious freedom, allowing us to practice our religion as we so choose. This week, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot force religious organizations to provide any abortifacient drugs that go against their moral convictions. The Little Sisters of the Poor simply wanted to exercise their faith without penalty, and this ruling gives them that right. The government has no business demanding that religious groups perform actions that violate their beliefs, and I am pleased that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious freedom.

July is National Parks Month, and I encourage you to brave the summer heat and visit some of the incredible parks we have in Arkansas. In my hometown, Hot Springs National Park is a great place to learn some history or take a hike, all while social distancing. We are the Natural State after all, so let’s enjoy it!

Summer in the Natural State

I know summer will look a little different this year as travel is limited and some activities are cancelled, but that doesn’t mean summer can’t be fun and enjoyable! We are blessed to call the Natural State home, and I want to spend the next few weeks sharing great ways to spend time outdoors as we continue to practice social distancing.

Throwback to mountain biking in Hot Springs with my colleague Rep. Jared Huffman as part of a bipartisan congressional exchange. I enjoyed showing Rep. Huffman the natural beauty of Arkansas!

A great way to get outside and see new parts of the state is by visiting one of our many fantastic mountain biking trails. There are great places across Arkansas with terrains for all levels. Find a trail near youhere and remember: pack plenty of water and snacks, wear a helmet and have fun!

July 3, 2020

Happy Fourth of July weekend! We are blessed to live in the United States of America, and I am proud to call this country home.

On July 4th, 1776, our founding fathers instituted the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming to the world that the United States was a free country. Throughout the course of history, men and women have fought to keep our freedom, forcing our country to grow and evolve into the nation it is today. Freedom did not come without a cost, but the sacrifices many Americans have made to protect this virtue are gifts to the millions who call the United States home.

The history of our country has a common theme: a spirit of resilience that carries this nation through difficult times. This year, we have faced unprecedented challenges as we battled COVID-19. Even in trying circumstances, Americans came together to support our doctors, nurses, teachers, grocery store associates, farmers, our military and all essential workers. I am hopeful that someday when children are reading history books, or we are sharing our stories from this moment in time, we all remember the resilient spirit that united us and encouraged us to keep pressing forward.

Whether you’re having a barbeque with family, spending time outdoors or watching fireworks from afar, I hope you find time to celebrate our freedom, our independence, and our American spirit this weekend.

God bless America!

June 26, 2020

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. I voted against this bill because it was written solely by Democrats who denied all Republican input on the legislation. I believe that we need police reform, but this partisan bill was not the solution.

I am a strong supporter of the JUSTICE Act, introduced by Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Pete Stauber. The bill focuses on police reform, accountability and transparency by increasing police reporting requirements, instituting more body camera regulations, making lynching a federal crime, instructing the DOJ to develop training on de-escalation tactics, closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act and much more. Many of these are bipartisan measures that have been proposed in the past, and the bill would go a long way in removing injustice from our justice system. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have blocked this bill, leaving no opportunity for a recorded vote.

Police reform is a serious issue, and I believe we can and should take action to correct problems in the system. It is up to Congress to stop playing politics and work together to craft legislation that will make positive changes. We can’t allow this back-and-forth political nonsense to continue; otherwise, we will be stuck with the status quo. I hope that my colleagues across the aisle change their perspective and welcome all legislators to the table on an issue that concerns our entire country.

June 19, 2020

This week, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met to edit and mark up the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act.

When committees meet for a markup, all attending members discuss and vote on each recommended amendment. Typically, this process takes between three and six hours in one day. However, with so many members participating virtually, this process lasted for more than 24 hours, filled with technical difficulties and interruptions.

The INVEST in America Act was also packed with partisan messaging items and increases in funding, with no way to pay for them. Markups give members the opportunity to break down the bill piece-by-piece and have fruitful debate on the legislation. The most efficient way to do this is in person, and to have these conversations face-to-face. However, this 24-hour markup marathon didn’t require the full attention of committee members, and votes on amendments were passed on a partisan basis.

It’s become more and more apparent that the Democrat majority does not think working in D.C. is a priority. With proxy voting and virtual hearings, it’s now easier than ever to pass partisan legislation with minimum attendance. I completely disagree with these processes, and I will continue doing my best to serve the interests of Arkansas’ Fourth District.

June 13, 2020

On Friday, May 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. Res. 965. This bill applies only to the House and authorizes representatives to vote by proxy and conduct committee business through teleconference. This is a historic bill for all the wrong reasons. As your congressman, I have a duty to advocate for the interests and priorities of the Fourth District in the legislative process. My colleagues and I do a disservice to those we represent when we settle for conducting this important process over conference call. This is why I plan to be present in Washington, D.C. for every vote and committee hearing, regardless of how my colleagues choose to proceed.

This vote by proxy rule allows one member to vote on behalf of up to 10 of their colleagues. This means only 22 of the 435 members of Congress need to be present for a bill to pass the House. Never in the 231-year history of Congress had a single vote been cast remotely or by proxy. The federal legislature continued to meet in person during the most uncertain and challenging times in our nation’s history: the burning of the U.S. Capitol in the War of 1812, World Wars I and II, Spanish influenza and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Furthermore, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. This governing document explicitly refers to Congress as meeting in person and does not include provisions for legitimate legislative business to take place remotely. I’ve added my name as a plaintiff to Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this new House rule, and I’m eager for Congress to get back to operating the way our nation’s founders intended.

To make matters worse, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released the updated congressional calendar, and the House will only be in session fewer than 50 days out of the next seven months. While the rest of the country is reopening, Congress seems to be closing down. Regardless of political party, all federal representatives should be in Washington, D.C. doing their jobs. Congress should set an example for the rest of the country, not send someone else to do their job while asking health care, transportation and food service workers to go into work.

Now is the time for Congress to get back to Washington, D.C. and work to reopen the economy, support vaccine development and strengthen our infrastructure. To receive updates about my work in Congress, please visit my website and sign up for my weekly newsletter. It is an honor to represent you and the Fourth District of Arkansas.

June 12, 2020

Arkansas is beginning Phase 2 of reopening the economy on Monday, and I know for many small businesses this will be a long-awaited opportunity to increase revenue and allow employees to get back to work.

If you’re like me, you’re probably looking forward to getting a haircut regularly, visiting local restaurants, attending church services and supporting small businesses in your community. However, we can’t ignore the fact that COVID-19 is still a fast-spreading, dangerous virus. We have worked hard to flatten the curve in Arkansas and we must continue trying to keep it that way, otherwise we run the risk of a second economic closure.

As we all ease back into a routine of working and going about our days, I encourage you to continue wearing a mask when social distancing is unavoidable. Continue to practice good hygiene and be considerate of where you go. These small steps will make a large impact as we all work toward the goal of safely reopening our economy.

June 5, 2020

This has been a difficult week for many Americans. George Floyd’s tragic death has shocked our nation, and rightfully so. Those responsible for violent and unnecessary force must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I hope you will join me in praying for our country. May this not be a time of hate and divisiveness; rather, may it be a turning point in America, where we unite and seek justice with one voice.

Last week, House Democrats announced a new congressional schedule for the remainder of 2020. Out of the six months left in the calendar year, the House will spend only 42 of those days voting on legislation in Washington, D.C. To top it off, committees are meeting virtually, and some committees may not even allow members to sit in their seats in the committee room during a hearing. Members of Congress should be in D.C. doing the jobs we were elected to do, not sitting at home while Americans head back to work.

There is much work to be done in Congress, and I will continue to fight for the changes needed to get back to business. In the meantime, know that my offices are open and ready to serve you.

May 29, 2020

The House convened in D.C. this week, and while I was glad to get back to work, I am extremely disappointed to see how many Democrat members of Congress are proxy voting.

This month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put forward partisan legislation that enabled members to vote by proxy for the first time in the 231-year history of the House. This is a violation of the Constitution, which is why I added my name as a plaintiff to Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s lawsuit challenging this rule.

All members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, should be in D.C. doing their jobs. We shouldn’t be sending someone else to do it in our place. We have watched the Senate find ways to do so safely, and it is time for the House to follow suit. I hope to see all of my colleagues in Washington, D.C. in the coming weeks. You can watch more of my thoughts on proxy voting here in my weekly video.

Until next week,

May 22, 2020

We are blessed to live in a free country, but freedom doesn’t come without a price. As we head into Memorial Day weekend, I want to take a moment to remember those who fearlessly served in our United States military and did not return home. These servicemen and women made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for our nation. To the loved ones of those who lost their lives in service, my thoughts are with you on this special day.

This Memorial Day looks a little different than normal. While we can’t gather to commemorate the lives of those who served, we can still reach out to those who lost someone close to them. We have adjusted to new ways of connecting in recent weeks, and Memorial Day is no exception. I encourage you to see what virtual events are happening in your community on this holiday.

Until next week,

May 19, 2020

As Arkansas reopens, I know many of you have questions about the status of COVID-19 and what comes next. That’s why on Tuesday, May 19, at 7:00 p.m. CT, I’m hosting a telephone town hall, and I hope you can participate and add your voice to the discussion.

Some questions I’ll answer include:

  • Do we still have to wear masks in public?
  • What is the next phase of reopening?
  • What if we see a resurgence of cases?
  • How are state leaders continuing to monitor and test for the virus?

If you’d like to join our discussion, you can sign up here to be dialed.

You can also watch and ask questions here on Facebook Live.

For more information about COVID-19, visit my website.

I look forward to hearing from you!

May 15, 2020

I’m back in D.C. today to vote “no” on two pieces of legislation proposed by House Democrats.

The first is a bill that would allow proxy voting, where one member can vote on behalf of up to 10 other members. When you run the numbers, that means only 22 members need to be present for a bill to pass the House. The literal definition of Congress means “the act or action of coming together and meeting.” Being here in person is a requirement of our jobs, and that’s why proxy voting shouldn’t happen, not now, not ever. If members of Congress are unwilling to do their jobs, they should step down and let someone else do it.

The second bill is the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. Speaker Pelosi cleverly named this bill to make Americans think it’s a positive solution, when in reality, it’s a major problem. This 1,800-page bill is packed full with items on Democrats’ wish list, and it comes with a $3 trillion price tag. One major concern is that it would federalize our election process, taking away power that is vested to the states and removing voter verification practices. Rather than working with her colleagues across the aisle to address the COVID-19 crisis, Speaker Pelosi has only put forward partisan legislation that has no chance of being signed into law.

This is why I want Congress to get back to work. If millions of Americans are heading to their jobs every day, then so should we. There are pressing issues in our country, and it’s our job to address them. We must not postpone the legislative process any longer.

May 8, 2020

At the direction of Governor Hutchinson, Arkansans have slowly started lifting restrictions on business operations and begun reopening our economy. This is welcome news after a difficult period of economic downturn due to COVID-19. However, we can’t become careless with certain practices that stop the spread of the virus. If we want to keep our businesses open, we must do so in the safest way possible by practicing good hygiene and wearing masks when social distancing is unavoidable.

We still have a ways to go, but I’m grateful for the progress we’ve made. If there is anything my office can do for you, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (501) 609-9796. I hope you and your family are healthy and well, and that you can enjoy the beautiful Arkansas weather this weekend.

Until next week…

May 1, 2020

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced this week that Arkansas will begin reopening businesses in phases. This is great news for our economy, but it doesn’t mean everything will immediately return to normal. We must continue following the governor’s guidelines as instructed.

