U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, expects an attempt at bipartisanship to reform the Congressional budgeting process, but he’s less certain of consensus on altering gun laws in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.
Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Womack – who is seeking a fifth term in Congress – was recently selected as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He also remains on the powerful Appropriations Committee. With tenure and a rising visibility coupled with a surge of voter discontent during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, Womack said he’s philosophical about how difficult his re-election bid will be.
“Look, if you’re passionate about how you feel, and if you think you can make a difference, you should run,” Womack said. “I mean this is what makes America great is that we have an election process that’s open to everybody that qualifies. And so I’m not at all concerned about other people running. Once the filing is over, then it’s about making your case. And I believe, and I’m absolutely confident, I will be able to make a case, to the people, the discerning vote of the 3rd District of Arkansas, that I’m the best of the field.”
Womack may have a GOP primary challenger from Robb Ryerse, and Democrat Josh Mahony has already filed to challenge for the seat.
On Friday, Womack was named by House Speaker Paul Ryan to a newly formed Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, a bipartisan and bicameral panel of 16 lawmakers tasked with identifying and recommending reforms to the budget process.
Womack said the working group has to come up with a better process for developing an implementing a federal budget, a process he describes as broken.
“Our blueprint for budgets and appropriations is the 1974 Budget Act. … It just doesn’t work,” he said, noting that Continuing Resolutions have become the norm for the budgeting process in recent years. He thinks there should be a penalty for Congressional failure to pass a budget, but he’s unsure of what that should be.
He said one of the first acts he made when he became House Budget Chairman was to visit with the ranking Democratic member on the committee, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky.
“I sat down with John and I said, ‘I can’t do my job if I don’t have an open and frank discussion with my ranking member.’ And so we have agreed to work together to kind of maybe check a little bit of our politics at the door coming in, and pledge to work together to see if we can get something that is in a bipartisan fashion, because I think that’s going be the true secret to success,” Womack said.
GUNS IN AMERICA
On the topic of gun access and restrictions, Womack said he does expect there to be a debate when Congress returns next week. However, he contends that while many ideas will be discussed, they will need to be balanced with gun owners’ rights and the Second Amendment.
He supports banning bump stocks because they make firearms more unreliable, but he thinks other issues – raising age limits for buying assault weapons, background checks on gun purchasers, concealed carry for teachers – all have problems that could be too restrictive for the Second Amendment.
“It’s real easy to armchair quarterback this thing. I’m pleased now that the president has come out and suggested that we start looking at some things that are in the arena, that have kind of been hands-off over time,” Womack said.
Does he think Congress will take any action?
“Hard to say. I’m a big supporter of the Second Amendment. I think when you start trying to, from the periphery, going after fundamental parts of the Second Amendment, you’re on a very difficult slope there,” he said.
“And you’ve got to be careful. Because then what’s next? Are we going to go after the First Amendment? Is there going to be Fourth Amendment issues? So I think you’ve got to be really, really careful to make sure you think through all of these issues, and that you are actually making a difference rather than just trying to satisfy some long range political goal, and that is to rid the country of guns. We don’t need to punish the law abiding citizen. And there are many examples out there where the law abiding citizen is the one that gets punished for the dastardly deeds of a very few people. And I want to be careful that we don’t go there.”
You can watch Rep. Womack’s full interview below.
Talk Business and Politics is a content partner of KASU. Their show airs on KASU 91.9 FM on Mondays and Fridays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:51 am. It also airs during NPR’s All Things Considered on Wednesdays at 5:20 pm. You can follow more of their coverage on their website TalkBusiness.net where you can also catch the latest Northeast Arkansas news.