Knows a Better Way Forward
When I first ran for Congress in 2014, I committed to seeking solutions that lead to job creation and rising income and wages for hard-working Arkansans and Americans. As a former local business owner and community banker, I know too well the limitations of our old, complex tax code and the burden it places on our local economic growth. My first act as Congressman was cosponsoring the Tax Code Termination Act, which would repeal most of the former tax code and required Congress to have a new federal tax system in place. Our families, businesses, and auto manufacturers all want – and deserve – a tax code that’s not only fair and simple, but that also will spur economic development and growth.
In 2016, I, along with the other House Republicans, outlined an approach to tax reform that would cut taxes for most Arkansas families and let 90% of Arkansans have a simpler method of filing during tax time. Importantly for our families, our tax revisions doubled the child tax credit and provided needed funds for healthcare and other family needs. With hard work in the U.S. Senate and support from President Trump in his first year, this major tax reform and simplification became law in December 2017. This reform is a vast improvement over the old code and results in higher wages, new job creation, and more career opportunities. Since passage, over $1 trillion in investment has retained to the United States and companies are investing millions in new plants and equipment and bringing jobs back from overseas. Over three years, our economy added 7 million new jobs, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. And, contrary to many pundits, total US tax revenues rose to a 70-year inflation-adjusted high of $5 trillion in 2022.
January 2020 dawned with the best U.S. economy in 50 years, with record unemployment and strong economic expansion. The onset of COVID-19 changed the outlook for the U.S. job market and the economy. Our economy has since gone from one of the strongest economies we have experienced in decades to one plagued by 40-year highs in inflation, skyrocketing federal budget deficits, weak real wages, and huge new costs from regulations by misguided direction at the helm from President Biden and his fellow Democrats in Congress. To correct the course, we must enact smart policies that once again benefit all Americans. The 2017 tax cuts and reforms must be made permanent, and we must tackle the regulatory costs inhibiting growth.
COVID-19 spending combined with President Biden’s avalanche of new spending have caused America to have the largest government debt-to-GDP ratio since the end of World War II. The pandemic saw our debt jump by $7 trillion, a national debt that will only increase as the Biden Administration continues to ask for budgets that include more than $1 trillion in annual deficits for the next ten years. Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats are addicted to spending that will impact our economy and our country for years to come.
I have and am fighting to shift power back to the states instead of running everything prescriptively through Washington. Both before the pandemic and probably long after, the federal government has grown too large and spends too much when compared to our national income. I have cosponsored two versions of the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to bring our spending in line, one with wide-spread Republican support. In early 2018 I fought for and obtained a vote in the House of Representatives on a BBA. In addition, I have awarded more than 70 “Golden Fleece” awards. This award exposes the most egregious examples of government waste.
Ultimately, if we are to return to strong economic growth, we must get our spending under control, reform our mandatory spending programs, cut low-priority spending, and stop performing functions best left to state and local governments – or to the private sector. It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to ensure that we no longer kick the can down the road on meeting our responsibility. The continued massive deficit spending by the Democrats after the pandemic have driven this message home even more intensely. Our children and grandchildren depend on us to solve this growing debt problem and provide them with a brighter future.
Border security is an important issue for Arkansans, and I made it a priority from day one to see our southwest boundary first-hand to learn about its complex challenges. Now every state is a border state. This is why I have been to the border eight times in my nine years in Congress, and I have visited a different part of the southwest boundary each time. I learned that because each sector along the border is unique in geography, economy, and traditions, we must design coordinated, effective physical security, including a wall, fencing, sophisticated technology, and combine that with robust customs and border patrol manpower. Together, we can have a successful, long-term secure southwestern border with Mexico.
Under President Trump we made tremendous progress. There were nearly 20,000 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in place by early 2021. Almost 750 miles of the wall at our southern border was in place, with more miles planned, which incorporated the latest technology. Our immigration laws that deported criminals were being enforced, and a “Remain in Mexico” policy had been set up for asylum seekers. The southern border was the most secure it had been in years. Joe Biden has destroyed that progress overnight with his incompetence and failures.