Arkansas is fortunate to have a “flattening of the curve” in COVID-19 cases, and that is because Arkansans took the necessary measures to slow the spread of the virus. However, we must not let up.

Even as we work to get our economy up and running, we must do so safely and take all precautions. The health and wellbeing of individuals is of utmost importance. Stay tuned to Governor Hutchinson’s press conferences and other guidance from his office for more updates.

This news doesn’t take away from the economic uncertainties many are still facing. If you have questions about small business loans, unemployment benefits, internet access or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (501) 609-9796.

April 24, 2020

During these unprecedented times, American businesses and health care workers have diligently worked to stop the spread of COVID-19 while still making efforts to keep our economy up and running. In March, to supplement these efforts, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Nearly 22,000 business in Arkansas received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), making it possible for business owners to maintain payroll and operational costs so they don’t have to close. The nationwide demand for the PPP in resulted in the funds running out, freezing applications that did not yet receive a loan. Congress needed to take further action.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. This bill allocates an additional $310 billion to the PPP, with $60 billion specifically set aside for small businesses. The bill also includes $75 billion to support our health care workers and hospitals and $25 million to expand testing for COVID-19.

I hope this news is encouraging as we all take steps forward to beat this virus. If you have any questions about this legislation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at (501) 609-9796.

April 23, 2020

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. This legislation builds on programs implemented in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and is the next step in giving individuals and businesses much-needed resources to weather the effects of COVID-19.

I know many of you – particularly small business owners – will have questions about what this bill looks like in practice. I’ve compiled a breakdown of the bill’s main components below, and my staff is always available to answer questions. Give us a call anytime at (501) 609-9796.

What’s Included in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

Small Businesses

  • $310 billion for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which will allow banks to continue providing forgivable loans to cover the cost of businesses’ payroll and operating expenses. $60 billion of this funding is specifically set aside for small lenders, which will ensure companies that make up the backbone of the Fourth District receive loans.
  • $60 billion for the SBA’s economic injury disaster loans (EIDL) and grants, including: $50 billion for economic injury disaster loans – each loan can be up to $2 million with interest rates not to exceed 4 percent and long-term repayment periods of up to 30 years; and $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 that do not have to be repaid.
  • Additional funds are provided for the SBA to administer these programs.

As of April 16, 2020, Arkansas businesses had received $2.7 billion in funding from the PPP, which assisted a total of 21,754 businesses across the state. Once initial funding for the PPP ran out, new applications were frozen. Now that Congress has approved another wave of funding, with $60 billion designated for small businesses, the application process will reopen.

Both borrowers and lenders should follow guidance from this document.  

Hospitals and Heath Care Providers

  • $75 billion to support the heroes on the front lines of this crisis and our health care system, including additional funding to reimburse hospitals and health care providers for lost revenues and expenses related to the outbreak.

Testing

  • $25 billion to expand testing, which will provide information on where cases are occurring and support continued efforts to reopen communities. Some of the specific provisions include: $11 billion for states to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, scale-up laboratory capacity and support employer testing; $1 billion to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity expansion, public health data surveillance and analytics infrastructure modernization; and up to $1 billion of funding to cover costs of testing for the uninsured.

April 17, 2020

When Congress signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law, the bill included $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This program is designed to give small businesses the ability to pay their employees and other necessary bills while they are closed during this time. Almost 15,000 businesses in Arkansas have received assistance so far.

As of this week, all $350 billion of allocated funds have been distributed, leaving thousands of businesses in a very tough position where they can not apply for a loan. Congress absolutely must put party politics aside and quickly allocate more money to the PPP to keep our economy afloat.

Millions of Americans received their economic impact payments this week. As a reminder, these payments will be distributed to all qualifying individuals by either direct deposit or a mailed check. To check the status of your payment, click here.

I will continue providing updates on the PPP and CARES Act on Facebook and Twitter, @RepWesterman. If you have questions about how this will impact you or your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at (501) 609-9796.

April 10, 2020

Out of an abundance of caution, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced this week that Arkansas schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. Students will continue meeting online and completing coursework at home.

Though these circumstances require us to adapt and change our daily lives, we are fortunate to live in a time where we can access additional learning opportunities online and by television. I have shared a few of those in the section below and hope that you and your family enjoy utilizing these resources. I’d like to thank all of our teachers who are continuing to educate our students while we stay home. You are heroes and role models to our youth, and your dedication has not gone unnoticed.

While it will be an unconventional Easter holiday this year, I hope you and your family find peace and joy as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

April 6, 2020

Friends,

Updates and information surrounding COVID-19 are constantly changing, and I know many of you have questions on the federal and state response to the virus. That’s why on Tuesday, April 7, at 6:30 p.m. CT, I’m hosting a telephone town hall with Dr. Nate Smith from the Arkansas Health Department.

Some questions we’ll answer include:

  • How is Arkansas responding to an increased number of cases?
  • What support is available for small businesses in the state?
  • How will Arkansans receive their individual tax rebates?
  • What precautions should families take to protect themselves from the virus?

If you’d like to join the discussion, you can dial 877-229-8493 and use the pin 114998 to be connected.

You can also watch and ask questions here on Facebook Live.

For more information about COVID-19, visit my website.

I look forward to hearing from you!

April 3, 2020

Last week, the House and the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) ACT, and President Trump signed the bill into law. This piece of legislation is an enormous $2 trillion package that will provide relief and financial aid to those most impacted at this time, including individuals, small businesses and health care workers. You can read more about the CARES Act on mywebsite.

A bill with a price tag like this one often comes with many questions. How will it affect me and my family? What steps do I need to take receive financial aid? How can my small business continue operating? To answer some of your questions, I hosted a telephone town hall on Wednesday night, joined by UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson and Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission Mike Preston.

I encourage you to watch the full telephone town hall on my Facebook page – both Dr. Patterson and Mr. Preston shared a wealth of resources and information. I also pulled a few questions and answers from the telephone town hall and included them below. As always, my office is available to help you. If you need any assistance or have other questions about the CARES Act of COVID-19 efforts, please call (501) 609-9796.

Your Questions on the CARES Act, Answered!

Note: these questions and answers are paraphrased from our live telephone town hall event, and additional questions were asked and answered. For the full conversation, please visit my Facebook page.

Q: Will citizens who receive Social Security benefits but did not file an income tax still receive the individual tax rebate?

A: Westerman: Yes, you are entitled to receive a refund. It will be deposited in the form of direct deposit or in the mail.

Q: I am having trouble filing unemployment. What will the timing be for me to file my claim?

A: Westerman: Typically, the unemployment office receives 1,000 contacts daily, but they are currently getting 30,000 contacts every day. They are working around the clock to improve the system to get the aid to you.

Preston: The easiest way to apply for unemployment is through this website. Additionally, we are able to backpay unemployment benefits to the date of separation. You will receive your money.

Q: Do I need to wear a face mask?

A: Patterson: Right now, the guidance is that wearing masks is not necessary unless you are suspected of being infected with COVID-19. We are working with Governor Hutchinson to obtain more masks for our frontline caregivers at this time. However, if you already have a mask lying around your house, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to wear it outside.

Q: I am a small business owner and want to continue to pay my employees rather than lay them off. What steps do I need to take to keep my business running?

A: Westerman: Under the CARES Act, there’s a Small Business Administration loan, and you qualify if your business is under 500 employees. Your bank will give you the information to fill out the application form. The loan will be the amount of two months of operation, so you can continue to pay your employees and other business expenses.

Q: Are local banks equipped to handle the influx of 7a loans for small businesses?

A: Preston: The banks in Arkansas have never been in a better position than now. It’s important to work with your bank to obtain a small business loan. The CARES Act has certain provisions to ensure they are prepared, as Representative Westerman said.

Q: If I enroll in the Payroll Protection Program, what will happen at the end of the 8-week period if help is still needed?

A: Westerman: This bill was written with the hope that we will be through this in two months. Congress is willing to reassess the situation in two months, and we will do what is necessary to protect and defend our country. This is being monitored daily.

Couldn’t join our last telephone town hall? I’ll be hosting another one this Tuesday, April 7. Details below:

March 31, 2020

President Trump signed the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law on March 27, and I know many of you have questions about what this bill means for you and your families.

I’ve compiled a list of resources, frequently asked questions, and background information below to help you better understand some of the main portions of the bill. As always, my offices are equipped to answer any additional questions you have – just give us a call at (501) 609-9796. You can also sign up to receive weekly updates here.

We are all in this together.

American Recovery Rebates

Every American with a valid Social Security number is eligible to receive a one-time tax rebate check. The full amount ($1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for couples, $500 for each child under the age of 17) is available for those with incomes at or below $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household, or $150,000 for joint filers. The credit phases out above those thresholds and will be phased out completely for single taxpayers with incomes exceeding $99,000 or joint filers with incomes exceeding $198,000.

Those who have no income, as well as those whose income derives entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs – such as SSI benefits – may still be eligible for a rebate. However, if a person over the age of 17 is a dependent on someone else’s tax return, they will not be eligible for a rebate.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I get my check?

If you have already filed your 2019 tax return, your rebate will be based on that information, otherwise it will pull from your 2018 tax return. The amount will come in the form of a tax rebate and will be directly deposited into your bank account, if you included direct deposit information on your tax form. If you did not, your check will be mailed to you.

If you typically do not file a tax return, you must still file one to be eligible for the rebate. More information on free filing is available here.

I changed my banking information since filing my tax return. How will the IRS know where to send my check?

The Treasury Department is creating a website where taxpayers can provide their banking information to receive a direct deposit instead of a check. You will be able to update your information there.

When will I get my check?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a March 25 White House briefing that the department could begin sending payments in as little as three weeks.

Will I get a check if I owe back taxes?

Yes, rebates will not be offset by tax debt or any other federal debt.

I receive Social Security benefits, veteran benefits, or disability. Will I get a check?

Yes. As long as a person has a valid Social Security number, they can receive the credit – so this means workers, those receiving welfare benefits, Social Security beneficiaries, veterans and others are all eligible. However, you must still file a tax return in order to be recorded by the IRS for this rebate.

Click here for a list of more FAQs compiled by the IRS.

Small Business Assistance

The CARES Act creates a Paycheck Protection Program for small employers, self-employed individuals, and “gig economy” workers, with $350 billion to help prevent workers from losing their jobs and small businesses from going under due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Paycheck Protection Program provides 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally-guaranteed loans to small employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency.

If the employer maintains payroll, the portion of the loans used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven. This proposal is retroactive to February 15, 2020, to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls. Some businesses that employ more than 500 employees across multiple locations are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program at each individual location.

The CARES Act also institutes an employee retention credit, providing a refundable payroll tax credit equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 in wages per employee (including health benefits) paid by certain employers during the COVID-19 crisis. This credit is available to employers:

  • Whose operations were fully or partially shut down by government order limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19, or
  • Whose quarterly receipts are less than 50 percent for the same quarter in the previous year.

If you’re a lender, click here for more information.

If you’re a borrower, click here for more information.

Click here to access the borrower application.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What businesses are eligible?

  • Businesses and entities must have been in operation on February 15, 2020.
  • Small business concerns, as well as any business concern, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, a 501(c)(19) veterans organization, or Tribal business concern described in section 31(b)(2)(C) that has fewer than 500 employees, or the applicable size standard in number of employees for the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry as provided by SBA, if higher.
  • Individuals who operate a sole proprietorship or as an independent contractor and eligible self-employed individuals.
  • Any business concern that employs no more than 500 employees per physical location of the business concern and that is assigned a NAICS code beginning with 72 (Accommodation and Food Services sector), for which the affiliation rules are waived.
  • Affiliation rules are also waived for any business concern operating as a franchise that is assigned a franchise identifier code by the Administration, and company that receives funding through a Small Business Investment Company.

