Arkies in the Beltway | Week of March 10, 2024

This is "Arkies in the Beltway" for the week of March 10, 2024! I'm Alex Thomas — Washington Correspondent for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette — with your weekly guide on the Arkansans influencing the national political discourse.

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Arkansas' federal lawmakers had cold responses to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address. Biden gave the third such address before a joint session of Congress last Thursday.

"I've had the opportunity to hear many State of the Unions through the years," Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., told the Democrat-Gazette. "I think that was the most partisan speech I had ever heard. It was like a Democratic campaign rally."

Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said the president's remarks were directed toward making an impression on Biden's political base.

"It wasn't written to the rest of the country," the Hot Springs congressman added.

Some members of the delegation brought guests to the State of the Union. Boozman, for instance, invited Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Westerman had Albert McCoin, the congressman's former agriculture teacher, in the House chamber.

STORY: Arkansas’ federal lawmakers bringing guests to State of the Union

Congress approved a spending package averting a government shutdown. The measure — which included half of Congress' 12 annual appropriations bills — also directs funding for various projects across the country, including in Arkansas.

The Natural State's congressional delegation sought funds for an array of projects, including rehabilitation work on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System and various local utility improvements.

STORY: Federal spending package includes millions of dollars for Arkansas projects

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., defeated his challenger in the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.

Womack, of Rogers, captured 54% of the vote in last week's election, beating state Sen. Clint Penzo, R-Springdale, in the process.

"The motivated people for my opponent that have issues with me — in some cases, maybe several — I knew they were motivated to get out and vote," Womack told the Democrat-Gazette. "And they did, to their credit and to his credit."

Womack will face Democratic candidate Caitlin Draper in this November's general election.

Back on Capitol Hill, Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., has his sights on the next Congress.

Crawford, of Jonesboro, is seeking the top Republican spot on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

If House Republicans keep majority control after this year's election cycle, Crawford would serve as the committee's chairman come next January.

STORY: With months remaining in current Congress, Crawford seeks future Transportation and Infrastructure committee leadership role

Arkansas Farm Bureau members spent time last week in Washington.

County leaders met with the state's congressional delegation and federal officials to discuss multiple issues facing Arkansas producers. A central issue for the agriculture organization: passing a new farm bill during this Congress.

STORY: Arkansas agriculture leaders stress need for new farm bill during Capitol Hill visit

Thank you for listening to this week's "Arkies in the Beltway!" Make sure to keep up to date with all Arkansas news at You can also stay informed about what's happening in the nation's capital by following me online; my social media handle across all platforms is @AlexHouseThomas.

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