Border wall compromise splits state delegation 3-3
Written by: Frank Lockwood
Published by: Arkansas Democrat Gazette
WASHINGTON — Members of Arkansas’ all-Republican congressional delegation split on whether to support Thursday’s compromise border security bill: three voted “yes” and three voted “no.”
With details still scarce, few were ready to weigh in on President Donald Trump’s plans for an emergency declaration.
In the upper chamber Thursday afternoon, Arkansas’ two U.S. senators cast opposing votes on the funding proposal.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers supported the measure, which provides $1.375 billion for new barriers between the U.S. and Mexico.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle opposed it.
In a written statement, Boozman called the funding “a down payment moving forward to resolve the crisis at our southwest border.”
“While far from a perfect bill, passage of this legislation ends the uncertainty by fully funding the government while supporting additional resources to secure our nation’s borders,” Boozman said.
Overall, the bill contains nearly $23 billion for border security, Boozman said, calling it “an unprecedented level of funding for immigration enforcement agencies.”
Cotton portrayed the funding package as unacceptable.
“While I’m pleased this bill makes a down payment on border security, I can’t support its limits on the construction of physical barriers as well as law enforcement’s authority to detain and deport criminal illegal aliens,” he said in a written statement. “Congress must act to fully secure our border and stop the flow of illegal aliens and deadly drugs into our country.”
On the House side, U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock and U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers voted to forward the funding package to the president. U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs and U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro cast “no” votes.
In a written statement, Hill said his vote reflected the wishes of the people he represents.
“Over the past few months, Arkansans have made it clear that they want a secure southwest border and an operational government,” Hill said. “Compared to funding levels from the previous year, there is no question that this bill empowers the Department of Homeland Security to better protect our borders.”
Womack said his “yes” vote would help keep the government open and make the homeland more secure.
“Tonight, Congress fulfilled its constitutional duty and fully funded the federal government. While not perfect — as no compromise is — this deal prevents another costly shutdown and confronts resistance to securing the southern border,” Womack said in a written statement.
In addition to providing money for a border barrier, the bill also ensures that the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Interior, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development will be funded, Womack noted.
Westerman portrayed the spending bill as flawed, saying it “fails to give President Trump the resources he requested to secure the southern border.”
Lawmakers had been given less than a day to review the nearly 1,200-page proposal, he noted.
Westerman also expressed concern about presidents using emergency powers to bypass Congress on spending matters.
“I hoped it wouldn’t get to a point where the president contemplated declaring a national emergency, and for the sake of precedence, I hope he doesn’t have to do it,” Westerman said. “This is a failure of Congress, plain and simple. We must return to regular order and pass clean appropriations bills in a timely manner. Anything less is political gamesmanship and harmful to the American people.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro suggested Democratic intransigence may result in an emergency declaration.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this. But if Democrats in Congress are unwilling to help provide the necessary tools for the President to secure our borders and keep our nation safe, then he’s left with very few options,” he said in a written statement.
Hill expressed reservations about Trump acting unilaterally to address border security.
“I’ve been on the record numerous times opposing executive orders over congressional action. I didn’t support it under President [Barack] Obama and I don’t support it under President Trump. It creates a bad precedent of yielding congressional authority to the Executive branch,” he said.
Nonetheless, Hill said he would need to see “specific details of the president’s plan before taking a position on it.”
Boozman, Cotton and Womack are also withholding judgment until they have additional information, their spokesmen said.