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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SPOTLIGHT: Tom Cotton’s Reckless Votes For the RSC Budget

The RSC budget proposal would deny Social Security and Medicare until the age of 70 and severely cut benefits for seniors

On the first day of the general election, Pryor for Senate is shining a light on Cotton’s most irresponsible vote in Congress

LITTLE ROCK — Over the next 167 days of the general election, voters will continue to learn about Rep. Tom Cotton many votes that were bad for Arkansas, but there’s one example that stands out above the rest: Cotton’s votes for the FY 2014 and 2015 Republican Study Committee budgets.

No other Republican or Democrat from Arkansas was irresponsible enough to support the RSC budgets, which for seniors would mean grappling with insurance companies for their health coverage and waiting until they’re 70 for both Social Security and Medicare — in addition to making immediate cuts to benefits for both programs.

“In the coming months before Election Day, Congressman Cotton will need to answer for why he recklessly voted to undermine Arkansas seniors’ hard-earned retirement and make them wait for Medicare and Social Security until they’re 70,” said Pryor for Senate spokesman Erik Dorey. “Congressman Cotton may think he knows better than Arkansans, but his irresponsible votes against Medicare and Social Security would have real consequences for Arkansas seniors. Congressman Cotton has consistently stood against Arkansas on key issues that matter a lot to this state, and voters aren’t going to forget it.”

In recent weeks, national observers have begun to understand why it is that Cotton isn’t doing better in this race, and they’re rightly concluding that his uniquely irresponsible voting record — and the RSC budget votes in particular — has already become a real liability for Cotton’s candidacy.

The politics and policy analysis website Vox.com had this to say:

Attacks against Republicans for supporting Paul Ryan’s budget are nothing new. Yet the most damaging claim here is that Cotton supports raising the beneficiary age to 70 — something Ryan’s budget specifically avoided doing. (It raises the Medicare age only to 67, and doesn’t even touch Social Security.)

But Cotton is in this hot water because he voted for a budget even further to the right than Ryan’s. In early 2013, some conservatives were unhappy that Ryan’s latest proposal took 10 years to actually balance the budget — that is, to eliminate the yearly deficit. So the Republican Study Committee proposed its own plan, that balanced in just 4 years. To do so, it had to include major entitlement cuts that Ryan had backed away from, and include them more quickly. But it also proposed that crucial hike of the Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages to 70, starting in 2024.

The vote became an important litmus test for conservatives worried about their budget-cutting credentials. Groups like Heritage Action said they’d “score” it — which meant they’d deem candidates opposing it less conservative. And so that March, when Cotton was just two months into his first Congressional term, he voted for it. Now Pryor looks set to hammer home that one vote for the rest of the campaign.

Can Medicare save this Southern Democrat’s career?

Vox.com — May 15, 2014, 1:10 p.m. ET
By Andrew Prokop

On Monday, a new poll was released showing a 10 point Democratic lead in the Arkansas Senate race, one of the most competitive in the country. The large margin could well be an outlier, but the trend appears to be genuine — most recent pollingshows Senator Mark Pryor retaking the lead from his Republican challenger Congressman Tom Cotton. Cotton, an Army veteran and Harvard Law School graduate, was widely heralded as the GOP’s most impressive Senate candidate this year, and a potential party rising star.

It’s impossible to say for sure why the race has turned around, or whether the trend will last. But it’s noteworthy that recently, the Pryor campaign has been aggressively advertising on just two issues: Medicare and Social Security. Cotton “voted to raise the age to Medicare for 70,” one narrator intones. “Cotton would raise Medicare and Social Security to 70. Look it up! He’s a real threat to your retirement,” says an older woman named Linda. In another ad, Pryor himself says he wrote a bill to “stop politicians from destroying Medicare,” and helpfully adds, “My opponent voted to withhold benefits until age 70. And I’m trying to stop that.” The Pryor campaign has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars airing these ads in the past month.

Attacks against Republicans for supporting Paul Ryan’s budget are nothing new. Yet the most damaging claim here is that Cotton supports raising the beneficiary age to 70 — something Ryan’s budget specifically avoided doing. (It raises the Medicare age only to 67, and doesn’t even touch Social Security.)

But Cotton is in this hot water because he voted for a budget even further to the right than Ryan’s. In early 2013, some conservatives were unhappy that Ryan’s latest proposal took 10 years to actually balance the budget — that is, to eliminate the yearly deficit. So the Republican Study Committee proposed its own plan, that balanced in just 4 years. To do so, it had to include major entitlement cuts that Ryan had backed away from, and include them more quickly. But it also proposed that crucial hike of the Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages to 70, starting in 2024.

The vote became an important litmus test for conservatives worried about their budget-cutting credentials. Groups like Heritage Action said they’d “score” it — which meant they’d deem candidates opposing it less conservative. And so that March, when Cotton was just two months into his first Congressional term, he voted for it. Now Pryor looks set to hammer home that one vote for the rest of the campaign.

Interestingly, when the vote on the RSC’s budget actually took place, House Democrats decided to vote “present” rather than against. The thinking was that because the proposal was so extreme, the GOP would have to split its votes to prevent it from passing — which they did. It’s a move that was good for embarrassing the GOP in the short term, and earning press clips about Republicans in disarray — but the tactic actually led fewer Republicans to be on record backing the proposal. If Pryor’s campaign strategy is truly working, the smarter play may have been to let as many Republicans as possible vote for it.

Read more: http://www.vox.com/2014/5/15/5717258/can-medicare-save-this-southern-democrats-career

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