Trump, Obama, Iran and federal Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding were topics Friday (Aug. 5) as U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., toured the newly constructed Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith.
Not surprising, Cotton had plenty of criticism for President Obama, including the Iran “ransom,” Obamacare, and a recent economic report that declared the U.S. is looking at its weakest recovery since World War II.
Cotton lashed out at the President’s explanation that the $400 million cash payment to Iran this week was not a ransom for hostages, but a repayment for an arms deal that went south in the 1970s, saying that he didn’t buy the idea that the payment and the hostage release were coincidental.
“We’ve been asking these questions for seven months, since the first announcement in January that we were going to be paying $1.7 billion to Iran. That’s pretty clearly a ransom payment,” Cotton said. “But what matters less is what President Obama says and what the Ayatollahs think. The Ayatollah clearly thinks that it was a ransom payment. They’ve taken hostages since they received the initial payment. That’s why we don’t pay ransoms to terrorist-sponsoring states like Iran. It just encourages them to take more hostages.”
Cotton also referenced a recently released economic report from the Associated Press that found the new President would be inheriting “the weakest economic recovery since World War II” from President Obama’s two terms in office and felt that it could be the impetus to get more Republican victories not only at the White House level, but also in Congressional elections.
“We are electing a President, a Senator, and Representative to help make this country prosper, to help make this country safe. And in the end, I think that Republican ideas are the ideas that are going to make this country safe and make it more prosperous. And that’s what I try to focus on in my campaign and what Donald Trump would be well-advised to focus on,” Cotton said.
This was a point Cotton continued to hit on when asked about Trump’s bumpy week that culminated late Thursday with a poll that found him 15% behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Cotton said “you can tell by those same polls that whoever they say they are going to vote for, whatever they think of those candidates, that voters want change, and Hillary Clinton will deliver what we have seen for the last eight years. So Donald Trump, like any candidate, should be focused on getting our economy going, getting wages up again, securing our borders, protecting people on the streets from crime, and defending America’s interests and our honor around the world.”
Cotton did acknowledge that Trump was behind nationally, saying “it would be nice if he wasn’t,” but believed the deficit was not insurmountable.
“We always knew that any Republican nominee would be an underdog going in. If you just look at the election returns from the last five or six elections, Republicans have a bigger job to do to win the electoral college than do Democrats. It’s possible — George W. Bush did it twice — but it’s not enough just to have party unity. We need to grow our party.”
Cotton said Republicans could do that by better outreach to centrist Democrats and Independents.
“You look up the number of people that want change. It’s like a four-to-one response between people who want change versus people who want to keep on the same direction that we have been going, so that’s going to include a big, diverse set of Americans,” Cottons said.
A SECOND LOOK AT GME FUNDING
Also Friday, Cotton said in comments to Talk Business & Politics that the GME program warranted a “second look” since it has gone through few changes since being implemented as part of former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” in 1965.
Asked about bipartisan efforts to address the funding formulas, Cotton called healthcare “obviously a politically sensitive topic” and said because of what Obamacare “has done to healthcare for so many people,” Congress needed to repeal and replace.
Cotton said the best thing Congress could do would be to “provide a little more flexibility and a little more opportunity especially for states like Arkansas.”
“We’ve heard that some of the biggest hospitals we have have fewer than a dozen physicians. There is clearly a demand for more physicians in our state and in most places around the country, so we should be looking at what we could do to encourage more hospitals to have more physicians. The reimbursement rates may be something we have to work out across other state lines, but we need to be sure that Arkansas is getting its right share of funding.”
When you have a policy or program that hasn’t been altered at all in 50 years, Cotton said, “you should probably take a look at it because our society has changed tremendously in that 50 years, as have our needs and our resources.”
While GME payment methods have seen a few slight changes over the last few decades – the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985 determined per resident amounts (PRAs) used for helping to calculate reimbursement rates, for example – the Medicare/Medicaid-funded program has not been looked at in several years and definitely not post-passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Talk Business & Politics will report this weekend on Sen. Cotton’s tour of the osteopathic college.