Clubbing Tom Cotton with John Burris

The employee-employer relationship between state Rep. John Burris of Harrison, a responsible Republican state representative, and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, an irresponsible congressman seeking undeserved promotion to the U.S. Senate, is indeed a delicate one.

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, whom Cotton presumes to seek to replace, has no regard for that delicacy. He simply sees a wedge. He sees an exploitable opportunity.

This morning Pryor’s campaign press relations agent, a smart and tough and diligent former prize-winning newspaper reporter, has been poking me to exploit this relationship. And, indeed, here I stand — manipulated into writing about this matter. But I’m not sure I’m writing about it the way the Pryor people would have me write about it.

Burris is an elected state representative practicing by constituent responsibility his own direct form of politics and public policy at the state level. He also has hired on asĀ  Arkansas “political director” for Cotton, a campaign-funded position that has him in service not to himself, directly, but to Cotton.

An uncommonly bright and politically able young man, far more impressive in my view than Cotton, Burris was one of the primary GOP architects of the so-called private option form of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. By that mechanism, the state got a federal waiver to take the federal money for the expansion but to use it to buy private insurance for poor people on the Obamacare health care exchange, and to impose other privatizing conservative principles — co-pays, premiums, centers of excellence and so forth.

Cotton wants to repeal all of Obamacare and won’t take a position on the private option because it’s a state issue that would go away if he and others successfully repealed Obamacare at the federal level.

So the other morning Burris sent out a mass email to Republican legislative backers of the private option telling them he was convinced more than ever of the private option’s wisdom and hoping everyone would stay the course against a few critics, some of whom seem to want to use the state legislative process as a “playground.”

Aha, said the Pryor campaign. Lookie here, it announced. Here is Tom Cotton’s political director touting the benefits to the state of a program that his boss, the Senate candidate of primary fealty to the Club for Growth, wants to end.

They want to use Burris’ responsibility against Cotton’s irresponsibility.

Burris’ private option is the “Ford” delivering health care to poor people in Arkansas, the aforementioned campaign agent told me. But the Affordable Care Act is the “fuel.” And Burris is touting the Ford while the man for whom he works is trying to dry up the gasoline.

OK. Fine.

What the Pryor campaign wants to do is pick up poor ol’ responsible John Burris and use him as a club to pound irresponsible Tom Cotton.

And I’d rather beat up Tom with some other weapon. There are so many. He is so dreadful, opposing even the recent budget deal, and the farm bill, and college student loans, and disaster aid and food stamps.

What I would like to do is explain Burris’ own independent state legislative position, going like this: He believes — like Cotton, actually — that Obamacare is bad and ought to be repealed. He hopes for that. But, meantime, the reality is that Obamacare is the law and there is a pot of money available for Arkansas. He believes in the wisdom of the state’s availing itself of that money to provide a national laboratory for reforming Medicaid into a privatized system. If Obamacare collapses or is repealed and the federal Medicaid manna goes away, then Burris would want the expanded Medicaid coverage in Arkansas to go away. But he would favor continuing the private option or at least its principles in a new form of basic Medicaid.

Please understand all of this is at risk in the fiscal legislative session in February.

If the private option doesn’t get re-upped by arduous three-fourths votes in the House and Senate, barely achieved last time, then its funding authority goes away and the state’s income tax cuts are no longer paid for — since the private option uses federal dollars to produce state taxpayer savings.

Asa Hutchinson, should he get elected governor, would confront an imbalanced budget as he seeks to impose his hundred million dollars’ worth of additional income tax cuts.

So all of this approximately enormous.



5 Responses to 'Clubbing Tom Cotton with John Burris'

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  1. Our polarizing two party system is going to produce this kind of nastiness. If the shoe were on the other foot, do you think for a minute that Cotton wouldn’t jump on such an opportunity?


    18 Dec 13 at 11:34 am

  2. I will vote for anyone willing to try to repeal Obamacare. I was perfectly happy with the insurance I had and will loose it next year because of that law. Any insurance I will be able to find will cost a lot more in both premiums and deductibles, more people are loosing their health care coverage than this law intended to cover. keep singing it’s praises right up until you are required to join the exchange.

    Joyce Bell

    18 Dec 13 at 12:32 pm

  3. I think we’d better vote for Pryor. We pretty much know what we’ve got with him. Voting for Cotton would be like buying a pig in a poke, or worse.

    timber topper

    18 Dec 13 at 1:18 pm

  4. Not sure who you are giving credit for private option, is it GOP or did they copy from another state the idea? Without ACA there would be no private option and 1/4 million Arkansans would be w/o insurance and going to ER. Arkies would be paying thru ins. Premiums as they have in the past. Oh by the way, ins. rates have been rising double digit and ins. Companies have been denying coverage and canceling policies for the past several years, now we can blame that and all the other problems with healthcare on Obamacare. Republicans left it alone because they new it would be a political disaster to try and fix. At least give demos credit for trying to fix. Maybe we will finally move to a single payor system and take profit out of healthcare.

    David Laffoon

    19 Dec 13 at 10:45 am

  5. however with pryor we already know we have a pig. any responsible adult should know that we need to reform the retirement age of social security to 70 or later. my 75 year old neighbors are exploring the amazon and ziplining. hope cotton proves to bee the leader for our future. not drag us down in the past.

    darla faye

    28 Apr 14 at 3:30 pm

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