The fight over the Affordable Care Act is not over. At least according to U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle.
Cotton, who is in his first term representing the 4th District in Congress and is challenging U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., for his Senate seat next year, said the Republican Party has been looking at several different options with regard to the law.
"Next week, I expect a vote on a bill entitled 'If You Like Your Health Care Plan, You Can Keep It' offered by Fred Upton of Michigan. That would allow plans that are in place today in the individual market to be grandfathered in in 2014," Cotton said during a Saturday interview. "So the 10 to 15 million Americans who are losing their health insurance right now because of Obamacare will be able to keep their health insurance under our proposal next week. There's already some movement in the Senate to do the same thing."
The freshman Congressman said a delay of the individual mandate, which requires all Americans to obtain health insurance by March 31, 2014, or face a fine, should be seriously considered.
"If the website can't work, I don't see how you can penalize Americans for not buying a product they don't get access to to begin with."
Should Cotton and his Republican colleagues succeed in passing legislation to defund Obama's signature piece of legislation, they still face one final hurdle – having enough votes to override what would certainly be a veto by the president.
But Cotton said he "wouldn't pre-judge what the president is willing to do or forced to do" or what his Republican and Democratic colleagues may do should Obama veto any eventual legislation that either defunds or severely handicaps Obamacare.
"If it doesn't start getting better, he might face a veto override if he opposes legislation to protect Arkansas families and individuals and businesses from it. Just (Saturday) morning, I read reports, for instance, that he's proposing to unilaterally (allow) the 10 to 15 million Americans who are losing their insurance to keep their insurance. I doubt that he has the legal authority to do so, but he's trying to do that so the Congress, with both parties, doesn't pass legislation to allow those insurance policies to go forward," he said. "You might see the same thing with the mandate, as well. You may see the same thing with the impact on small employer and small business plan, and so forth. So obviously, with the man in the White House named Obama and the law named Obamacare, he's not going to want to have any legislative effort to affect it. But as it unrolls and we see the kind of harm it's posing on the American people, then he may not have much of a choice."
With recent polls showing a neck and neck race against Pryor, Cotton is doubling down on his opposition to Obamacare just as Pryor has doubled down in his support of the legislation.
It's for that reason, Cotton said, that he sees Arkansans voting for a man who shares their values, which he made clear his view that Pryor does not.
"I think the state of Arkansas is ready for a Senator who really does put Arkansas first. Mark Pryor has been saying that for a long time, but the last five years has been putting Barack Obama first, voting with him 95% of the time (and) casting the deciding vote for Obamacare, voting for the specific regulation that's causing people to lose their health insurance now. So in the end, as we campaign and issues come to the forefront like Obamacare and our spending and our deficit problem, and the choice between a conservative leader who will stand for Arkansas and put Arkansas first versus Mark Pryor, who puts Barack Obama first, the people of Arkansas will elect a conservative leader."
As for whether Cotton will bring in Republican heavy hitters such as U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., or Rand Paul, R-Ky., to stump for him across the state, Cotton said it was too early to tell. But he said he is focused on asking as many people as possible to personally vote for him.
"I'm certainly focused on running my race here in Arkansas, running a county-by-county grassroots campaign because we're still a small state. We've got 800,000 voters typically in a mid-term election and I can look at large number of those people in the eye and ask them for their vote and explain to them that (in the Senate) I'm going to represent their interests and their views.”
Responding to questions raised by an ethics complaint filed by the Democratic Party of Arkansas after a radio interview about his campaign that initially appeared to be taking place from within the U.S. Capitol, which included a pitch from Cotton for listeners to visit his website and consider donating to his campaign, Cotton said the DPA engaged in a "partisan publicity stunt."
"There's no legal or factual basis for it. It's just designed to distract attention away from Obamacare and Mark Pryor's falling popularity because of Obamacare."
Responding to Cotton's statement, Campaign Law and Compliance Attorney Benton Smith of the DPA said there was substantial evidence that Cotton broke ethics laws, though declined to get into specifics.
"Ethical behavior for Members of Congress should always outweigh their own personal or political ambitions. There is substantial evidence that Congressman Cotton put his personal ambition and political fundraising before his ethical responsibilities to the people of Arkansas," Smith said. "The Office of Congressional Ethics and federal law are in place to ensure that the public can have confidence that our elected officials are behaving ethically as they serve the people. Congressman Cotton's dismissive attitude is disappointing and troubling. No one is above the law."
Asked whether he could definitively prove that he was not in the U.S. Capitol when he made the statement about donating to his campaign, Cotton again reiterated that the DPA complaint was a publicity stunt by the DPA.