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WASHINGTON NEWS IN BRIEF: Boozman cites gun rights in AG no vote | Womack part of bid for review at border | Ex-Hill spokesman has chat with Biden

by Frank E. Lockwood | March 14, 2021 at 5:36 a.m.

Boozman cites gun rights in AG no vote

WASHINGTON -- After voting against the confirmation of Merrick Garland as attorney general, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said the former federal judge's position on gun rights was a key stumbling block.

Doubts about Garland's position on the right to keep and bear arms was the "primary" concern, the lawmaker from Rogers said Thursday.

"He doesn't interpret the Second Amendment the same way that I do," Boozman said.

"This is a fundamental right and some of his writings and feelings don't really express that," Boozman said.

The National Rifle Association's lobbying arm had opposed Garland's nomination for Supreme Court justice in 2016 and for attorney general this time, referring to him as a "Second Amendment skeptic."

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., also cited Garland's stance on guns as a reason to oppose his nomination.

Last week, President Joe Biden's pick to lead the Justice Department was approved, 70-30; 20 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in voting for confirmation.

Womack part of bid for review at border

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., wants the House Appropriations Committee to promptly review border and immigration-related matters.

The lawmaker from Rogers co-signed a letter, dated Wednesday, urging committee chairwoman Rosa DeLauro to hold hearings "on the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis at our southern border as soon as possible."

Womack is a member of the committee.

In February, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency documented 100,441 people attempting to cross the southern border, the agency announced Wednesday.

That's up 28% from 78,442 in January.

Border crossings, which reached 144,116 in May 2019, fell to 17,106 in April 2020.

Since then, they have risen for 10 straight months.

Workers with the Homeland Security Department and the Health and Human Services Department are "overburdened and overwhelmed by the rapidly increasing border crossings," the letter states.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the committee's ranking member, spearheaded the letter, which garnered signatures from more than two dozen of her Republican colleagues.

Ex-Hill spokesman has chat with Biden

President Joe Biden discussed covid-era economic conditions Tuesday with Mike Siegel, co-owner of W.S. Jenks & Son and a former spokesman for U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark.

The Siegel family business benefited from a change to Payroll Protection Program rules, which temporarily assigned top priority to small employers.

"Only businesses with fewer than 20 folks could apply for the last couple weeks," Biden explained to onlookers.

The president said small businesses would remain a priority for his administration, adding, "We're also at the point where I think we're going to begin to gain control of this virus."

During their visit, he noted the business's deep roots in the capital; it was founded in 1866.

"I said we're the oldest hardware store in D.C.; I also say we're the greenest hardware store in America. We have two urban farms actually in our building," Siegel told the president.

Before the press pool's departure, Biden asked about the Little League team that W.S. Jenks & Son sponsors as well as its efforts to promote opportunities for workers with disabilities.

Before leaving, Biden bought two pairs of pliers and some glue, Siegel told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette afterward.

This is the second time in recent memory that the Siegels have welcomed a president. When they hosted Bill Clinton in 1993, he called W.S. Jenks & Son "a great small business."

Before taking his current position, Siegel spent six or seven years on Capitol Hill, including more than two years on the staff of the congressman from Little Rock.

Planning to visit the nation's capital? Know something happening in Washington, D.C.? Please contact Frank Lockwood at (501) 908-5204 or flockwood@adgnewsroom.com. Want to get the latest from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Washington bureau? It's available on Twitter, @LockwoodFrank.

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