Where can I get this loan?

Through any existing Small Business Administration lenders and any lenders that are brought into the program through the Treasury Department. Talk to your preferred financial lender to see if they qualify. 

What can the loan be used for?

  • Payroll costs
  • Costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums
  • Employee salaries, commissions, or similar compensations
  • Payments of interest on any mortgage obligation (which shall not include any prepayment of or payment of principal on a mortgage obligation)
  • Rent (including rent under a lease agreement)
  • Utilities
  • Interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the covered period

When can I apply?

Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply. Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply. The Treasury Department encourages people to apply as quickly as possible because there is a funding cap. 

When is the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program?

Applicants are eligible to apply for the PPP loan until June 30, 2020. 

How do I receive loan forgiveness?

You must apply through your lender for forgiveness on your loan. In this application, you must include:

  • Documentation verifying the number of employees on payroll and pay rates, including IRS payroll tax filings and state income, payroll and unemployment insurance filings.
  • Documentation verifying payments on covered mortgage obligations, lease obligations, and utilities.
  • Certification from a representative of your business or organization that is authorized to certify that the documentation provided is true and that the amount that is being forgiven was used in accordance with the program’s guidelines for use.

Unemployment Insurance

The CARES Act expands current unemployment benefits to individuals who are not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits: self-employed, independent contractors, individuals with limited work history, gig workers and others.

Federal funding is now available for states to provide the first week of unemployment benefits to eligible individuals immediately. This allows individuals to apply and receive unemployment benefits as soon as they become unemployed, instead of waiting one week after becoming unemployed to apply for and receive benefits. This legislation also provides an additional $600 per week to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months.

The CARES Act authorized a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance of an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for individuals who remain unemployed after state unemployment benefits are no longer available.

These provisions sunset on December 31, 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I file for unemployment?

You can file an unemployment insurance application online here, call the hotline at 1-844-908-2178 or 501-534-6304, or file a claim at any Arkansas Workforce Center office. A valid government ID is required (driver’s license or passport). Due to an increased volume of applications, the online process is recommended.

Once you finish the application, you may need to call your local unemployment office to complete the process. Keep in mind that many others are doing the same thing, so expect longer wait times as local offices rush to catch up with the high demand.

My child’s daycare closed/I’m taking care of a family member with COVID-19/I’m experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and need to quarantine, am I still eligible for unemployment insurance?

Yes, if these circumstances are preventing you from working, you will be eligible for coverage.

I quit my job. Can I still receive these additional benefits?

It depends. If you were forced to quit your job because of daycare closures or COVID-19 exposure, you should still be covered under the bill. However, you cannot voluntarily opt-in by quitting for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. You must be laid off by your employer.

I’m already receiving unemployment benefits. Will I still be eligible for the additional coverage?

Yes. Even if you’re already receiving unemployment benefits, your state-level benefits will be extended by 13 weeks. You’ll also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly federal payment.

March 27, 2020

As of today, the House and the Senate both passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  The bill is now on its way to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.  This bipartisan legislation will provide relief for small businesses, support for health professionals, direct help for Americans and economic stability.  I am pleased that Congress found common ground and solutions to help those most impacted as we combat COVID-19.

While a lot of you have had the privilege of teleworking over the past few weeks, many Americans continue going to work to keep our country healthy, fed and well-supplied. To every doctor, nurse, truck driver, farmer, grocery store associate, pharmacist and all other essential employees, thank you. Your hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed.

For the foreseeable future, we will all continue to shift our routines and adapt to a temporary “normal.” Please continue to practice social distancing, stay home if you can, and rest assured that this season shall pass. We are all in this together.

March 20, 2020

Our nation is travelling through uncharted waters as we fight the spread of COVID-19. I won’t sugarcoat it – we are facing tough times. It is more important now than ever that we all act out of an abundance of caution to stop the spread of this virus. Wash your hands regularly, call your doctor if you’re sick and stay home as much as possible. Practice social distancing by staying six feet apart from others, avoid large gatherings and postpone public events and travel plans. We are in this together, and we will beat this.

This week, I talked with hospital administrators, farmers, truckers and many other local stakeholders to learn how COVID-19 is affecting them. Each industry is impacted differently, but all are taking appropriate measures to keep their communities and employees safe, healthy and strong. I could not be more proud of Arkansans for tackling these circumstances head-on.

If you have any questions about COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. Our priority is serving and assisting constituents of the Fourth District as we navigate this together. Additionally, you can visit any of the links to the right to get up-to-date information on COVID-19. I will also continue to share updates on myFacebook and Twitter pages.

March 19, 2020

Stopping the Spread of COVID-19

I’m sure you’ve been closely tracking the status of COVID-19 in both the country and our communities, and I wanted to share helpful resources where you can go to find information. I know the news is constantly changing, so I encourage you to check out the links on the right as reliable places where you can go to find the most recent updates.

Congress is continuing to work together on funding bills to bolster COVID-19 research, testing and prevention, as well as help affected American families and businesses. Some of the key points include:

  • Free COVID-19 testing.
  • Paid sick leave for affected American workers.
  • Expanded food programs and benefits, including SNAP and Meals on Wheels.
  • Better unemployment insurance.

President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law last night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also awarded $6.2 million to Arkansas to support the COVID-19 response.

***

President Trump’s guidance for all Americans:

  • Listen to and follow the directions of state and local authorities.
  • If you feel sick, stay home and call your medical provider before visiting in person.
  • If your children are sick, keep them at home as well and contact your medical provider.
  • If someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19, keep everyone at home and do not go to work or school.
  • If you are an older person or someone with underlying health conditions, stay home and away from other people.
  • Even if you are healthy, practice social distancing to prevent the spread.
  • Click here for more guidance.

Ways you can do your part to stop the spread:

  • Cancel or postpone indoor events of more than 10 people.
  • Use curbside pickup or takeout at businesses and restaurants. 
  • Cancel or postpone out-of-state travel.
  • Avoid discretionary travel, including shopping trips and social visits.
  • Do not visit nursing homes or anywhere with sick or elderly residents, unless providing critical assistance.

I will continue providing daily updates on my Facebook and Twitter, so I encourage you to stay connected for more information.

March 13, 2020

This has been a difficult week, and I know many of you are nervous about what Coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 – means for Arkansas and our country. I can’t predict what the future holds, but know that I’m working closely with state and federal officials to expedite the federal response and inform Arkansans.

To that end, Congressman French Hill and I hosted a joint telephone town hall this week with Dr. Nate Smith, head of the Arkansas Department of Health. This was an incredibly informative event and we got to answer a lot of your questions, so I encourage you to watch the full town hall on my Facebook page here.

Below, you’ll find a host of resources with more information about COVID-19, symptoms to look for, travel assistance and more. Congress also passed $8.3 billion of emergency funding last week, which will help speed up vaccine development, expand telehealth access and boost access to testing and treatments.

Remember to keep washing your hands, sanitizing regularly-used surfaces and staying home if you’re sick. I’ll continue updating you via social media as much as possible.

COVID-19 Resources

Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 Call Center
During normal business hours (8:00am – 4:30pm), urgent and non-urgent calls, call 1-800-803-7487.
After normal business hours, urgent calls needing immediate response, please call 501-661-2136.

Staying Healthy:

  • Remember to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Visit the CDC’s website for more guidance.

For Communities:

Travel Assistance:

  • If you’re planning a trip, view the CDC’s travel health notices here.
  • The State Department also regularly issues international travel guidance.
  • Specific State Department travel advisories can be found here.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms – fever, cough or shortness of breath – and have been to China, Italy or Iran recently, or have been in close contact with someone else exhibiting symptoms, call your primary care physician immediately. If you are symptomatic, the CDC recommends calling your doctor first and receiving guidance before heading to the hospital, to prevent others from being exposed.

Also be aware that the CDC strongly advised against cruise ship travel worldwide. If you are over 75 or have underlying health conditions, the CDC also recommends that you avoid large crowds and nonessential travel.

March 6, 2020

One of the best parts of serving the Fourth District is spending time with constituents when they visit D.C. This week, I met with the Arkansas Farm Bureau Presidents, AIPAC representatives, students from the University of Arkansas College of Agriculture and many others. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to discuss legislation with my office.

While I’ve been in D.C., my staff in Arkansas has set up mobile offices in counties across our district. If you have an issue with the federal government that my office can assist with – such as a VA claim, social security or Medicare – I encourage you to visit a mobile office near you. The spring mobile offices continue next week. For more information on when and where we’ll be in your neighborhood, call my office at (501) 609-9796 or visit my website.

Several constituents have reached out to my office for updates on Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. This week, Congress passed legislation allocating $8.3 billion of emergency funding to contain, prevent and develop treatments for Coronavirus. President Trump signed it into law this morning. As of right now, there are no confirmed cases in Arkansas, but remember to wash your hands regularly and stay home if you’re sick. For up-to-date information about Coronavirus, visit the CDC website here.

February 28, 2020

After a great week home in Arkansas, I returned to D.C. on Tuesday for a busy few days of legislative business. One of my first meetings of the week was with the Arkansas Broadcasters Association, many of whom I work with regularly to bring TV and radio news around Arkansas. Our state is fortunate to have such an amazing group of people working hard to publicize local and national news.

I’ve also got an exciting update to share on the Trillion Trees Act, as this week the House Committee on Natural Resources held a legislative hearing on the bill. A hearing like this is the first step in getting a bill passed through committee, and I was pleased to testify on behalf of my bill before committee members and attendees. Trees are the most natural, pragmatic and economical tool we have to store carbon, and we’re blessed to have a thriving timber industry in Arkansas to use as a model. You can watch my full committee testimony here.

On a more sober note, I was saddened to see that the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to pass two significant pro-life bills this week. Both of these bills are commonsense, lifesaving measures, and I’ve already signed a petition asking Speaker Pelosi to hold a vote on them in the House. Americans deserve to know where their elected leaders stand on these issues.

February 21, 2020

This week the House was in recess, which means I had a chance to spend some time back in Arkansas.

Last Friday, I was in Hot Springs for constituent meetings and spoke to the Arkansas Wine and Beer Wholesalers. This week, I visited Pine Bluff where I toured the new aquatic center and stopped by the construction site for the Jefferson County Public Library. These developments bring exciting news for Pine Bluff! I am so glad I got to check out these new facilities in person, and look forward to seeing how the community benefits from them.

Next month, my staff will be hosting mobile offices across the district. If you are having an issue with a federal agency, I encourage you to stop by a mobile office for assistance. Whether you’re having problems with veterans affairs, Medicare, social security or any other government issue, no problem is too small and my district staff is happy to help in any way possible. The offices will be around the Fourth District from March 3 to March 12. To find out more information on when a mobile office will be in your area, call my Hot Springs office at (501) 609-9796 or visit my website.

February 14, 2020

Ever since I first came to Congress, my top priority has been pursuing legislation that promotes environmental stewardship while growing our economy. As a licensed forester, I’ve seen firsthand how we can accomplish both of these goals within the forest industry.

That’s why I’m excited to announce I introduced a new bill this week: the Trillion Trees Act. Not only am I setting an ambitious goal of planting 1 trillion new trees worldwide by 2050, but I’m also incentivizing the use of wood products as renewable building materials.

