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WASHINGTON -- Members of the Arkansas congressional delegation expressed relief Monday that the federal government shutdown was ending, but they also aired frustration that a Senate standoff had triggered the situation.

Some want to overhaul the budget process. Filibusters, they said, should not be used to shut the government down.

The four U.S. representatives from Arkansas, all Republicans, voted for a continuing resolution Monday afternoon to keep the federal government running through Feb. 8.

The state's two U.S. senators, both Republicans, also supported the short-term fix.

"It's something that should've [happened] three days ago, but I'm glad they finally came to their senses and ended this shutdown," said U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs.

"It was entirely avoidable, should never have happened. I'm glad that cooler heads prevailed," said U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro.

The House of Representatives passed a package of 12 appropriations bills in mid-September and forwarded them to the Senate.

Four months later, the legislation remains in limbo in the Senate.

Several members singled out Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., for blame.

"This was his strategy, an ill-advised strategy from the beginning," U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle said. "I can't imagine many Americans understood why we would deprive American citizens of government services so we can protect the interests of illegal immigrants and foreigners. I think Chuck Schumer and the Democrats probably learned their lesson, and I doubt they'll do that again."

The standoff was linked to efforts by Democrats to force Congress to pass legislation on the status of immigrants brought illegally to this country as children. President Donald Trump had ended protection created by then-President Barack Obama for those immigrants.

Democrats agreed to the end of the shutdown when Republicans said the immigration issue would soon be discussed.

The decision by Democrats to back down on the standoff drew criticism from some immigrant-rights advocates.

The Arkansas United Community Coalition said the Senate had "turned its back on Dreamers once again."

"Without a DREAM Act as part of the spending bill, thousands are still left with uncertainty and fear for their futures," the organization said in a written statement.

The term "Dreamer" is based on the never-passed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would have given protections similar to those provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the initiative led by Obama.

Lawmakers, on the other hand, expressed relief that the standoff had ended.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, who chairs the House Budget Committee, said the shutdown had been "very disruptive. Extremely unfortunate."

"I don't think we should allow the appropriations of the federal government to get bogged down in a dispute over non-related partisan issues," the lawmaker from Rogers said.

U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock said the shutdown had been unfair, particularly to those in uniform.

"I had a parent of a young person ... call and express their displeasure that their young man is in Afghanistan on the front lines protecting American interests and not being paid," he said. "I am glad that Sen. Schumer came to his senses and persuaded his colleagues to provide the votes to break their filibuster and open the government."

House members who were originally planning to spend this week in Arkansas said they looked forward to returning home.

"I've got work to do in my district. I would be on a flight tonight if it works out," Womack said Monday afternoon.

Crawford said his trip to Africa for the House Intelligence Committee would have to be rescheduled.

This month's shutdown was the first since 2013, when a budget impasse closed the government for 16 days.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers said the Senate rules should be changed so future shutdowns are averted.

"I am very much a proponent of getting rid of the filibuster that doesn't allow you to move forward on appropriations bills," he said. "People should not be allowed to hold the budget process hostage."

Womack, who won the House Budget Committee gavel earlier this month, agrees.

"The process has been hijacked, pretty much, by the rules of the Senate," he said.

As committee chairman, he'll be looking for ways to fix the system, he said.

"There is, in my opinion, a better way to do the budget and appropriations of the federal government without getting it bogged down in a long and drawn out disagreement that leads to a government shutdown," he added.

A Section on 01/23/2018

Print Headline: Arkansans vexed by budget battle; Glad it’s over, legislators say

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