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WASHINGTON NEWS IN BRIEF: Bill seeks to halt hostage-taking; top state officials united for Trump; Boozman supports bird rules ease-up

by Frank E. Lockwood | November 10, 2019 at 2:43 a.m. | Updated November 10, 2019 at 2:43 a.m.

Bill seeks to halt hostage-taking

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at punishing foreign leaders who help kidnap U.S. citizens.

Known as the Global Hostage Act, it would trigger "mandatory sanctions on foreign government officials responsible for taking U.S. hostages," according to a summary of the legislation.

The bill also seeks to prevent hostage-takers and their families from getting visas to travel to the United States.

"For too long, the United States has faced outlaw regimes like Iran and Venezuela, North Korea and even China, that has taken our citizens hostage and used that as leverage against us in foreign policy," Cotton said in an interview. "Hopefully, the legislation will both make it less worthwhile to take American citizens hostage in the first place and also lead to the release of those hostages that are currently being held around the world."

Hostage-taking is not a theoretical problem, according to Cotton. Americans are being held right this minute, he said.

"There's an entire organization inside the Department of State that is dedicated nonstop to trying to get hostages back from places like Iran," he said.

Sanctions have been effective, helping to secure to release of American pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey, Cotton said.

"Additional and mandatory sanctions will prove very useful to both deter hostage-taking to begin with and also bring home those hostages that are currently being held around the world," he said.

Top state officials united for Trump

Arkansas' top Republican officials are united in supporting the reelection of President Donald Trump, his campaign announced Friday.

The roster of Trump Campaign Honorary State Chairs unveiled last week includes the entire state congressional delegation, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Treasurer Dennis Milligan and Auditor Andrea Lea, as well as former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

In a joint statement, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel predicted that Arkansas will remain in the red column.

Trump received 60.6% of the vote and all six electoral votes in 2016.

"Our Arkansas Trump Victory leadership team will help to replicate and expand the President's strong victory in Arkansas in 2016, delivering a 2020 win for both the President and GOP candidates up and down the ballot," it said.

Boozman supports bird rules ease-up

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., D-Ga., encouraged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday to streamline the permitting process to make it easier to protect livestock and fish from avian predators.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act provides some protections to double-crested cormorants, black vultures and ravens, birds that cause problems for cattle and fish farmers, among others.

In a letter Monday, Boozman and Bishop argued that the existing process is overly cumbersome and often fails to fix the problem.

Roughly three dozen of their colleagues also signed the letter, including U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, and U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford and Bruce Westerman, all Republicans from Arkansas.

According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hungry double-crested cormorants cost the aquaculture industry more than $25 million per year.

Black vultures prey on calves.

Neither species is endangered or threatened, the lawmakers noted.

Currently, farmers and ranchers must apply for annual depredation permits. Fees are assessed and the number of birds that can be removed is capped, "often at levels inadequate to prevent loss or deter further predation," the letter stated.

The lawmakers urged the agency to "promulgate new rules that simplify and streamline the permitting process, as well as allow greater flexibility for livestock and aquaculture producers to protect their livelihoods from these avian predators."

Planning to visit the nation's capital? Know something happening in Washington, D.C.? Please contact Frank Lockwood at (202) 662-7690 or Want the latest from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Washington bureau? It's available on Twitter, @LockwoodFrank.

Metro on 11/10/2019

Print Headline: Bill seeks to halt hostage-taking Top state officials united for Trump Boozman supports bird rules ease-up


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