The bill has a three-pronged approach:

1) Plant more trees in urban areas and on marginal agriculture land domestically while offering technical support and assistance for other countries to maximize forest growth internationally and reverse deforestation.

2) Grow more wood in our existing forests and make them more resilient to insects, diseases and catastrophic wildfires.

3) Store more carbon by incentivizing innovative building practices with a sustainable building tax credit, while offsetting some fossil fuel use by capturing the energy in renewable biomass fuel.

Arkansas is home to incredible forests, and I look forward to using our state as a model for how sustainable forest management works in practice.

Until next week…

February 7, 2020

This week, President Trump delivered his annual State of the Union Address to Congress. Under this administration, we’ve seen a booming economy, the lowest unemployment rate in decades and new international trade deals.

In the president’s address, we heard the inspiring stories of several Americans. Brig. Gen. Charles McGehee, a Tuskegee Airman who celebrated his 100th birthday in December, attended with his great-grandson that hopes to someday serve in the U.S. Space Force. Ellie Schneider was born at just 21 weeks old and is one of the youngest babies to survive in the U.S. Today, she is two years old. Amy Williams, a hardworking military spouse with two young children, was reunited with her husband, Sgt. Townsend Williams, after his fourth deployment.

President Trump also tasked Congress to draft legislation and address his priorities. These included environmental stewardship, drug pricing reform and protecting the lives of the unborn. Since the Senate voted to acquit President Trump of impeachment this week, Congress has no excuse to delay these requests. I am relieved that we can finally move away from the issue of impeachment to get back to the business of legislating, and I am excited to work on the issues at hand.

January 31, 2020

I was back in D.C. this week, but it almost didn’t feel like I left home. I was pleased to meet with so many Arkansans who were in town over the past few days. My staff and I met with constituents from Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Arkadelphia and other communities of the Fourth District.

A highlight of my week was video chatting with the U.S. History Class from Ozark High School. Each year, these students write letters to my office, and I always enjoy reading them and writing a response. Thanks to modern technology, we were able to connect for a Skype call as well. I really enjoyed visiting with these students and answering their questions about the legislative process.

When I got back to Arkansas, I was able to speak to the Catfish Farmers of Arkansas at their meeting in Hot Springs. Thank you to everyone both in D.C. and Arkansas who made this week so enjoyable. It is an honor to serve as your congressman.

January 24, 2020

I am encouraged by the thousands of Americans who traveled to Washington, D.C. today to stand up for life, and by those who attended events across the country earlier this week. President Trump was the first president to join everyone gathered in D.C., publicly showing this administration’s support for pro-life policies.

Life is our most basic human right, granted by our Creator and guaranteed by the Constitution. I believe we should protect all life in the United States, both born and unborn. It’s disheartening that many deny the right to life to the unborn in America, but days like today serve as a reminder that there is a path forward to protect the most vulnerable population in our country.

I have and always will be pro-life. One of my top priorities in Congress is supporting legislation that protects unborn citizens. I hope you’ll join me in speaking on behalf of the voiceless.

January 17, 2020

This week President Trump announced Phase 1 of a trade agreement with China. This is fantastic news for Arkansas! China has agreed to purchase $40-50 billion of American agricultural goods, including beef, poultry, soybeans, rice and wood products.

This deal is also reforming the way China will do business with the United States by addressing longstanding intellectual property concerns and ending forced technology transfers. I’m pleased to see that Arkansas farmers, businesses and lumber manufacturers will directly benefit from this deal.

We’ve seen tremendous economic growth in the past year, and President Trump’s negotiation to improve trade with China is a step in the right direction. We still have a lot of work to do, and I look forward to seeing how future phases of this agreement will continue to grown the American economy.

January 3, 2020

I’ve gotten to spend this holiday season home in Hot Springs with my family, and I’ve enjoyed reflecting on 2019 and planning out the upcoming year. With an anticipated national election, geopolitical issues and much more on the horizon, I don’t doubt that 2020 will be an interesting year.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to introducing some new bills that I’ve been working on for quite awhile, including an updated version of the Fair Care Act and a bill incentivizing planting more trees and using more products made from trees. I’m continuing to raise support for bills I introduced last year, including the Keeping Our Promises Act, which would extend benefits to Agent Orange survivor, and Sara’s Law, which would reform aspects of juvenile sentencing.

I’m also hoping to meet with many of you, both in D.C. and around Arkansas. If your family is planning a trip to D.C. sometime this year, be sure to give my office a call at (202) 225-3772 so we can help with your visit.

December 27, 2019

2019 was quite a year, and I can’t believe it’s almost over. Since being sworn in to my third term almost 12 months ago, I’ve traveled all over Arkansas and back and forth to D.C. to introduce legislation, meet with constituents, testify in committees, visit local businesses and much more.

I think the numbers speak for themselves: in 2019, my office mailed out 212,320 letters to constituents, opened 826 new casework files, held 58 mobile offices around the Fourth District, gave 152 U.S. Capitol tours and visited more than 37 local Arkansas businesses. I also sponsored or cosponsored 140 bills in the House, some of which directly stemmed from conversations I’ve had with constituents over the years.

Keep reading below for a highlight from each month this year – it was hard to just pick one! Thank you for your support as I continue serving you in Congress. I’m looking forward to all that 2020 has in store.

December 20, 2019

No matter what news channel or outlet you flipped to this week, I’m sure you heard all about the madness happening in D.C. In the very last legislative week of the year, Speaker Pelosi brought articles of impeachment, appropriations and USMCA to the House floor. I posted quite a bit about each of these votes on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, both @RepWesterman if you’d like to learn more.

Of particular note is the final vote count on USCMA, a total of 385-41. We’ve said for months that this vote would be overwhelmingly bipartisan, if the Speaker would just bring it to the House floor. In the final vote of the year, this important trade deal sailed through the House. I’m looking forward to getting it signed into law so American trade can prosper.

I’m glad to be home in Arkansas spending the holidays with my family, and I hope you are able to take time to rest and enjoy celebrating this Christmas season.

December 13, 2019

As we wrap up 2019, there’s a lot happening on Capitol Hill. This week, the House of Representatives introduced articles of impeachment, finalized a deal on the United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA), passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and voted on Speaker Pelosi’s signature prescription drug legislation. These are all really important issues to the Fourth District, so let’s look at them individually.

First, impeachment. Thank you to everyone who responded to my e-survey about the impeachment inquiry – your input is valuable. I believe House Democrats have been a party in search of a problem, designing a scripted, one-sided process to back up their accusations. That’s why I do not support articles of impeachment. In the midst of this Washington circus, President Trump continues providing economic wins for the American people.

Speaking of economic wins, the USMCA will be a huge benefit to our country, providing an estimated $68 billion in new economic growth. I only wish Speaker Pelosi had let us vote on it sooner. You can watch my video update on USMCA here.

The NDAA is must-pass legislation, and this year, it contained major GOP wins, including a repeal of the “widow’s tax” and paid family leave for federal employees. I broke down the main provisions of the bill here on my Facebook page.

Finally, we can all agree that prescription drug costs in the U.S. are way too high. Hardworking American families need better access to cheaper medicine, but Democrats’ H.R. 3 is not the bipartisan solution we need. More of my thoughts on H.R. 3 here.

December 6, 2019

In the midst of impeachment proceedings in Washington, I have some good news to share. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act passed the House in a 417-3 vote, and it now heads to President Trump so he can sign it into law. For as long as I’ve been in Congress, I’ve heard from constituents about the dangers of robocalls. Many of you are rightfully concerned about fake callers scamming loved ones for money or personal information. I’m glad that the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. The TRACED act will enhance caller ID systems to make it easier to verify if a call is real, and it will also give law enforcement officials the tools they need to go after robocallers who break the law. This is welcome news, and I hope President Trump quickly signs the bill into law.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced $8.9 million in disaster relief funding to Arkansas counties affected by flooding earlier this year. It’s a huge win for communities, families and business owners – read more about the funding here.

December 2, 2019

It was such a blessing to be back in Arkansas this week celebrating Thanksgiving with family. This holiday is a wonderful time to reflect on the past year and begin preparing for the year ahead. Thank you to all who have helped make 2019 such a fantastic year to serve as your Congressman. From tours of small businesses, constituent meetings in D.C., conversations at Coffee with Your Congressman and visits to farms, I could not do this job without you.

It is an honor to serve you, and I look forward to what lies ahead.

Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C.

I always enjoy watching the annual Presidential Turkey Pardon at the White House. Each year, two turkeys travel across the country to the Washington, D.C. in hopes that they will be pardoned from the Thanksgiving dinner table. This has been a tradition for decades, and in recent years, President Trump has polled social media on which turkey to pardon. Read more about this year’s turkeys, Bread and Butter, and find out who started this tradition in the Thanksgiving Trivia section below.

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Photos courtesy of The White House

Congratulations to Butter on being pardoned from the dinner table this year!

Thanksgiving Trivia

Questions: 

  1. Where did the first Thanksgiving take place?
  2. How long did the first Thanksgiving celebration last?
  3. Which president declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday?
  4. Which president was the first to give a turkey a presidential pardon?
  5. Which state produces the most turkeys?
  6. Bonus question: Which turkey farm did I visit in 2018? (If you need a hint, check out the November 15 edition of my newsletter)

Answers:

  1. Plymouth, MA
  2. Three days
  3. Abraham Lincoln
  4. Ronald Reagan
  5. Minnesota
  6. Butterball Turkey in Ozark

November 22, 2019

It’s been an interesting few months in D.C., and I’m grateful to be home today spending some time with family. In this season of Thanksgiving, I hope you’re able to take time and reflect on what’s blessed you this year. We have so much for which to be thankful.

One of the biggest updates I have for you this week is on the federal budget. I know it’s not the most invigorating topic, but I believe it’s one of the most important issues facing our country. Congress is supposed to approve spending caps and then appropriate money to all federal agencies by September, but we’re now at a point where this never happens. Instead, Congress passes continuing resolutions (CRs) that simply move the problem down the road. I voted against a CR this week, because it’s imperative that Congress take time to find bipartisan agreements on funding.

Instead, as impeachment dominates everyone’s time in Washington, Congress has punted its appropriation responsibility to the week before Christmas. This means no one will be talking about funding until the eleventh hour, and will finally attempt to cobble together a hasty deal. If Congress can’t reach a solution, the government will shut down, forcing military personnel and hundreds of thousands of federal workers to live without a paycheck until the issue is resolved.

This is no way to run a government, and it’s why I’ve always fought for a return to fiscal responsibility and a sound budget process. I’ll continue keeping you updated as I watch things develop in D.C.

I hope you have a blessed weekend with family and friends.

November 15, 2019

It’s been quite a week in D.C. The Democrat-led impeachment inquiry into President Trump has dominated the news cycle and distracted Congress from tackling important issues. At one point this week, Speaker Pelosi went so far as to keep the House in recess – meaning we couldn’t vote on legislation – to continue an impeachment hearing. I have consistently heard from my constituents that Congress needs to focus on other things, such as passing USMCA and drafting health care legislation. I couldn’t agree more. Congress needs to get back to the business of legislating, and I will continue working on policy that benefits the Fourth District.

