A Harvard-educated lawyer, Tom Cotton left his private practice to fight the war on terror. Now he hopes to be the next congressman for Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District.
Cotton, 35, R-Dardanelle, won a three-way primary for the 4th District GOP nomination. He hopes to capture the seat held by U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Crossett, who announced this summer he wouldn’t seek re-election at the end of his sixth term.
Cotton is facing state Sen. Gene Jeffress, D-Louann, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Cotton, who also has an undergraduate degree from Harvard College, was a clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals before he entered private practice and then joined the U.S. Army after he paid off his student loans.
He served combat tours in Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2008, before leaving the Army about two years ago and working as a management consultant for McKinsey and Co., and then returning to work on the family cattle farm in Dardanelle.
The 4th District covers 33 counties in southern Arkansas, including portions of Sebastian and Crawford.
Cotton and Jeffress were both asked the same five questions in telephone interviews with the Times Record, with no time limit placed on their responses. However, both candidates were made aware their responses would be edited for length.
Cotton’s paraphrased answers to the following questions:
A Pine Bluff area businessman recently told a civic club that deepening the Arkansas River from 9 to 12 feet to allow barges to move more freight could generate jobs. While some studies suggest the work could take up to $100 million, others say it could be done for as little as $4 million to $10 million. What could you do to help fund the project?
Cotton: It’s my understanding over 95 percent of the river channel is at 12 feet, so there’s just a few bottlenecks that need to be deepened to increase barge traffic, not just for Pine Bluff, but for Fort Smith and every area in between.
It’s also my understanding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the money appropriated to accomplish the work, they simply have to work through all the red tape. So we have to work with the Corps through vigorous oversight to make sure they’re implementing the will of Congress, as expressed by the appropriations.
Like any consumer I would like to do it for less rather than more, but also have to assure the work is high quality.
The Pine Bluff Arsenal successfully destroyed about 12 percent of the nation’s stockpiled chemical weapons. With the elimination of the stockpile, approximately 1,100 contract, civilian and government workers were scheduled to lose their jobs in the phased reduction in force. The arsenal still employs about 1,000 workers in operations that were not linked to chemical-weapons disposal; however, what can be done to bring more work to the facility?
Cotton: The arsenal does critical work and we have to recognize chemical weapons aren’t going away. No one wants to use them, but we must have them to deter our enemies.
We also need a facility for disposing of international weapons as well, which is an important part of promoting peace in the world, by persuading hostile countries to give up those weapons.
More generally, we need to stop the dramatic cuts in the defense budget if Congress doesn’t do something about the Budget Control Act. So my preferred solution isn’t to eliminate budget cuts, but to reprioritize cuts to assure the military is bearing the majority of the burden.
Affordable, fair and high-quality health care for U.S. residents is one of the country’s most divisive, hot-button issues now. If elected to Congress, how would you address this matter?
Cotton: First, I would repeal Obamacare (the Affordable Health Care for America Act). It’s already driving up the cost of health care, through premiums paid by employees and/or their employers. Once it’s repealed, we need to introduce more market-based competition into the health care system, which does have problems.
People need to be able to buy health insurance across state lines, health care providers should post prices so consumers can be aware, and there needs to be malpractice reform so doctors aren’t practicing defensive medicine.
(The) need to promote competition produces lower prices and greater quality.
There is no doubt the U.S. economy has been slow to recover from the Great Recession, and a major factor in the lagging recovery is continued high unemployment accompanied by slow job creation. If elected to Congress, what would you do to boost job creation for Arkansas and the nation?
Cotton: First, we need to get federal spending under control, which is taking $1 trillion out of the private side of the economy that would otherwise be available for business creation and expansion.
Second, we need to reform out corporate and individual tax codes are incredibly cumbersome and costly. The codes divert money from productive economic uses to tax shelters which people use to reduce taxable income.
Finally, repeal or roll back some of the incredible regulatory measures that are a drag on the economy like Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reforms, Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are driving up the price of electricity, etc.
What do you consider to be the main issue facing the federal government, and if elected, how would you address it?
Cotton: First and foremost, the debt crisis. We’ve added more debt in four years under President Barack Obama than we did under President George W. Bush, and we added a lot of debt under Bush. If we don’t take action soon, I fear this country could go the way of Greece.
We can repeal Obamacare, cut non-essential federal programs, return a lot of programs to the states, where they can be better administered, as was done with welfare and can be done with Medicaid and other programs.