U.S. Rep. Womack shares concerns about budget, possible government shutdown in Rogers talk

He expresses worry about funding government

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, speaks Tuesday during a Rogers Rotary Club luncheon at Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas in Rogers.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Tracy Neal)
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, speaks Tuesday during a Rogers Rotary Club luncheon at Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas in Rogers. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Tracy Neal)


ROGERS -- U.S. Rep Steve Womack said he wanted to have a frank conversation about issues when he spoke Tuesday at a meeting of the Rogers Rotary Club.

Womack, who serves on the Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, said Congress passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act last May and President Joe Biden signed the bill into law a few days later. The law set the top line for discretionary spending, and there was belief that appropriation bills would have an easier time getting through the House, Womack said.

"We are in the fifth month of the fiscal year '24, and we don't have a budget," he said during his talk at the club's meeting. The fiscal year started in October.

Womack, R-Rogers, pointed to some factors that have hampered the budget process.

"In case you haven't picked up on it, we the governing majority, we now hate the FBI," he said about Republicans in the U.S. House.

He said some are concerned about the weaponization of the U.S. Justice Department.

Womack said a new FBI headquarters is proposed to be built in Maryland or Virginia with more than $1 billion already appropriated to launch the project. He said the issue is now affected if the governing majority does anything to help the FBI relocate its headquarters.

Womack is among those who handle appropriations for election security grants and there is opposition to any money going for such grants. Election security grants provide states with resources to improve elections for federal office, including for enhancing technology and making election security improvements, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

"And so the bottom line of all the news and the reason we need to have this frank discussion is you kind of need to know beginning tomorrow morning when I fly back to Washington," Womack said. "What's about to happen?"

He said Congress can continue to fund the government at 2023 levels, meaning there will be no capacity to start any new programs. He said the other option could be a government shutdown.

Government funding for agriculture, transportation, military construction and some veterans' services expires Friday. And funding for the rest of the government -- including the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department -- expires a week later, on March 8, the day after Biden is set to deliver his State of the Union address.

Womack pointed at the importance of funding national defense with the issues happening around the world. He called it an "abject failure of your government and your Congress" that funding for national defense and other aspects of government is on the brink of lapsing.

"If we don't renew FISA 702, Americans will die," he said. "It is a fact."

In 2008, Congress enacted Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, an intelligence collection authority that enables the intelligence community to collect, analyze and appropriately share foreign intelligence information about national security threats, according to intel.gov.

Millions of dollars for local projects are also being held up in the budget impasse, he said.

One man asked Womack about providing funding for Ukraine. Womack said the funding is caught up with border security. He said he believes it is important to provide funding for border security and Ukraine.

Womack is running for reelection in the March 5 Republican primary against state Sen. Clint Penzo, R-Springdale.

Penzo did not return two phone calls and a text message Tuesday seeking a response to Womack's statement.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Caitlin Draper, a Democrat, in the general election for the 3rd Congressional District seat.

"There is so much going on in our country and our world that requires true leadership in our nation's capital," Draper said Tuesday. "That's why I'm running for Congress, to give the people of Northwest Arkansas a true voice in D.C."

She said people need to be able to have these hard conversations with each other in a respectful manner and it's just not happening.

"Ukraine is in such a crucial moment in its war against Russia," Draper said. "As leaders of the free world and defenders of democracy, we need to stand with the citizens of Ukraine in their fight against the tyranny and oppression of Russia. We must pass a package to help Ukraine beat back Putin and work with our allies in Europe and across the globe to prevent autocratic rule."

  photo  U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, speaks Tuesday during a Rogers Rotary Club luncheon at Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas in Rogers. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Tracy Neal)
 
 


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