This week, I was glad to meet with students from Alma and Pea Ridge who visited D.C. for a DECA leadership conference. These students had fantastic questions about the legislative process and will make great leaders someday. I also met with the Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Committee. Both groups joined me on a night tour of the Capitol. These tours are a reminder of our nation’s founding principles, and I always enjoy sharing the history inside the Capitol building.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture shared fantastic news on Thursday when China lifted its ban on poultry imports from the United States. Since I’ve been in Congress, I’ve heard from poultry farmers across the Fourth District about the difficulties this ban on imports has imposed. China’s decision to lift this ban will benefit our poultry industry and ensure the United States remains competitive in trade. I’d like to thank U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and President Trump for their efforts in making this possible.

November 7, 2019

This Monday, we will take time to honor our veterans as we celebrate Veterans Day. We are so blessed to live in the United States of America, and owe our thanks to those who fought for our freedom.

During my time in Congress, my office has received far too many requests from veterans who are having difficulty receiving their medical benefits from the VA, many of whom were affected by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. These illnesses are serious, and it is our responsibility to uphold the promise of medical care that men and women in uniform were given.

President Trump signed The Blue Water Navy Act into law this year. This expands Agent Orange exposure benefits to those who served off the shores of Vietnam.  It also includes legislation I introduced that provides benefits to children with spina bifida whose parents were exposed to Agent Orange. Now that we know just how damaging these herbicides were to veterans, there is no reason we should deny benefits to them and their families.

I also introduced the Keeping Our Promises Act. This bill would add nine additional illnesses, recognized by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) as being caused by exposure to toxic herbicides, eligible as a presumptive for VA benefits. Additionally, I introduced legislation to expand exposure benefits to veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Every veteran should have the same opportunity to receive VA benefits no matter where or when they served. I hope to make this a reality for our country’s heroes, and look forward to seeing this legislation brought to the floor for a vote.

Taking care of our veterans will always be a top priority while I serve in Congress. Thank you to the men and women who bravely served our country. If you or someone you know needs assistance with the VA, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (501) 609-9796. My staff and I would be honored to help make sure you receive the benefits you were promised when you signed up to defend our nation.

November 1, 2019

As we kick off the month of November, I wanted to update you on an exciting project I worked on in Washington, D.C. in October.

Last week, I introduced a bipartisan resolution that would formally recognize October as National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting one in five people and hindering their ability to read. Many students with dyslexia don’t perform well because their dyslexia isn’t identified, leaving them without the tools they need to navigate the challenges dyslexia presents.

That is exactly why this resolution is so important. When students are screened for dyslexia early on, teachers can teach those with dyslexia how to become fluent readers, despite their disability. This is accomplished through focused, evidence-based intervention, promoting self-awareness and self-empowerment, and the provision of necessary accommodations that ensure success in school.

Dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed, and it is our responsibility to spread awareness so that our students are given the tools they need to excel in reading.

I hope you are able to enjoy the fall weather this weekend and stay warm.

October 25, 2019

If you have been watching the news this week, you know as well as I do that it is a frustrating time to be in Washington, D.C. The impeachment inquiry has proved to be a major distraction from tending to legislative business, but I haven’t let it stop me from working on policy that will positively impact the Fourth District.

This week, we celebrated National Forest Products Week. Roughly 33 percent of the U.S. is forested, and we’re blessed to have an abundance of trees in Arkansas. Did you know that:

  • About 86 percent of the land mass in the Fourth District is forested.
  • Agriculture is the leading economic driver in Arkansas, and forestry makes up the largest sector of agriculture in Arkansas.
  • Trees are renewable and biodegradable, providing an ample amount of resources for products we use daily.

Forest products are part of our everyday lives. Everything from hardwood flooring and building materials, paper towels and napkins, paper office supplies and cardboard shipping boxes all starts with a tree. One of my top priorities will always be giving the forestry industry the necessary tools to succeed so that we can continue using forest products. I was pleased to meet with so many great people in the industry this week and learn about the latest innovation in forest products.

October 18, 2019

After a fantastic two weeks in Arkansas touring the district, I was back on Capitol Hill this week. I never enjoy leaving the Natural State, but this week was it particularly difficult to return to Washington, D.C. to an impeachment inquiry.

House Democrats have withheld information from members of Congress, misinformed the American public, and disregarded precedent on processes for this inquiry. For example, on Wednesday I went to a secure area to read classified testimony from Adam Schiff’s closed-door hearing, but was turned away. If Democrats won’t even let members of Congress know what’s going on, how can we trust the information they’re leaking to the media?

Impeachment is the most serious tool Congress can use, and we should treat it as such. Instead, these cloak-and-dagger inquiries are unprecedented, uncalled for, and unfair to the American people.

Needless to say, this situation is increasingly frustrating. Time that we could have spent voting on USMCA, the Born Alive Act, transportation and infrastructure, and veterans affairs has been wasted on a media frenzy. Our constituents did not elect us to act in a political circus; it’s our responsibility to work on policy that can better shape our country. Even with this distraction, I will continue to do just that.

October 11, 2019

As beautiful fall weather marks the start of harvesting season, I hosted my annual farm tour this week, with stops ranging from Ozark to Pine Bluff. This tour is always a highlight of my year, since farmers and ranchers are the lifeblood of both our state and national economy.

One of the topics that came up frequently was levee breaches and flood damage from earlier this year. I got to see the sand that’s covered part of a farmer’s fields and visit a flooded pump station with the Army Corps of Engineers, and I know how much this damage has negatively affected farmers’ ability to plant and harvest in a timely fashion. Of course, the question is, “What happens now?” We began talking through local solutions with the Corps during a Farm Bureau meeting in Paris, and I’m also working on the Water Resources Subcommittee in Washington to address infrastructure issues on the federal level.

To learn more about each of my stops this week and see photos, keep reading below. I have the utmost respect for farmers in Arkansas and across the country who dedicate their lives to working the land, and it’s my honor to meet you and represent you in Congress.

October 4, 2019

Members of Congress headed back to their districts this week, and I couldn’t wait to be home in Arkansas. I’ve lived here my whole life, but I am still finding new places to explore. This week’s tourism tour was the perfect opportunity to visit some of the beautiful campgrounds, shooting ranges, parks and more that we often take for granted.

Arkansas may not be the first place that comes to mind when people think about tourism, but the Natural State has such a variety of historic buildings and outdoor recreation opportunities to enjoy. Whether you are interested in rock climbing, horseback riding, skeet shooting or camping with family, you can find a place that is perfect for you in the Fourth District.

I had such a great week visiting these locations, meeting the people who own and manage them and discussing how we can better improve access to public lands. Outdoor recreation and tourism are key to our state’s identity, and we are fortunate to have great people on the ground ensuring these opportunities are accessible and enjoyable.

We are so blessed to have these fantastic opportunities for tourism and recreation right in our backyards. As cooler temperatures head our way, I hope you are able to take some time to enjoy the beauty of the Natural State with family and friends this weekend!

September 27, 2019

We’ve heard a lot about impeachment this week, and it’s a word we’ll continue to hear. With the media focusing on the impeachment inquiry that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, I thought it would be helpful to discuss the topic in my weekly video. You can watch it on my Facebook page here.

Even though it may seem like Congress came to a halt this week, I can assure you that was not the case. In addition to a few Natural Resources Committee hearings, I also met with several constituents who were in D.C., including representatives from Greenhurst Nursing Home in Charleston, Pafford Medical Services in Hope and the Crawford County Adult Education Center in Van Buren. To top off the week, I led a night tour of the Capitol for the Smith family of Clarksville. As your representative, I value each meeting with constituents and my work in committees, drafting policy that will bring positive change to the Fourth District of Arkansas.

The House will be in recess for the next two weeks, and I’m looking forward to spending time in Arkansas. The first week will be spent on a tourism tour, and I plan to visit state parks, stop by small businesses affiliated with the tourism industry and host discussions on access to public lands. The following week, I will travel around the district on my annual agriculture tour, where I’ll meet with local farmers, ranchers and producers across the district. Follow along on my social media accounts @RepWesterman and stay tuned for updates in the newsletter.

September 20, 2019

I spend quite a bit of time driving across Arkansas, and I’ve seen the condition of rural roads in the district gradually worsen over recent years. Unsafe rural roads take away one’s peace of mind when commuting to work, visiting family and friends or even driving to the grocery store. No one should have to worry about the safety of themselves or loved ones just because our roads are falling apart, especially when the road that is crumbling may be the only route to take.

That’s why I introduced the Rural Road Safety Act with Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) on Monday. This bipartisan bill would restore a funding program for rural roads that was taken away and used elsewhere – we want to give this money back to communities so they can make critical safety improvements. Modernizing infrastructure in the Fourth District of Arkansas and across the country is one of my top priorities, and I am glad to join Rep. Finkenauer in cosponsoring this bill. You can read more about the Rural Road Safety Act here.

The rest of this week was spent in committee hearings, meetings with constituents, a Capitol night tour and a celebrity face you might recognize. I am excited to share more with you in the sections below.

September 13, 2019

The House reconvened this week, and I hit the ground running with a busy legislative schedule in D.C. On Tuesday, I hosted an event to discuss my health care bill, the Fair Care Act, with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). This bill would give coverage to more Americans at a lower cost, while still covering people with preexisting conditions. I enjoyed discussing the details of this bill with AEI and look forward to continuing the conversation about creating better health care.

Many of you participated in the town hall I hosted on Tuesday evening. It was great to give an update on my time in the district last month, as well as answer questions on health care, national parks and public lands, veterans affairs and many other issues. Thank you to everyone who listened on the phone or watched online! If you couldn’t tune in live, you can still view the full town hall at www.facebook.com/RepWesterman. For information on upcoming events, be sure to follow my social media pages @RepWesterman or call my office at (202) 225-3772.

On Wednesday, our nation mourned the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was a somber day in our country as we reflected on the horrific acts of terrorism that claimed the lives of almost 3,000 Americans. I will always be grateful for the bravery of first responders that rescued survivors, the private citizens who acted courageously and to our troops who traveled overseas to administer justice to those who orchestrated the heinous attacks. Americans showed strength and bravery in an unforgettable, unified response. We must always remember this day.

May God bless you, and I hope you have a great weekend.

September 6, 2019

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Arkansas this week to sign a Shared Stewardship Agreement with Governor Hutchinson. Arkansas is the first southern state to join one of these agreements, and it will facilitate healthy forest management by giving local land owners the ability to work closely with the Forest Service. Secretary Perdue also hosted a roundtable discussion with agriculture producers, where we discussed trade and the recent flood damage. I was pleased to have the Secretary in Arkansas this week and look forward to working with him further.

Following the Secretary’s visit, U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen joined me for a tour of the Ouachita National Forest, which spans more than 1.8 million acres in Arkansas and Oklahoma. We made four stops on our tour: the Albert Pike Recreation Area, Walnut Grove Church in Jessieville, the Red Cockaded Woodpecker/ Shortleaf Pine/ Blue Stem Grass Restoration Project and Avant Mining quartz mines. It was great to show Chief Christiansen part of my district and discuss what we can do to help improve policy in our USFS land. I thank her for visiting and taking time to spend in Arkansas’ Fourth District.

I will be back in Washington, D.C. on Monday for legislative business. This month has given me so many opportunities to meet with constituents, and I’d like to thank everyone who took time to make this work period informative, engaging and productive. Each stop offered insight that will help me better serve you in Congress.

August 30, 2019

As the month of August comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on all the people and places I’ve gotten to see during the month. From Coffees with Your Congressman to radio interviews, I’ve gotten to spend this month traveling around the district, as well as enjoy some much-needed time with family.

