Two former Second District Congressmen and old political rivals – Jim Guy Tucker (D) and Ed Bethune (R) – renewed their debate skills in a Talk Business discussion regarding the federal government shutdown.
Tucker and Bethune ran against each other in 1972 for Arkansas Attorney General.
“Jim Guy won,” Bethune recalled. “He carried 72 of the 75 counties, but my distinction in that race was I carried my home county and his home county – where they knew us best.”
Bethune, who served in the U.S. Congress from 1979-1985, is now retired. As a lead sponsor of the Wilderness Act, he is currently helping the Ozark Society and groups opposed to a hog farm permit for an operation near the Buffalo River. He is also writing a novel and remains heavily involved in GOP efforts to build a two-party system in Arkansas.
“And by the way, we’re doing pretty well,” Bethune reminded Tucker.
Tucker was a U.S. Congressman from 1977-1979 before he lost a high-profile Senate primary race to David Pryor. He has also served as Prosecuting Attorney, Attorney General, Lt. Governor and Governor.
Now, he is volunteering with his church, Governor Mike Beebe’s broadband study committee, and a UALR racial discrimination and criminal sentencing commission. Tucker is also an investor in a vaccine company.
“Someday I may get a check from it,” he said.
Tucker warned that the government shutdown was a “dangerous” showdown and if it stretches into an “edge-of-the-cliff” debate on the debt limit, it could be devastating for the global economy.
He suggested that GOP House Speaker John Boehner could bring a continuing resolution to the chamber floor and end the budget impasse if he wanted.
“I think a combination of moderate Republican votes and probably unanimous Democratic votes would pass it, but the Speaker cannot bring it out of [his] caucus yet,” Tucker said.
“I have a different viewpoint,” he said. “I think, in this instance, I do not know and you do not know, nor does Roby or anyone else, just how the Republican members would vote if the matter was brought to the House floor.”
Bethune argued that Republicans feel strongly that making changes to the federal health care law, or Obamacare, are critical to the nation’s economy. He said the GOP is simply using the leverage they have to force discussions for policy change.
“That seems to me to be imminently reasonable,” Bethune said.
The two men disagreed on what has led to some of the divisiveness in the country since their years in Congress. You can watch the video below for more of their conversation, including what might happen if the political veterans squared off in a campaign today.