Our immigration system is broken, and I will support immigration policies that include strong funding for border security; a more merit-based immigration system; enforcing our asylum laws; improving our visa system; and establishing employment verification systems. America is a nation of immigrants, and many of our country’s most successful businesses are run by first- and second-generation immigrants. I am touched and inspired by the trials and tribulations of those new Americans who came to our country the right way, through a long and arduous legal process, and for them, I will continue to push for reform in our immigration system and support legal immigration.
Under President Trump we had the best economy in nearly 50 years. However, in early 2020, COVID 19 upended the outlook for the world economy and U.S. jobs. The bipartisan CARES Act backed by President Trump was our emergency relief. These measures permitted many businesses to remain open and provided families the resources to bridge an uncertain time.
The Biden Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress utilized COVID-19 as a “crisis” to push their political agenda. Whether the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package, and the so called “Inflation Reduction Act” , which was just the introduction and extension of irresponsible social benefits, government spending has spiraled out of control. This has continued to impact the job market, but the Democrats’ out-of-control spending caused inflation to skyrocket to a 40-year high.
Consumer prices have increased by more than 17% since Joe Biden was inaugurated, while real wages have declined. Despite any data that shows inflation is down in some parts of the economy, I hear from central Arkansans that are still paying more for just about everything because of inflation – groceries, gas and transportation, electricity, and nearly every other daily item. Simply put, inflation is costing Americans dearly.
To rein in spending, we must enact policies that stop the Biden administration’s current spending spree. I want to counter the current actions of the Democrat-controlled government and stabilize prices, without putting the economy into recession.
My top priority is supporting our nation’s veterans to ensure they receive the benefits and healthcare they have earned and deserve. My team consists of combat veterans to ensure that work on behalf of Arkansas’s veterans is executed by another service member who has walked in their boots. I am proud to have veterans on my team.
My office has the largest veterans case work team in Arkansas, and our work on behalf of Arkansas’s veterans is second-to-none. We have closed more than 2,000 cases for central Arkansas veterans and recovered over $40 million — $6 million in 2022 alone — in back pay and earned benefits for Arkansas’s veterans from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Further, we have been able to obtain nearly 150 lost or missing military medals back service members and families, including four Silver Stars for a helicopter crew that had risked their life to rescue the crew of a downed C-130 during the Vietnam War.
The family of Pvt. Leroy Johnston obtained medals deserved but denied dating back to World War I. Because of racial inequities, Pvt. Johnston’s military records were doctored and he was not awarded the medals he had earned. After this success, I introduced a bill to require a review of the records of African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Jewish American, and Native American war veterans who appeared to have been denied recognition due to discrimination. The World War | Valor Medals Review Act, signed by President Trump, will have a tremendous impact on the lives of the descendants of service member wrongly denied their due recognition. The most recent National Defense Authorization Act includes an upgrade to the Medal of Honor for Private Marcelino Serna. This will be the first medal upgrade from my bill.
Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery Work and VA Accountability
In 2019, I authored legislation that passed and was signed into law by President Trump that added nearly 140 acres of land to our beautiful Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock. I also supported numerous bills, including the VA Accountability Act and the VA MISSION Act, to improve care for veterans, provide the VA Secretary with sweeping new authority to fire corrupt or incompetent employees for cause, recoup bonuses, and hold employees accountable for their actions. We reformed construction project management at the VA and funding that will help to improve the appeals process for VA claims, offer more education opportunities for veterans, and address the backlog of disability claims for our nation’s heroes.
I’ve supported long-fought for measures by our veterans community including fixing the Widow’s Tax, to ensure that the widows of veterans who died from service connected conditions do not have their survivor benefits taxed, and extending benefits to additional Blue Water Vietnam Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service in Vietnam. In 2022, we successfully passed the PACT Act.
Protecting Arkansans by ensuring we have a strong national security is one of my top priorities. The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of the most bipartisan bills we ever consider in Congress. It has been signed into law for 63 straight years. After study, I have supported its passage each year.