One of the highlights of the past week was attending the Southwest Forest Products Expo in Hot Springs. I’m always working on forestry legislation in the House, but nothing quite beats seeing the new products and technologies that make the industry possible. Healthy forests depend on sound forest management, and many of the men and women featured at the expo are part of making this scientific management a reality.

To everyone who I’ve had the chance to visit with, thank you for sharing your time with me! If I missed you, I look forward to seeing you this fall when I’m back in the district.

I hope you and your family have a blessed and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

Connecting with Arkansas Classrooms

Students across the state are back in class for the 2019-2020 school year. As administrators, teachers and pupils begin diving into new lesson plans and formulating goals and objectives to work toward this year, we are all excited for what the future holds.

I believe in interacting with students and teachers through the power of technology. That’s why I plan to continue connecting with Arkansas classrooms via video chatting services like Skype this school year as I have for the past several years. Spending time with teachers and students in our state even while I’m working in Washington, D.C. has proven to be a rewarding and fun experience.

Our educators have an incredibly meaningful and empowering responsibility to prepare students for success. Young Arkansans are well-served by their teachers’ efforts to help them learn, grow and develop the skills and abilities needed to chase their dreams and eventually contribute to our state and their communities.

As a former member of the Rogers School Board, I understand how challenging it can be for educators and administrators to do more with less. That’s why I will continue making it a priority to find ways to support and recognize the critical work they do on behalf of our students.

Having a dialogue with the education community in Arkansas, which I do by hosting video calls with classes across the state, provides me the opportunity to hear what is on students’ minds as well as receive real-time feedback and insight from their teachers.

I’ve hosted these discussions with many classes in the past and have consistently participated in conversations that are beneficial to myself and my staff in Washington and Arkansas. During these discussions, I usually try to help students understand what I do as one of their voices within the federal government in addition to helping inform and bring real-life examples to the lessons they’ve been taught about in civics, history and social studies. Our visits also give me the opportunity to personally tell educators how proud I am of them and how much I, on behalf of the entire state, appreciate what they do.

It’s my honor to represent the people of Arkansas in Washington as one of your United States Senators. Engaging with classrooms to share what I’m working on for our state and answer questions about current events, our government and my own path to public service is a unique and educational opportunity for all involved – and one that I am eager to expand this year.

If you know of a class that would like to connect with me, invite them to reach out to my office in Washington to learn more. I welcome the chance to visit with classrooms and educators in every corner of our state. To all those involved in our students’ education, I send my best wishes for a great school year and hope to talk with you soon.

August 16, 2019

The loss of homes and businesses from the historic flooding in May and June devastated many Arkansans. Floodwaters breached four levees, damaged two pump stations and shut down navigation systems.

However, even in the midst of loss, I saw Arkansans banding together to serve their neighbors and restore their communities. The swift response from Governor Hutchinson, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and many others is only encouraging. I am proud to call Arkansas home.

Earlier this month, the Arkansas General Assembly invited me to testify before a bicameral joint meeting regarding the record-breaking floods. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to meet with state, local and federal leaders in Arkansas’ Capitol to discuss the next steps to solving this problem.

These circumstances also allowed me to tour some of the water infrastructure in the Fourth District. I followed the Ouachita River with the goal of highlighting water supply, recreation, navigation, energy production and flood control, all of which are main functions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s good to get out into the field to see things that need to be replaced and gain an understanding of the problems at hand. You can read more in the “Around the District” section below.

I hold the position of Republican lead on the Subcommittee for Water Resources and the Environment, which falls under the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The insight I gained at each stop on my tour will be valuable as I work on policy in this role.

I have spoken with many farmers and homeowners who are seeking assistance from the federal government. If you are having any issues receiving assistance, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (501) 609-9796.

This problem is not easy to solve, but I am confident that with the efforts of both state and federal government, Arkansas’ water infrastructure can be properly repaired and restored to prevent flooding like this again.

August 9, 2019

It has been a great week in Arkansas! Stops included a visit to the UPS facility in Malvern, a Coffee with you Congressman event in El Dorado, and a few interviews at radio stations. You can read more about those stops in the “Around the District” section below.

I am wrapping up my water infrastructure tour this afternoon and look forward to sharing that with you next week. I gained some fantastic insight along the way that will be extremely valuable when the Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment convenes in September. For an early glimpse of the tour, head to my Instagram account @RepWesterman and click the highlight “Ouachita River.”

For many of you, I know the summer months are winding down as students get ready to head back to school in the coming weeks. I hope you are able to enjoy this time with family and friends as you prepare for an exciting school year ahead.

August 2, 2019

It’s been a fantastic few days back home in Arkansas. During this first week of August recess, I made some visits in Hot Springs, Bismarck and Hope. It is always beneficial to stop by local businesses, catch up with community leaders and answer questions you may have along the way. Whether it be a pharmacy visit, a local museum tour or a Coffee with Your Congressman event, the feedback Arkansans offered at each stop will hold incredible value when I go back to D.C. in September. You can read more about this week’s visits in the “Around the District” section below.

Next week, I will be making my way down to El Dorado to host another “Coffee with Your Congressman” on August 7th. After that, I’ll be heading up the Ouachita River for a water infrastructure tour. I am excited to gain some important feedback on updating and improving dams, levees and navigable waterways so that I can best serve the Fourth District in my role as the lead Republican for the Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment.

AROUND THE DISTRICT

I kicked off the week in my home town of Hot Springs. My first stop was speaking at the Oaklawn Rotary Club. From there, I toured Mid-America Science Museum to see its recent renovations. Finally, I stopped by National Park Community College to get an update on how the campus is expanding in 2020. There are great things happening in Hot Springs, and I am proud to call it home. Thank you to everyone who had me this week!

With Oaklawn Rotary President Terry Edens

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Touring Mid-America Science Museum with Diane LaFollette, Executive Director

Touring the National Park Community College campus

On Tuesday, I spent the day making health care related visits. My first stop was at Frontier Pharmacy in Bismarck. Frontier Pharmacy is an independently-owned pharmacy that opened just months ago. After that, I visited Pafford Medical Services in Hope. They offer emergency medical transportation throughout Arkansas and surrounding states. Thank you to both teams for having me. The perspective gained from these visits is extremely valuable to me as I work on health care legislation, including my bill The Fair Care Act. To learn more about my work on health care policy, click here.

L-R: Dr. Nick Dziurkowski, Dr. Brittany Sanders, Dr. Melanie Overley, Rep. Westerman, Will Pequignot, Jonathan Hardage

     

L-R: Ben Gresham, Rep. Westerman, Suzie Barham, Jamie Pafford-Gresham

Keep up with my interns!

Lately, I have been sharing quite a bit about what my D.C. interns have been doing this summer, but not all my summer interns work in D.C. My office offers internships in its district locations as well. Kavi is an intern in my Hot Springs office. He is a rising sophomore at Hendrix University studying political science. Kavi attended several of my district visits with me this week, including the Oaklawn Rotary Luncheon and the Mid-America Science Museum. Thank you, Kavi, for your hard work and service to Arkansas’ Fourth District!

Coffee with Your Congressman

It was great to visit with everyone who attended “Coffee with Your Congressman” in Hope this week. If I missed you in Hope, I will be hosting another coffee event in El Dorado on August 7 at 4:00 in the SouthArk Library Auditorium. Details are below! If you have any questions, give my office a call at (870) 864-8946.

July 19, 2019

If you turned on the news this week, I’m sure you saw that D.C. politics have reached a fever pitch. What we saw on the House floor this week should not be tolerated. Democrat members wasted valuable time on partisan show votes and yelling matches, both in person and on social media. Speaker Pelosi couldn’t even talk about President Trump without violating House rules on personal criticism and ridicule.

This is not what Congress is here to do. I am in Washington, D.C. to legislate on your behalf, which is why I wanted to give an update on two bills that passed the House this week.

The first, H.R. 748, was a bipartisan bill I cosponsored with Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney. This legislation would eliminate the so-called “Cadillac Tax,” an Obama-era regulation that would tax many Americans’ employer-based health insurance. I also included a repeal of the Cadillac Tax in the Fair Care Act, because I believe employees should be able to choose the health care plan that’s best for them without shouldering staggering taxes. I’m glad to see this legislation pass the House, and hope the Senate votes on it quickly.

A second bill that passed the House this week was H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act. Like many of House Democrats’ bills, this legislation seems like a good idea on the surface, but would actually be detrimental to hardworking Americans. I completely support every worker in the country making a fair wage; however, federally raising the minimum wage to $15 would cripple small businesses and have a drastic impact on entry level jobs and lesser-skilled workers. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 could cut up to 3.7 million jobs. By attempting to enact this sweeping change, members fail to realize that many young people – including myself at one time – need these entry-level or part-time jobs to gain experience. More than 80% of economists agree that raising the wage would have a negative impact on youth employment. That’s why I voted against the bill, because I believe it would harm the very people it claims to help.

Finally, I know some parts of Arkansas were affected by heavy rains this week. If you are having issues getting federal assistance or filing a claim, I encourage you to call my office at 501-609-9796 to see if we can help.

July 12, 2019

I ht the ground running in D.C. this week, starting off at the White House as President Trump updated the nation on our successful environmental practices. It’s possible to expand U.S. energy production while still protecting our valuable natural resources, and I believe the work I’m doing in the areas of forestry and natural resources is accomplishing these goals. After this event, I was back on Capitol Hill for committee hearings and meetings.

The highlight of the week was “The Science of Reading: Understanding Dyslexia” roundtable discussion I hosted on Tuesday. Dyslexia affects a staggering one out of five people in our country. As co-chair of the House Dyslexia Caucus, I believe that we must help everyone learn to read so they can then read to learn. Those with dyslexia simply need to be taught how to read in a different way, and students with dyslexia need to be identified early in their education so they can get access to the proper resources. I hosted a briefing with educators, researchers, medical professionals and advocates to inform listeners on how to recognize and address dyslexia. It was a fantastic event, and I look forward to continuing the conversation on how we can make sure every student has the tools they need to read and learn.

July 5, 2019

After a busy month of June, I was grateful for a week spent in the district. I had the opportunity to travel around and meet with constituents and businesses in the Fourth District, and it was great to hear your feedback on how I can best serve you in Washington. Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin also joined me for a day in Crossett.

This week was a chance for us to pause and reflect on the freedoms we are blessed with in America. I’m thankful for every man and woman who has fought and died to protect our country throughout the years. When our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia 243 years ago, there’s no way they could have envisioned all that lay ahead for the new country. Over the years, we have experienced war and peace, technological triumph and economic recessions, new frontiers and old difficulties. Above it all, we have been blessed with freedom. America has undergone seasons of incredible change and impossible hardship, but has emerged victorious and stronger than ever.

I’m proud to be an American, and honored to celebrate our great country.

June 28, 2019

I’ve been back in D.C. the past few days for one last week of session before the House breaks for a brief recess. This time of year, my office is busy with lots of visitors who are in D.C. for summer vacations. I always enjoy talking to those who stop by the office for a Capitol tour. If you are heading to D.C. soon and would like to schedule a tour, give my office a call at (202) 225-3772. We’d love to see you!

For those who participated in my telephone town hall on Tuesday, it was great to hear from you and answer your questions. We talked about issues from rural broadband to highway infrastructure to health care, specifically my efforts to eliminate DIR fees from small town pharmacies. If you didn’t have a chance to participate this week, you can watch the conversation on my Facebook page.

