This week, we were able to arrange an interview with Congressman Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas 4th), who is currently running to replace Democrat Senator Mark Pryor representing Arkansas. We touched on a few different issues which have been of keen interest to Hot Air readers this election cycle, and he was nice enough to provide some highly specific answers. In particular – unlike so many television interviews – I was impressed with the fact that when asked for a definitive “Yes or No” answer, Congressman Cotton was able to give one without hesitation. Refreshing to say the least. Here’s the main body of the interview.
Hot Air: Speaking as one veteran to another, let me first thank you for your service to our country. Leaving aside for the moment some of the inexplicable comments from your opponent, what do you feel that direct military service brings to the table for someone preparing to serve in the Senate?
Tom Cotton: Thank you for your service as well. In stark contrast to Congress, the U.S. military is one of the most respected institutions in our country because its members are taught to live by values like service, sacrifice, honor, and leadership. If Congress exhibited more of those values, I think it would be more respected. One of the things I learned in the Army is that sometimes you have to do the “hard right” rather than the “easy wrong.” There are too many people in the Senate who do the easy thing instead of the right thing, and I hope to change that.
HA: Arkansas has a fairly varied electorate both demographically and ideologically. Tell us about how you view the challenge of representing the citizens of the entire state vs a single district.
TC: Arkansas is an extremely diverse state. We rely on industry, agriculture, energy, and tourism, just to name a few. Arkansans need someone who will put us first. Unfortunately, Senator Pryor no longer puts Arkansas first. He puts President Obama first by voting with him 95% of the time. Workers in our state are suffering from the Obama/Pryor economy, and Arkansans are seeing their premiums, deductibles, and co-pays skyrocket under Obamacare. Less than 3 in 10 Arkansans support Obamacare, yet Senator Pryor still claims the law has been “an amazing success.”
HA: As a Senator you may be called on to vote on issues of treaties, sanctions and foreign aid for other nations. Give us a short summary of how you view America’s position as a world leader today, as compared to the cold war era, and how you would balance our global responsibilities with the tight economic situation and potential budget cuts to the military.
TC: I believe America is the greatest country on Earth. I also believe we’re the home of freedom, which is why I volunteered to help fight and defend that freedom. I support a national-security policy that meets our commitments to our allies while stopping those who wish to do us harm from doing so. In light of the budget constrained environment we face here in the United States, of course we must carefully evaluate all spending, but national security is the first responsibility of the federal government.
HA: In just the past year, the Senate barely fended off new Democrat demands for renewed or increased gun control laws. You may be called upon to vote on similar measures, including federal level background checks, renewing the so-called “assault weapons” ban, magazine capacity limits and gun free zones. Where do you come down on these specific issues?
TC: I oppose measures that would restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun-owners. It’s hard to say the Obama administration has any credibility on this issue when the fact is they’ve been conducting gunrunning operations like Fast and Furious that led directly to the death of an American border patrol agent named Brian Terry. We need to enforce the laws that are already on the books instead of passing new anti-gun legislation. Unfortunately, in 2004, Senator Pryor supported a 10-year extension of Dianne Feinstein’s so-called “assault weapons ban.” I think Arkansans know they can’t trust him to put their Second Amendment rights ahead of the demands of his Democrat Party leaders like President Obama and Chuck Schumer.
HA: Give us a refreshing, one word, yes or no answer to a question which so many candidates refuse to do. Are illegal aliens criminals?
TC: Yes. It is a crime to enter the country unlawfully or to over-stay a lawful visa. We must enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders to regain the confidence of the American people.
HA: Follow-up to that question: New Jersey, among other states, is moving to give taxpayer funded educational benefits to so called “Dreamers” and other illegal aliens. What, if any, federal funding do you think should be spent on benefits for non-citizens who are in the country illegally?
TC: Regrettably, Washington has a history of putting benefits before immigration enforcement, which has too often meant enforcement doesn’t occur, as happened with the last major immigration overhaul in 1986. We must secure our borders and stop illegal immigration, for which welfare benefits can act as a magnet. Moreover, given our massive national debt, we should focus on helping American citizens and legal immigrants who are in need, not illegal immigrants and foreigners.
HA: America’s economy is still creating jobs at a pathetic rate compared to the recoveries from previous recessions. What should the Senate leadership be doing which is not being accomplished today to get us back in robust, positive growth territory?
TC: They could start by passing any of the dozens of jobs bills passed by House Republicans. But these days, the U.S. Senate is where good ideas go to die. We also must repeal Obamacare, but the Senate has been unwilling to act on that either. They have even refused to make commonsense, bipartisan changes that would mitigate some of the damage this law is causing families, individuals, and employers. For example, the House just passed the Save American Workers Act to change the definition of full-time from 30 hours to 40 hours under Obamacare’s employer mandate. Even though the employer mandate has been delayed, it is still forcing employers to lay off workers and cut workers’ hours (which reduces their take-home pay). Yet Senate Democrats like Mark Pryor refuse to consider even the most basic of commonsense measures to improve the law. According to Senator Pryor, it’s such “an amazing success,” I guess his view is it doesn’t need improving.
We discussed a few other issues, including E-Verify and the responsibilities of employers who hire illegal aliens. Cotton feels that cutting off employment opportunities for illegals is one key part of reducing illegal immigration. He favors more tools to help smaller businesses check the immigration status of applicants so as to avoid over-prosecution, but holding employers who knowingly hire aliens to account, including jail time. We also discussed what is highest on his radar in Congress right now. He said he was monitoring the situation between Russia and Ukraine closely, referring to Vladimir Putin as a thug and expressing his disappointment in the ineffectual leadership of the White House in foreign relations.
You can find out more about Tom Cotton here.