Little Rock Air Force Base
It is an honour to represent the men and women of the U.S. Air Force who serve at Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB). Central Arkansas is also the headquarters of the Arkansas National Guard. In 2015, a National Guard intelligence unit on LRAFB was being moved to Ft. Smith. I secured the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) building on LRAFB with the help of Arkansas’s Congressional Delegation, the Air National Guard, and the U.S. Air Force. This 10,000 square foot facility is currently a cyber training and operations squadron. Reforming the facility for use as a training unit saved millions of taxpayer dollars and makes Central Arkansas more competitive in a growing cyber world.
In 2019 and 2020, I served as the Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy. I continue that work now on all three of my committees: Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence. In this capacity, I work to help ensure that the U.S. and global banking systems remain safe from terrorists, drug cartels, and rogue states, like Iran, Russia, and North Korea. By better understanding how these bad actors move their money around the world, we give our law enforcement and intelligence agencies the tools they need to stop the financing of these nefarious actors.
I’m protecting Americans from China’s blatant attempts to subvert democratic ideals, human rights, and the rule of law both within China’s borders and globally as part of my role as a U.S Congressional Representative to the United Nations General Assembly. Most recently, I have called for a strengthened North American Treaty Organization (NATO) and condemned Russian actions towards Ukraine, which threaten the very peace and stability in Europe that America helped to build following World War II.
Syria and Iran
I work to hold the Assad regime accountable for the ongoing civil war in Syria, which led to the rise of ISIS and has brought untold havoc to the Middle East and elsewhere. My bill, the CAPTAGON Act was signed into law in 2022 and I have follow on legislation sanctioning Assad and his cronies for the production and proliferation of the drug captagon, which is flooding the Middle East and Europe. These bills will hold the Assad regime accountable and halt its ability to drive the ongoing conflict, provide a lifeline to extremist groups, and permit American adversaries to strengthen their engagement there – posing an ever-larger threat to Israel and other partners in the region.
In 2023, I traveled to Syria to meet with the people and see the destruction for myself. We have witnessed the partnership of Iran backing Assad and his export of terror and drugs. Further, America must stand strong with our regional ally, Israel, against Iran-backed Hamas, Hezbollah, and Houthis.
It is important that strategies to enhance our workforce and equip Arkansans to transition and take advantage of the 21st century economy are implemented. In Congress, this has been one of my priorities.
Helping Arkansans with Skills Training
In 2015, I founded the Congressional Skilled American Workforce Caucus. I support skills-training initiatives that benefit high school students and high school graduates, who don’t believe that a four-year college degree is right for them straight out of high school. Those students need skills and the opportunity for training in order to fill the job openings in Arkansas.
Ex-offenders need transitional housing and skills development, as well as support for any addiction-related challenges. President Trump led by signing the First Step Act into law. This important criminal justice reform law helped create a process for every federal parolee to get the job skills and set transitional plans before they shift back to society.
Arkansas has had many leaders in skills development. Former President Fitz Hill at the Historically Black college in central Arkansas, Arkansas Baptist College has led the way in working with parolees plan for a better life. I support policies in Congress that enhance the ability of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to support such training and education programs. I am the HCBU co-chair with Representative Alma Adams (D-NC).
I am committed to strengthening Social Security for today’s seniors and future beneficiaries. Further, I believe we must protect and strengthen Social Security, while eliminating fraud and abuse in this program
The 2023 annual report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds estimated that Social Security Retirement Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2033. Congress must effectively reform Social Security, prevent unprecedented cuts to benefits, and ensure that Social Security beneficiaries receive the benefits they have earned and paid in.
I introduced the Social Security Disability Insurance Return to Work Act, which would modernize the Social Security Administration’s classification of disability beneficiaries. The bill incentivizes returning to work for beneficiaries who have recovered from their disability such as an illness. According to the Congressional Research Service, the unemployment rate among working-age individuals with work-limiting disabilities has fallen from 24.4% in 1981 to 14.4% in 2013. In other words, compared to 30 years ago, a disability beneficiary is half as likely to return to work even if they have recovered and are able to go back to work. Likewise, in 2013, a fraction — only 0.4% — of all disability beneficiaries stopped receiving benefits because they returned to work. Due to the low return to work rate, Congress must act to implement an efficient, consistent and accurate disability determination in order to encourage return to work and save taxpayer dollars. I am committed to finding other long-term solutions, and I will fight to institute common-sense solutions to ensure the availability of the central Social Security benefit for seniors and disabled individuals both now and in the future.