On Wednesday night, my colleagues and I traded our suits for baseball uniforms for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Since 1909, Republicans and Democrats have taken to the field for some friendly competition. This was my first time playing baseball, and my position was base runner. Even though the Republicans lost this year, it was a great night for a great cause. All of the proceeds from the game go to the Congressional Sports for Charity foundation.

June 21, 2019

After some difficult weeks for Arkansas, I was so glad to hear the news on Wednesday that the Civilian Conservation Center (CCC) in Cass will remain open. This program provides valuable training and employment to many young people in rural communities, which is why Senators Boozman and Cotton and I sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor expressing concern about the proposed closure. President Trump listened to the concerns of Congress, and reversed his decision to consolidate CCCs.

This week I also had the honor of hosting speaker and advocate Hasan Davis in Hot Springs. Mr. Davis shared his moving testimony about how his undiagnosed learning disabilities led to problems in school, bullying, and gang influences. As co-chair of the House Dyslexia Caucus, I’m honored to help educate parents, teachers, and law enforcement officials on how to recognize and address learning disabilities early on, to keep children from being left behind in school.

I also wanted to let you know that I’ll be hosting a telephone town hall on Tuesday, June 25 at 7pm CT. This is a chance for me to hear from constituents, answer questions, and learn more about how I can serve you in D.C. If you’d like to participate, you can watch the forum live on facebook.com/RepWesterman, and ask questions in the comments. I hope you can join!

June 14, 2019

There are now more than 460,000 students enrolled in Arkansas public schools. And an additional 18,000 attend an open enrollment charter school.

School districts range in size from less than 300 students to nearly 22,000 students. Charter schools range from about 60 students to more than 3,000.

How we fund education in our ever growing schools and provide for changing needs is through a process that begins in Education Committee meetings.

The House and Senate Education Committee met this week to begin that process for the next biennium.

Arkansas schools received many different types of funding totaling nearly 5.9 billion in 2017-18. Generally speaking, about half of school district/charter school operating revenue comes from state sources, about 40% is generated locally and about 10% comes from the federal government.

Foundation Funding primarily consists of local property tax revenues and the state aid portion of foundation funding. To determine the amount of foundation funding, Arkansas uses a specific formula, known as the matrix. The matrix calculates the per-student funding based on the cost of personnel and other resources needed to operate a prototypical school of 500 students.

Legislators involved in the biennial Adequacy Study determine the resources included in each line of the matrix and the dollar amount needed to fund it.

In the most recent legislative session, we increased the per-student funding from $6,713 to $6,899 per student for the 2019-2020 school year.  It increases funding to $7,018 per student the following school year.

The committee was also presented with information on student outcome measures. In 2016, the state began administering the ACT Aspire assessment. The 2018 ACT Aspire scores show a decrease in 4th grade students scoring ready or above in math and an increase in the 8th grade math scores.

Arkansas’s high school graduation rate has increased since 2011 to 88% of high school students. While the overall increase mirrors the national trend, Arkansas has consistently achieved higher 4-year graduation rates than the national rates.

The committee is scheduled to meet again on August 19. You can watch all Joint Education Committee meetings online atwww.arkleg.state.ar.us.

Thank you to everyone who attended The Science of Reading on Tuesday, and to all of the advocates who participated in Say Dyslexia day on Capitol Hill. I’d like to give a special thanks to Dr. Gina Forchelli, Dr. Brett Miller, Dr. Christy Hovanetz, Ms. Katherine Schantz and Mr. Brent Sopel for participating in the panel discussion. I am encouraged by our conversations and look forward to continuing my work on the House Dyslexia Caucus. To watch the entire program, click here.

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The Say Dyslexia rally on the Capitol lawn

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The Science of Reading briefing inside the Library of Congress

On Monday afternoon, President Trump delivered remarks on our nation’s environmental leadership at the White House. Under this administration, we have seen a renewed commitment toward watershed health, sound forest management practices and clean, domestic energy production. I am honored to have attended the event and excited to continue working on policies that steward our environment well. You can read President Trump’s remarks here.

My vantage point as President Trump spoke inside the White House’s East Room

This week, Unity Baptist Church students from Hope stopped by my office for a Capitol tour. I hope they enjoyed their visit and wish them safe travels on their way back to Arkansas this weekend. If you are heading to D.C. and would like to visit the Capitol, give my office a call at (202) 225-3772. Whether your group is large or small, my staff and I would love to have you visit!

Visiting with Unity Baptist Church members in my office

Keep up with my interns!

Last week, I welcomed Hannah to my D.C. office. Hannah is a rising sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas and is majoring in social studies. She is excited to make new connections during her internship.

L-R: Kassandra, Amy, Rep. Westerman and Hannah inside the East Wing of the White House

All three of my current interns toured the White House on Wednesday morning. Visiting the White House is a fantastic experience, and I am glad that each of them had the opportunity to visit.

Registration for the 2019 Congressional App Challenge is open! This competition is available to any high school or middle school student, and is a chance for young people to practice coding techniques by designing their own app.

The winners from each congressional district are invited to DC to feature their app, and their designs are also displayed in the U.S. Capitol for a year. Below are two of the 2018 winners, Hayden and Devin, showing me how to use their “Find My Teacher” app.

This is such a great opportunity for students interested in computer science, and I hope to see a lot of participants from the 4th District this year. For full details, click here.

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With 2018 winners Hayden and Devin, students at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts

June 7, 2019

I spent the first half of the week in Washington, D.C. It was a quick three days, but exciting nonetheless. One of the highlights was leading a tour of the Capitol for the De Queen Quiz Bowl Team. These students travelled to D.C. to compete in the National Quiz Bowl Championship. I could not be more proud of the team and the hard work they put into this competition. I also welcomed three new interns to my D.C. office. These interns will answer phones, lead Capitol tours and assist my staff with legislative correspondence.

While I was in Washington D.C., my heart and mind were back in Arkansas with all of those who have been affected by the record-level flooding. Because legislative business was only scheduled for three days this week, I was able to visit with local officials in impacted communities in the Fourth District. I have been impressed with the coordination between the local communities, state officials, the National Guard and the Governor’s office who have utilized an all-hands-on-deck approach to flood relief. I’ve seen communities rallying together in their time of need, and that’s what makes me proud to be an Arkansan. We will emerge from this stronger than ever before.

I know many of you were evacuated, lost your homes and crops, or watched floodwaters devastate your community. I encourage you to call my main district office at (501) 609-9796 to see how I or my staff can help you.

May 31, 2019

This was a tough week for Arkansas. My prayers are with every family, business owner and community that the devastating floods have impacted. However, in the midst of loss, Arkansans have shown incredible strength and resilience. I want to extend a special thank you to every first responder and national guardsmen who has been working around the clock to save lives and protect property.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to join Major General Mark Berry and the AR National Guard for an aerial survey of flood damage. Seeing the loss of hundreds of homes and thousands of acres firsthand makes this far more than a news headline.

The journey to full recovery will be long, but I’m committed to doing everything I can on a federal level to aid Arkansans. Last night, President Trump issued an emergency declaration in Arkansas, allowing FEMA to provide immediate assistance to the 16 flood-affected counties. When I get back to D.C., I will work closely with the water resources subcommittee on improving Arkansas’s levee and dam infrastructure to reduce future flood risks.

The stories of communities banding together to help their neighbors should give us all hope for the days ahead. I think that says a great deal about our state and the kind of people we have here.

May 24, 2019

I’m so grateful for the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and Memorial Day is a time for us to honor their legacies.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6th, I’m reminded of Harold “Gene” Sellers, an Arkansan who was one of the first men to die that day. He parachuted behind enemy lines, and his sacrifice allowed other Americans to storm the beaches of Normandy. Mr. Sellers was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star posthumously.

Mr. Sellers is only one of many brave Arkansans who gave their lives in service to their country. You can read about several other Arkansas heroes below. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude.

I encourage everyone to take time this Memorial Day to remember our American heroes who gave their lives protecting the freedom we hold so dear. Have a wonderful weekend with friends and family.

Remembering Arkansas’s Heroes

 Fieldon B. Huie Jr. was born in Formosa, AR, and entered the U.S. Army in September 1942. Before his deployment in May 1944, he transferred to the 4th Infantry Division. On June 6, 1944, Mr. Huie led the 4thInfantry Division as the first wave to attack Utah Beach. After landing on D-Day, Mr. Huie continued moving inland with his men, and was killed in action while fighting bravely for his country.

In one of her last letters to her husband, Ruth Huie wrote, “Honey, just come back that’s all I’m asking. Anything else I can take as a soldier’s wife should. I’m depending on you so don’t fail me. I love you so that these next few months will just be wasted months because you are not around. The one consolation is they can be made up. All my love, Ruth.”

Jeremy, Ben, and Beau Wise grew up in El Dorado, AR, and enlisted in the military one after the other. Jeremy retired as a Navy Seal and began working as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in 2009, hoping to spend more time with his family while still serving his country. While the Wise family was celebrating the birth of Ben’s son in Washington, word arrived from the Middle East: Jeremy had been killed by a suicide bomber at a CIA base in Afghanistan.

Ben and Beau both went back overseas not long after the funeral. In January, an insurgent shot Ben after he and his comrades rescued women and children in Afghanistan. A medic until his final moments, he attended others’ wounds before he was flown to a hospital in Germany. He died on January 15th, just before his parents arrived to say goodbye.

Herman Davis was one of Arkansas’s most decorated WWI soldier, and General John Pershing listed him among his “100 Greatest Heroes of the World War.” Although he survived combat, Mr. Davis died shortly after the war ended, due to lingering effects of poisonous gas inhaled on the battlefield. On Memorial Day in 1925, his hometown erected the Herman Davis Memorial in his honor.

The list of names goes on. These fallen soldiers and countless others are not forgotten – their legacies continue through their families and the freedom Americans cherish. We can never repay them, but we can honor them and pass down their stories for generations to come.

This preservation of history is one of the reasons I’m so grateful to be a part of the Veterans History Project, which provides an avenue for veterans to share their stories and remember their fallen comrades. The Library of Congress is recording these personal accounts in an archive. If you or someone you know would like to participate in the Veterans History Project, please call my office at (501) 609-9796. You can learn more about the Veterans History Project here.

Army Chaplain David Witte recording a veteran’s account

May 17, 2019

This week, one of my district staffers got to come to DC and attend hearings and meetings with me, as well as work alongside my staff. It was great having her here and watching her experience a different side of the office!

I’ve heard from a lot of my constituents about the Equality Act, which the House voted on Friday. You can watch more of my thoughts in the video below, but I want to take a moment to talk about misleading bill names. You may remember last week’s so-called “Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act,” which actually had nothing to do with preexisting conditions. Safeguarding those with preexisting conditions is a key component of my health care legislation, but I voted against Democrats’ bill because it was a messaging tool for liberal ideologies that didn’t protect Americans. The “Equality Act” is another side of the same coin, as it would be better named “The Identity Politics Act.” These misleading names serve only to confuse and distract Americans from the real issues, which is why I’m committed to informing constituents about what the bills actually contain.

I’m continuing to advocate for the Fair Care Act, the Keeping Our Promises Act, and the Resilient Federal Forests Act – all bills that directly impact Arkansans and improve health care and the environment. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please call my office at 202-225-3772. I look forward to seeing all of you coming to DC for summer vacation!

