Arkies in the Beltway | Week of Feb. 25, 2024

This is "Arkies in the Beltway" for the week of February 25, 2024. I'm Alex Thomas — Washington Correspondent at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette — with your look at happenings in the nation's capital and the Arkansans influencing the political discussions.

Usually, the U.S. Capitol is a place bustling with legislative business, reporters working on stories, and tourists interested in the sights of Capitol Hill.

The halls of Congress, however, were devoid of this typical rush last week, as members of the Senate and House of Representatives spent time away from Washington, D.C., for the Presidents' Day holiday.

That is not to say Arkansas' congressional delegates were not busy.

[Podcast player not showing up? Click here.]

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., co-helmed a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., concerning the United States' compacts with three Pacific Island nations. 

Congress has yet to approve new long-term agreements with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, with a third compact with Palau set to expire in September.

Womack, of Rogers, has an interest in the matter as it pertains to his congressional district; thousands of Marshallese live in northwest Arkansas as lawful non-immigrants via the U.S.-Marshall Islands compact.

STORY: Womack joins lawmakers in push to renew agreements with Marshall Islands, other Pacific allies

One group is pressuring Womack to support a discharge petition related to the Senate's international aid package.

Senators approved the $95.3 billion measure before leaving Capitol Hill, but Johnson has not shared any urgency in considering the legislation. The Louisianan has instead criticized the Senate for failing to address security at the U.S.-Mexico border through the proposal.

The group Republicans for Ukraine want Womack and nine other House Republicans to consider backing a discharge petition, which would allow the House to consider the Senate's bill without needing leadership approval.

STORY: Pro-Ukraine group wants Womack’s help in bypassing challenge to Senate package

Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., has been named to a bipartisan task force on artificial intelligence.

The task force's formation occurs with high interest on Capitol Hill about AI and its safety.

Hill, of Little Rock, says AI has the potential to benefit consumers and businesses, yet he additionally recognizes the potential dangers posed by bad actors.

STORY: U.S. Rep. French Hill picked for bipartisan House artificial intelligence task force

Hundreds of Arkansans have seen their student loan debts erased in part or completely.

President Joe Biden announced last week his administration has canceled $1.2 billion in federal student loan debt, a move affecting nearly 1,200 Arkansans with $8.7 million left in payments.

STORY: 1,190 Arkansans share $8.7 million in student loan forgiveness, federal officials say

Thanks for listening to this week's "Arkies in the Beltway!" Make sure to stay up to date with all Arkansas news at You can also stay informed about happenings in the nation's capital; my social media handle across all platforms is @AlexHouseThomas.

Upcoming Events