If you ever doubt that members of Congress can work together across the political aisle for the betterment of their communities, look no further than an announcement last week from the Biden Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A few months ago, our neighbors in the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, and the Jefferson County Alliance brought to my attention a proposed rule that OMB was hoping to implement. The rule would have doubled the minimum population threshold necessary to define a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
While a term like “MSA” may seem like a minor bureaucratic label, it has significant impact on how federal funds are distributed and economic opportunities are allocated. The proposed rule would have severely limited the ability of Hot Springs, Texarkana, Pine Bluff, and Jonesboro to access federal funding and grants to support their economic development, infrastructure, and even health care needs. And it wasn’t just Arkansas that would have been negatively affected: 144 communities in 45 states would have been hard-hit. I could not stand by and allow this shortsighted rule to gravely weaken the growth of Arkansas cities.
That’s why I led the charge in the House, along with my friend, Democratic Representative Susan Wild from Pennsylvania and 51 other Republican and Democrat members in sending a letter to OMB voicing our strong opposition to the needless and harmful rule change. I strongly believe that smaller cities deserve the same chances to thrive as larger cities. And I am pleased to report that OMB listened to our concerns and last week, OMB reversed course and withdrew the proposed changes.
This is one small example of how Congress can accomplish great things for the nation when Democrats and Republicans are able to come together to fight for their communities, and I am grateful for the chance to lead my colleagues to champion Arkansas.