Fourth District U.S. Congressman Tom Cotton briefed Rotary Club members and guests Tuesday about his first few weeks in office and his expectations for the rest of the current session as part of the annual Farmer’s Appreciation Day.
Cotton said that since he was sworn in Jan. 3, the majority of his official time has been devoted to dealing with what he called legislative artifacts left over from the previous legislative session.
“The first artifact that we have dealt with is what has come to be called the fiscal cliff,” Cotton said. “We are in a crisis of higher taxation and higher spending. The Bush tax cuts that were extended by President Obama for two years in 2010 expired at the end of 2012. Congress passed a bill that raised tax rates with no spending cuts. The rise in the tax rates for capital gains and estates will fall particularly hard on small businesses.”
Cotton said a good thing to come from the passage of the bill is that there will be no more debates every six to 12 months on what tax rates should be.
“The next artifact is the debate over the debt ceiling,” Cotton said. “The last time we increased the debt ceiling was August of 2011. The super committee that was formed by a bipartisan group of congressmen tried to find a solution to the problem but failed. Their fail-safe was what is known as the sequester, which are automatic spending cuts. I don’t believe in across-the-board spending cuts but we do have an opportunity to modify them.”
Cotton said that while the first cuts are scheduled to take effect March 1, the opportunity for modification comes at the end of March when the continuing resolution that funds the government is up for a vote.
“This is a must-pass piece of legislation,” Cotton said. “The Department of Defense faces what I believe are distressing cuts of $85 billion. I think we should shift away from DOD and instead reprioritize the spending cuts to domestic discretionary spending. Second I would provide managers within departments with the flexibility to shift funds between programs within their agency and take the edge off of cuts.”
Cotton said not enough economic growth has occurred in the United States in the past few years to bring in adequate tax revenue.
“I tell constituent meetings that I want to double their taxes and they say I’m talking to the wrong crowd,” Cotton said. ‘But I tell them what I mean is that I want their business to double which gives the government more tax revenue.”
Cotton said that while the Hurricane Sandy relief bill was needed, Democrats filled the bill with unrelated spending programs that he could not support.
“We [Republicans] have to acknowledge that President Obama was re-elected so we have to be measured and sober in what we can accomplish,” Cotton said. “I’d rather be a do-nothing Congress than a do-something Congress that passes things like Obamacare. Obama talked about the need for a climate change bill last week and that is really just a new energy tax on oil, gas and coal, which are the cheapest and most plentiful energy resources we have.”
Cotton said he and his fellow House Republicans plan to block what he called the worst excesses of Obamacare.
“Among these are the requirement that even young adults buy health insurance or pay a fine for not doing so,” Cotton said. “They may need that money to buy food for their family or to pay rent.”
Cotton said that one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill is the need for further trade opportunities.
Richard Metcalf of Pine Bluff National Bank presented the 35th Harvey McGeorge Award to Levell Foote Jr., Jefferson County district conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“Levell was born in Grady, Arkansas, and began his career in 1978,” Metcalf said. “He has worked all across the state of Arkansas and he was ultimately able to come home to Jefferson County.”
Foote came forward and received the award from Metcalf.
“This is a distinct honor,” Foote said. “Richard had called and asked me to be here today and at first I told him I had too much to do out in the field working with the farmers but he told me that he really wanted me to be here. Now I see why.”