The 2011 legislation, The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare” was more than just a malfunctioning website. Big government, “one size fits all” $2.2 trillion solutions simply do not work in our large, complex country. The ACA harmed and continues to harm Americans by limiting their choices, increasing healthcare costs and raising taxes on hard-working families and businesses. I have consistently worked to replace the ACA with badly needed reforms that will increase choice and lower healthcare costs for all Arkansans, while preserving access to full coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
This is why I voted to “repeal and replace” the ACA in the spring of 2017. We need reforms that actually lower healthcare costs, protect pre-existing conditions, and improve access for Arkansas families. Our families deserve better. Unfortunately, former Senator John McCain’s single vote “sunk” this effort in the Senate. Now, Washington Democrats push “Medicare for All” which will result in rising medical costs, fewer doctors, and longer wait times.
I also work for kid’s healthcare and for families without access. In 2018, Congress reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, a program that I support as it benefits Arkansas families. Likewise, access to care in our rural areas and for our families that have a hard time accessing care is greatly benefited by the community health centers. Arkansas has over 100 community health centers. They have been at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, and I have long supported their efforts, serving on the Congressional Community Health Center Caucus.
American education must change. I believe the lack of equal access to a quality education is the civil rights issue of our day, and we must demand success, accountability, and results in every classroom. Some of these key approaches were included in the Every Student Succeeds Act that was signed into law in 2015.
COVID-19 exposed Arkansas’ broadband capabilities for both students and teachers. I support funding and policy changes to enhance Arkansas’s ability to expand reliable and affordable broadband access.
I supported H.R. 5, the Parent’s Bill of Rights in the House. In today’s environment, parents must ensure their children are being educated, not indoctrinated. Public charter or home-schooling innovation is well-established in Arkansas and thousands of students, particularly low-income students are benefited by these important choices.
I believe strongly that all of our children – those college-bound and those that will begin their career directly after high school – need quality direction and curriculum that helps prepare them for their own unique “pursuit of happiness”. Central Arkansas examples of terrific concurrent credit and workforce skills training provided in a great learning environment include schools in Conway, Greenbrier, and North Little Rock. All of the school districts in Pulaski County have banded together to rollout the Ford Next Generation Learning program. Additionally, the school districts in Saline County have joined industry and higher-ed partners to create an amazing skilled workforce academy. These are great local initiatives and I’m pleased that federal education policies facilitate this kind of local leadership and creativity.
As Co-Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Caucus, I fight for necessary resources for our HBCU’s to grow and prosper. Three HBCUs in our district train young people for the jobs of tomorrow: Philander Smith, Arkansas Baptist College and Shorter College. I hosted two HBCU Summits in central Arkansas in 2019 and 2021 where we developed strategies for more private business support for our campuses and our students.
For five decades I have been an avid outdoorsman and believe that we must protect our historic sites and public lands so that future generations can learn about our nation’s history and see the beauty of our extraordinary country.
I had this in mind when I introduced H.R. 2611, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Boundary Modification Act, which exemplifies my commitment to history, preservation, and conservation, ensuring that the homes across from Central High School will forever stand as a living monument to the Little Rock Nine’s brave actions to integrate the school. I was joined in sponsoring this important measure by the House and Senate Arkansas delegation and my friend, civil rights icon the late Congressman John Lewis (D-GA).
In 2018, I successfully drafted and passed legislation that expanded the Flatside Wilderness Area located in Perry County. My goal was to make the area more accessible to visitors and to ensure the Flatside Wilderness remains an integral part of what makes Arkansas the “Natural State”. President Trump signed my Flatside Wilderness Act into law on January 10, 2019. In the act, I named the 640-acre addition for former second congressional district Congressman Ed Bethune, a distinguished conservationist and the legislative father of the original Flatside Wilderness Act, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. I am now working to add an additional 2,200 national forest acres to Flatside Wilderness.
I was also proud to be an original cosponsor on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) legislation that improves public lands management, protects cherished landscapes, and increases public access for recreation while protecting private property rights. This bill also included a permanent reauthorization of the LWCF. It was signed into law on March 12, 2019.
