This is "Arkies in the Beltway" for the week of Nov. 12, 2023. I'm Alex Thomas, Washington Correspondent for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
One U.S. House of Representatives committee released an interim report on the federal H-2A program and the challenges facing domestic producers in securing foreign labor. Employers utilize the program to find temporary workers when they cannot hire enough local employees.
The House Agriculture Committee formed the bipartisan Agricultural Labor Working Group in June to study the matter. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, serves as one of its co-chairs; he explained the report's findings to the Democrat-Gazette for this week's episode.
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued its review of the Biden administration’s proposed security package last week. The White House has requested $105 billion for aid to Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific; $13.6 billion of the request would go toward border security.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appeared before Senate appropriators last Wednesday. One of the appropriators — Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. — pressed Mayorkas about whether the funding would effectively address security concerns.
More than 51,000 Arkansans are enrollees in the federal government's newest program focused on reducing and canceling student loan debt.
The Department of Education is overseeing the SAVE plan, which will allow borrowers to make monthly payments based on 5% of their discretionary income. Some enrollees will even be eligible for $0 monthly payments.
Finally, there has been movement on Capitol Hill regarding the United States' agreements with Pacific Island nations, including the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
The House Natural Resources Committee approved legislation to continue the Compacts of Free Association with the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau until September 2043.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, serves as the committee's chairman and is spearheading the House's effort.
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