Cotton goes after Ryan in battle of GOP heavyweights

Cotton has stayed away from explicitly dinging Ryan personally — he did not utter the speaker’s name once in an interview — but his assault on the process and policies championed by the speaker is emboldening Ryan’s critics. While giving a tour to constituents, conservative Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) bumped into Cotton on Wednesday to tell him: “I appreciate what you’re doing.”

“I like what I hear,” Brooks said afterward. “There aren’t a lot of people willing to take on House leadership, Senate leadership and perhaps the White House.”

If Ryan is taking issue with Cotton’s campaign, he won’t say. Ryan’s office declined to comment for this story. And Cotton didn’t seem concerned about any fallout. Asked whether Ryan is offended by his broadsides, Cotton responded: “I wouldn’t know one way or the other.”

But Ryan’s defenders are taking notice. A senior House GOP official said that “after years of talking about repeal, it seems Tom Cotton is content to continue just talking. All talk, no action.”

And a person close to House leadership asserted that Cotton is attacking plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act because of how much the law helped Arkansas, which has seen its uninsured percentage halved under Obamacare — much of that due to the state’s embrace of the Medicaid expansion.