Also, I was very pleased to be an original cosponsor of the Restore our Parks and Public Lands Act, which will reduce the maintenance backlog of the National Park Service and ensure our National Parks remain attractive places for all Americans to visit. This bill was included as a part of the Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law by President Trump.
Finally, I support the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. This bill will support our state agencies like the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and ensure that conversation efforts are being led by our states and localities. This bill will ensure Arkansas remains The Natural State.
The United States must guard against an expansionist Communist China. Under the Communist party leader and authoritarian Xi Jinping, China is actively pursuing its goal of being the leading economic and military power in the world. We’ve seen this with its aggressive expansion in the South China Sea and East China Sea, deadly skirmishes along the Chinese-Indian border, and its heavy-handed integration of Hong Kong, as well as consistent threats to invade Taiwan – actions that have all been supported by consistent increases in its military budget since 2013.
Over the past three decades, the United States and our allies around the world have given the Communists in China plenty of opportunities to be a constructive participant in the world order; but we’ve seen that China has no desire to follow norms, as was proven true with the outbreak of COVID-19. We will never know how many lives would have been saved around the world had China taken the outbreak of COVID seriously from the beginning, working with the United States and the international community to stem its spread and understand its origins.
While as a member of the House Financial Service Committee, I have reined in China’s economic levers. For instance, the House passed my bill, the Ensuring Chinese Debt Transparency Act of 2020, which pushes for greater transparency of financing provided by China to another country through our international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund. Further, in long term response to the pandemic, I introduced the Securing America’s Vaccines for Emergencies (SAVE) Act, which would require the president to develop a strategy under the Defense Production Act to better secure the critical supply chains for our medicines, vaccines, personal protective equipment, and medical devices. This bill passed the House twice and I continue work with the Senate to help achieve this planning into law.
Finally, China is a pervasive abuser of human rights and religious freedom, the protection of which is a foundational principle of American foreign policy. I supported President Trump’s policies that called out China’s human rights abuses against its Uyghur population and supported Hong Kong’s continued autonomy. President Trump stood strong in the face of the CCP and China’s actions around the globe. The Biden administration must do the same.
All the world has witnessed the horrors of Putin. Under Putin the last two decades, Russia, as a nuclear power, is a distinct and destabilizing force throughout Europe and the Middle East. We have witnessed the results of the catastrophic foreign policy errors of the Biden and Obama administrations of allowing Russian to invade the Ukraine, take over and occupy Crimea, and become an essential co-conspirator in the murder and mayhem occurring in Syria. This pattern of evil behavior continues today, as Putin invaded Ukraine, stoking instability and unrest in Eastern Europe at a time that countries there look to strengthen their democratic institutions and market economies.
The United States has passed significant sanctions legislation including the Sergei Magninsky Act, which is named for a Moscow accountant killed by Putin in a corruption scandal. The success of this law being used against Russia is one reason I supported the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act in the 114th Congress. This bill applied the same sanctions penalties for human rights abuses and corruption across the globe.
The Trump administration levied sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy and key Russians in the Russian Federation, including the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and the United States imposed sanctions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine to nearly 700 individuals through the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act, which I supported in 2017. We also sanctioned Russian officials and the Russian intelligence agency for its malicious cyber activities, including interference in U.S. elections. In recent years, the US sanctioned Russia for propping up illegitimate and dictatorial regimes in Syria and Venezuela. While Russian economic sanctions are significant, President Biden weakened this when he cancelled our Keystone Pipeline and “greenlighted” the Russian Nordstream II Pipeline. This Biden weakness emboldens Putin to act, as we have witnessed in his full scale invasion of death and destruction in Ukraine. The Biden-Obama coddling of Russia and Biden’s failures in the Afghanistan exit have contributed to the mighty catastrophe we are witnessing.
I believe the goals for any future relationship between the United States and Russia should include:
• Allied unity within NATO
• Arm the Ukrainians to defeat Russia
• Honest engagement with the United States and China on arms-control issues
• Maintain intense pressure on Putin and his regime through use of financial and economic sanctions
• Resolution of the Syrian civil war and political crisis