Freshman 4th District Congressman Tom Cotton, a Dardanelle Republican, on Friday redirected a reporter’s question on the political value of the Oct. 1-16 federal government shutdown to Democratic President Barack Obama and Arkansas’ senior U.S. Senator Mark Pryor of Little Rock, a two-term Democrat being challenged by Cotton.
Cotton — attending a private reception at the historic Du Bocage House at 1115 West Fourth Avenue — was asked if the shutdown was worthy of his and fellow Republicans’ efforts. An aide to Cotton intervened and said the questioning had exceeded a 10-minute limit, but Cotton nevertheless responded, saying he had not supported the shutdown and that the House of Representatives had proposed alternatives that were rejected.
In an interview on the Andrea Tantaros Show in January, Cotton said Republicans had to be prepared to shut down the government in order to get what they wanted. Various sources have put the cost of the government shutdown in the neighborhood of $24 billion in lost economic output. Cotton voted with most Republicans in late September to pass a short-term government spending plan that would have eliminated all funding for the Affordable Care Act, which set the stage for the government impasse.
Adding that he had voted for funding the government before, during and after the shutdown, he concluded his remarks with his suggestion that the inquiry on the value of the shutdown might be better aimed at the president and senator.
Before the reception, Cotton had presented $2,500 to the United Way of Southeast Arkansas at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center here. He said he had given the same amount to both the Eleanor Klugh Jackson House of Crisis Intervention in Hot Springs and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Later, Cotton declined to respond to a question on whether he intended to seek a charitable deduction on his taxes from the three donations he made in keeping with a recent vow of contributing his salary received during the shutdown. Cotton said he doesn’t comment on his personal financial matters.
Cotton said abuses within the food stamp and other government assistance programs throughout the nation must be brought under control so that those people with the greatest needs won’t be denied of truly necessary aid. An avenue in ensuring such is tighter restrictions, he believes. He said averting assistance system abuses is pivotal in “protecting Arkansas.”
Government figures show that almost half a million Arkansans (17 percent of the state) get food stamps, and more than 75 percent are children. Kathy Webb, a former state lawmaker and current executive director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, has said in interviews that the program is one of the most efficiently run government programs available.
The senate hopeful has also opposed a minimum wage increase, lower student loan interest rates and the Affordable Care and Paycheck Fairness acts.
He said a leading solution to solving the country’s economic woes is making Washington “less intrusive.”
“Families are being squeezed,” Cotton said, adding that excessive government taxation has resulted in a lack of job creation.
Cotton was critical of the Affordable Care Act, saying millions of Americans are losing their health insurance because of the program. Acknowledging that health care problems existed before Obama took office, Cotton said he believes the crisis could be better eased by letting people purchase insurance “across state lines” and allowing small businesses to combine efforts in providing health coverage to their employees with the same opportunities afforded large companies.
During the interview, which was conducted outside the Du Bocage House, an unidentified man was videotaping the exchange when Cotton’s aide raised a hand to block the man’s camcorder view. Afterward, a Commercial reporter asked the man if he was a media representative. The man did not provide his name, but said he was with the Democratic Party of Arkansas.