May 10, 2019

This week saw lots of Arkansas visitors – not only was it the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce’s annual DC visit, but the Arkansas State Chamber was also in town meeting with the congressional delegation. Trips like this take months of planning, so thank you to everyone who made the effort to visit the Capitol! I’m glad we were able to discuss issues from harbors to health care. This week was also National Small Business Week, which is fitting because many of the Chamber’s members are business owners themselves. You all make such a difference in your local communities, and I’m honored to represent you.

I’m always amazed at the talent exhibited by students in the Fourth District, and it was on full display this week! Congratulations to the top five winners of the 2019 Congressional Art Competition, and I look forward to seeing Tracy’s winning piece in the Capitol every day when I go to vote on the House floor. Make sure to check out all the winning pieces below! Students from the Arkansas School of Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts (ASMSA) came to DC and got to climb the Capitol dome, visit with the Hot Springs Chamber, and tour DC. I also met the students who won a nationwide app challenge, and they gave me a firsthand look at the app they designed – it helps students find their teachers, which is great for those new to campus or unfamiliar with a new professor. I told them they need to expand their design to help me find my way around the Capitol!

I hope you have a blessed weekend, and a wonderful Mother’s Day.

April 26, 2019

I’ve been back in the Fourth District all week, and made quite a few stops across the state. On Wednesday, I hosted a rural broadband roundtable discussion in Monticello. Reliable internet connectivity is often the backbone of job searching, community development and economic growth. Unfortunately, tech developers continue overlooking rural parts of my district. We’ve already had success with grants and other incentives to expand service, and events like this roundtable help me understand each county’s challenges and discuss new opportunities moving forward. 

Other stops this week included the 1st Annual Buffalo National River Science Symposium in Harrison, a Farm Bureau Policy Summit in Little Rock, a tour of CRH Americas Materials in Foreman and a Weyerhauser Open House in Hot Springs. These past two weeks in Arkansas have given me great insight on important issues, and I’m grateful for the conversations had during this time as I prepare for the legislative session ahead.

April 19, 2019

It has been great to spend some time back in Arkansas this week while the House of Representatives is in recess. I’ve been meeting with constituents in my district office to discuss issues such as veterans affairs and highway development. Next week, I’ll be travelling across the district for site visits and a rural broadband panel. I always enjoy my time back home working with constituents, and look forward to a busy week ahead in the Fourth District.
Just because Congress was in recess this week did not mean things were quiet in D.C. Attorney General Barr released the Mueller report to the public. I’ve always supported him releasing the report to the extent allowable by law. I am hopeful that our country can address the Mueller report and move forward to other issues facing our country.
 

April 5, 2019

After a busy week addressing health care, pro-life petitions, and other legislative topics in D.C. I returned home to spend some time in the Fourth District. This trip was a little different than others – I had the opportunity to host California Congressman Jared Huffman in Hot Springs today. Rep. Huffman and I both sit on the Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I enjoyed showing him the Natural State and discussing bipartisan solutions to issues affecting both of our districts.

This was a productive trip, and it was helpful to explain my perspective right in the heart of my district. I enjoyed hosting Rep. Huffman, and I look forward to visiting his district in California later this year. 

    • For weeks, GOP members have asked House Democrats to bring a bill to the House floor that would protect infants born alive after failed abortions, and they continue refusing to take a stance. I joined a host of my Republican colleagues on Tuesday in signing my name to a discharge petition to bring this bill to the floor. Click here to watch more of my thoughts on protecting life. You can also read an op-ed I wrote with Arkansas State Rep. and former OB-GYN Joe Cloud here
  • I always enjoy giving night tours of the Capitol when I am in D.C. If you are planning on visiting the area, give my office a call at (202) 225-3772. My staff or myself would be glad to guide you through the Capitol and show you its art, architecture and history.

 

March 29, 2019

Reforming the juvenile sentencing process is overdue in the U.S. For too long, we’ve thrown young people into the justice system with an inadequate understanding of why crimes occur and what can be done to appropriately address them. That’s why I introduced three juvenile sentencing reform bills this week, to provide an avenue by which minors can reform their lives instead of languishing in federal prisons.

One of the bills, named ‘Sara’s Law’ after Sara Kruzan, recognizes that girls and boys trapped in sex trafficking may resort to violence to escape. Current law all but mandates that they receive a harsh sentence, often decades in prison after already experiencing years of abuse. Sara’s Law would provide a way for minors to receive justice as well as space to heal.

Put simply, laws that work for sentencing adults may not be appropriate options in the sentencing of juveniles. The goal of the justice system should be to reform and rehabilitate young people that have committed crimes, not to lock them up and throw away the key. I’m honored to introduce legislation that begins a national conversation on these systemic problems, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support it. Justice is not a partisan issue.

To learn more about these bills, you can read a National Review article here and an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article here.

March 22, 2019

The House of Representatives was in recess all week, so I’ve been working in Arkansas and enjoying a break from city life. I started the week in Hot Springs with a tour of Levi Towers, rental apartment units that provide affordable housing for low-income seniors. I’m so glad we have this facility in my hometown and hope to see the model expanded throughout Arkansas to help others in need.

I also had the opportunity to visit Union Tank Car in Texarkana, a plant that manufactures rail cars and plans to add 50 new jobs to their growing business. This is exciting news for Miller County! Along with those tours, several constituents stopped by my district office for meetings. It’s always helpful to visit about different issues and learn what I can do in D.C. to help those back home.

In Washington, D.C., my staff was busy giving Capitol tours to families and school groups who traveled to the city for spring break. D.C. is an exciting place to visit this time of year, especially now that the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom. If you visited my office, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to personally say hello, but I hope everyone enjoyed their visit to our nation’s Capitol. If I or my staff can ever be of further assistance, please call (202) 225-3772.

March 15, 2019

I’ve spent this week working in Washington, D.C. After a busy few days of constituent meetings and committee hearings, the Working Forests Caucus and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus hosted a panel discussion on collaborative species conservation. I’ve seen the positive impact on wildlife because of sound forest and wetlands management in Arkansas. Areas that once only saw traces of wildlife are now abundant with different animal species, all thanks to proper management. I know the science works because I’ve seen it firsthand. It was exciting to have this discussion at yesterday’s caucus meeting, and I’m optimistic about what can actually happen with our forests and with our wildlife with the innovations we see in forest products today. 

Next week, the House will be in recess, so I will be working back in the Fourth District. I know for many schools in Arkansas, students will be on their spring break. I hope this week is a time for many families to spend time together. If you will be visiting D.C., I am sorry to miss you, but wish you safe travels to our nation’s capital.

March 8, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – The legislature has approved and the governor has signed a package of bills sponsored by female lawmakers. The coalition of legislators dubbed their package “Dream BIG for Arkansas.”

Act 198 expands access to the Internet by allowing towns, cities and local government entities to acquire, lease or build facilities to deliver broadband services.

Act 181 the process of designating the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS as a National Cancer Institute.

Act 83 requires schools to include literacy in their school improvement plans, and to follow curricula and use materials and methods proven scientifically to be effective in helping children with dyslexia.

A driving force behind the bill is the recognition that only 38 percent of third graders read at “ready” or “exceeding” on 2018 standardized reading tests (ACT Aspire).

Act 131 encourages entrepreneurship in child care facilities, especially in rural areas and other places where there is a lack of child care. It requires DHS to simplify its licensing requirements and grant applications, and to eliminate duplication and unnecessary paperwork.

The legislature has enacted most of a package of bills proposed by the veterans’ caucus, including Act 171 to ease the deadlines for school transfer applications for children whose parents live on a military base.

Act 148 authorizes the Adjutant General of Arkansas to remove officers from the National Guard if they are substandard in carrying out their duty, deficient in character, medically unfit or unsuited for military service.

The governor’s authority to order the militia into service now includes using the militia to address cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities in state information systems, thanks to Act 149.

The former site of the Southeast Arkansas Community Correction Center may be donated to an Arkansas-based non-profit organization that serves veterans, under Act 160. No inmates have been housed at the site since 2016.

The Senate approved SB 445 to permanently move the date of primary elections to March in years when there is also a presidential election. Our primaries have traditionally been in May, and in both major political parties the eventual candidate has virtually wrapped up the nomination by then. The goal of moving up the date to March is to make the Arkansas primary more relevant in national politics.

The Senate Committee on Revenue and Taxation advanced SB 447 to increase the homestead property tax credit from $350 to $375. In 2018, a total of 716,525 property owners received tax credit benefits of $230,000,000.

The act will save homeowners more than $12.5 million a year. It also transfers $8.2 million from the excess amounts in the property tax relief fund into a grant program for updating voting machines. The state chief financial officer will determine the amount needed to maintain the property tax relief fund, and any excess will be transferred to general revenue for tax relief.

The excess also can be used for financial aid to school districts whose revenue has declined as a result of Amendment 79, which voters approved in 2000 to create the homestead credit and place limits on growth in taxable value of property.

March 1, 2019

After more than a year of preparation, I’m excited to say that this week I introduced my health care bill, the Fair Care Act. My staff and I began working on this legislation when Obamacare repeal and replace negotiations failed in the Senate, because I believe there are bipartisan solutions to the health care issues facing millions of Americans.

The Fair Care Act insures more people at lower costs, covers individuals with preexisting or high-risk conditions, increases competition in the marketplace, and reduces prescription drug costs. I’ve taken policy and ideas from a variety of bipartisan bills members have introduced in recent years, and I am eager to begin a national conversation. To learn more about the bill, visit my website here for an extensive summary of its provisions. 

I also had the opportunity to meet with lots of constituents who visited D.C. this week, one of whom was Max Aylor, a high school sophomore from Dardanelle. He was here for the Disciples of Christ United Nations Seminar, and part of his application process included writing an 8-page paper on immigration and the economy. I enjoyed discussing these issues with him, answering his questions, and talking about his future plans. I’m always grateful for the chance to meet with Arkansans here in D.C., so be sure to contact my office if you are planning a visit. I would love to see you.

February 08, 2019

This was a busy week in Washington, starting with President Trump delivering an inspiring State of the Union address. Under the Trump administration, America has seen low unemployment rates, effective mechanisms to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs and strong efforts to secure our southern border to end illegal immigration, drug flow and human trafficking.

I was thrilled to hear the president say he will continue fighting for the lives of the unborn. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise introduced a measure the day after Trump’s address that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring a bill to the floor safeguarding all babies born alive after an abortion. Protecting living, breathing infants should not be a partisan issue.

President Trump also called for bipartisanship in his speech, and shortly after both the Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee kicked off their first full hearings. We have exciting opportunities ahead of us this year. Whether it’s highway construction, burst water pipes or a burning national forest, resource and infrastructure issues affect everyone. It’s time we invest in them.

I remain committed to fighting for all issues affecting the Fourth District, and encourage you to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

OFFICE LOCATIONS:

Washington, DC
209 Cannon House Office Building | Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3772 | Fax: (202) 225-1314

El Dorado
101 N. Washington Ave., Suite 406
El Dorado, AR 71730
Phone: (870) 864-8946
Fax: (870) 864-8958
Hot Springs
101 Reserve St., Suite 200
Hot Springs, AR 71901
Phone: (501) 609-9796
Fax: (501) 609-9887
Ozark
211 W. Commercial St.
Ozark, AR 72949
Phone: (479) 667-0075
Fax: (501) 609-9887
Pine Bluff
100 E. 8th Ave., Room 2521
Pine Bluff, AR 71601
Phone: (870) 536-8178
Fax: (870) 536-8364