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WASHINGTON NEWS IN BRIEF: Westerman praises committee's 6 bills | 2 senators join call to pressure Iran | Student-art contest winners are named

by Frank E. Lockwood | May 16, 2021 at 5:04 a.m.

Westerman praises committee's 6 bills

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed six bills last week that had originated in the House Natural Resources Committee.

One, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., would direct the Interior Department to study the feasibility of creating a national historic trail that would stretch from Niobrara, Neb., to Ponca City, Okla.

In 1877, the Ponca people, led by Chief Standing Bear, took the 550-mile route from their homelands to present-day Oklahoma after being forcibly removed from their land by the federal government.

Chief Standing Bear ultimately returned to Nebraska, was arrested and sued federal officials arguing, successfully, that the detention was unlawful.

Ultimately, he was allowed to remain in Nebraska, along with some of the others who had been expelled.

The other bills would:

• Designate as the "National Pulse Memorial" an existing memorial at 1912 S. Orange Ave. in Orlando, Fla. On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub, killing 49 people.

• Direct the Forest Service to study the feasibility of creating a National Forest System unit on six Hawaiian islands.

• Give the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona control of the 55.3-acre Blackwater Trading Post site.

• Revise certain programs aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect as well as family violence affecting American Indian families.

• Clear federal barriers that might otherwise prevent the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta tribes from conducting gambling enterprises in Texas.

In a written statement, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., the committee's ranking member, said the bills are "practical, bipartisan, common-sense wins for folks back home."

"From expanding trail access to aiding Native American tribes, these bills might not get national attention but they have a huge impact to communities in these members' districts. I hope to see them move quickly through the Senate," the lawmaker from Hot Springs said.

2 senators join call to pressure Iran

Accusing Iran of aiding Hamas, U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., urged President Joe Biden to stand with Israel and keep stiff sanctions in place against the government in Tehran.

Along with 42 of their Republican Senate colleagues, they portrayed Iran as aiding and abetting terrorism.

"The United States designated Hamas as a terrorist organization in 1997 and as such, is prohibited from providing any funds to Hamas. Iran, however, is a longtime financial and material supporter of Hamas," it stated.

"The United States engaging in active negotiations with Iran and potentially providing billions of dollars in sanctions relief will no doubt contribute to Iran's support of Hamas and other terrorist organizations who attack Americans and our allies. We call on you to immediately end negotiations with Iran, and make clear that sanctions relief will not be provided," it stated.

The administration should "unequivocally support Israel's right to defend itself against any and all terrorist attacks," the letter stated.

Student-art contest winners are named

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., announced Tuesday the winners of the 2021 Congressional Art Competition.

Daye Catherine Kwon, a student at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, took first place.

Her work, titled "Burnout," will be hung in the tunnels linking the House Office Buildings with the U.S. Capitol.

Alyson Fowlkes from Greenbrier High School finished second, and Jimin Clara Park of Episcopal Collegiate School placed third.

Three students received honorable mentions for their work: Kristopher McNeal of Maumelle High School; Alexis Parris of Greenbrier High School and Emily Roach of Mount St. Mary Academy. Roach's work, titled, "No Justice, No Peace," also received the Fan Favorite Award after being selected by constituents through an online vote.

Submissions were received from schools in all seven of the 2nd District's counties: Pulaski, Saline, White, Faulkner, Van Buren, Conway and Perry.

"This year, I was impressed by the 51 submissions and the involvement by our communities as well as the incredible talent and abilities of these students," said Hill of Little Rock.

"The art competition winner will have their work displayed in the Cannon House Office Building Tunnel, which leads to the Capitol building. Members of Congress, Capitol visitors and I walk the tunnel throughout the day, and I am proud that the hard work of Central Arkansas student artists will be displayed for representatives across the country to see," he said.

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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