by Max Brantley
The only "no" from Arkansas was U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, heading to a race for U.S. Senate and already standing out as an extremist on multiple issues. He was one of six Republicans in the "no" column.
Republican spin will be interesting. One of the chief Republican paid spinners in Arkansas has already taken to Twitter to comment that the compromise solution is much like one House Republican supported in the first place, but some Democrats opposed for not permanently locking in lower interest rates on loans.
The bill pegs loans to the market. The lower initial rates will forestall cost increases for college students. But some critics wanted to prevent a float upward in future years.
So add a vote against lower college student loan rates to Cotton's record. Along with opposition to food stamp funding. To disaster aid. To sustaining Medicare at current levels. To women's medical rights. To the Violence Against Women Act. To women's full service in the military.
He's not against all free food, however. He's providing free barbecue to attract a crowd to Dardanelle Tuesday night for his senatorial announcement. No word if, to eat, you have to produce proof of legal status, another group Cotton has shown distinct coolness toward.
If I hear back from Cotton's office on the vote, I'll pass it along. House Republicans called the legislation a "win" for students and taxpayers.
UPDATE: Speaking of Cotton extremism, Salon did a rundown of some of the highlights yesterday.
UPDATE II: The Mark Pryor campaign blasted Cotton on his vote.
Yesterday, Rep. Tom Cotton stood firmly against Arkansas students and families, joining just five other House Republicans to oppose a broadly bipartisan student loan compromise that would keep college affordable for thousands of Arkansans. The legislation, which passed by a landslide 392-31 vote and was supported by every other member of Arkansas' congressional delegation, cuts the current interest rate in half using a capped market-based rate that gives students financial stability after graduation. If the compromise had failed, Stafford loan rates would have stayed high and variable, greatly increasing the long-term financial burden of higher education.
"Just like his previous votes to gut Medicare and shelve the Farm Bill, Tom Cotton is once again positioning himself far outside the mainstream of most Arkansans, choosing the side of reckless Washington special interests while ignoring the needs of families in our state,” said Jeff Weaver, Mark Pryor for Senate campaign manager. "Tom Cotton voted against Arkansas students and families.”
About 78,500 Arkansas students rely on Stafford subsidized loans to afford their education. Last year alone, more than $315 million in Stafford loans were used by Arkansas students, most of whom would never have access to higher education if not for the guarantee of affordable and stable loan rates.
And from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:
“The question Tom Cotton must answer is how did he pay for Harvard? Did he get any assistance to help pay for his education and why does he not think Arkansas families should have the same opportunities he had?” said Justin Barasky, spokesman for the Democratic senatorial Campaign Committee. “Even national Republican operatives have attacked Cotton’s view. This is par for the course for an extreme ideologue like Tom Cotton who has exhibited arrogance and poor judgment ever since he entered Congress five minutes ago. Cotton votes in lock step with Washington special interests and against Arkansas, but still thinks that he deserves a promotion.”
UPDATE III: Cotton's office issued a response to criticism about 3 pm.. Thursday. It's a non-answer. Except for blaming everything on Obamacare.
Washington, D.C. — Congressman Tom Cotton released the following statement after yesterday's vote on student loan interest rate legislation:
“Access to affordable higher education is not a partisan issue, it’s something all Arkansans support; frankly, it's where this debate should be focused. Higher education provided me with opportunities I might not otherwise have had. But I knew it wouldn’t be easy. My family saved for years and I worked throughout school to pay my way; like many students, it also took a combination of private and Stafford loans. Following law school, I postponed joining the Army for two years so I could repay all my loans.
“Unfortunately, too many students today struggle for years to repay their loans because Washington politicians dictate student-loan rates and end up hurting students and taxpayers alike. It’s causing tuition costs to skyrocket, leaving students buried in debt, often without jobs, and forced to delay buying a home and starting a family. As students struggle to repay their loans—regardless of the interest rate—taxpayers are on the hook for a $100 billion bailout—a burden hard-working Arkansans shouldn’t have to bear. A better path is to repeal Obamacare, which nationalized the student-loan business, and let Arkansas’s hometown banks work with students and families to finance higher education, just as they do with homes, farms, businesses, and other loans. I'm committed to bringing affordable higher education to every Arkansan and ending the federal-government monopoly on the student-lending business."
Was Tom Cotton's Stafford loan a government loan? Some Stafford loans are government loans.
UPDATE IV: I'm not a fan of the Washington Post fact-checker. The Arkansas Republican Party loves it, however, judging by frequent citations. So I"m sure they'll be tweeting shortly that the Post has given "four Pinocchios" — whopping huge lie, in other words — to the Cotton theory that Obamacare is driving up the cost of student loans.
UPDATE V: Now an item on the widely followed Huffington Post hits Cotton for his arrogance. Taking a government-backed student loan himself (Stafford loan) while in college but voting against the government program for students today? Hard to defend.