Arkansas Senate Nominee Touts Emergency Funds He Voted Against

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CREDIT: Rep. Cotton's official Flickr stream

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has repeatedly voted against emergency funding for disaster relief, but attempted to take credit on Wednesday for the Obama administration’s approval of aid for 23 counties in Arkansas.

Cotton, who is the Republican nominee challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D) for his Senate seat this November, joined with the state’s Congressional delegation in a press release to “announce” that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack approved a disaster declaration request by Gov. Mike Beebe (D) to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers whose crops and pastures were devastated by June flash floods. “I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s quick approval of Governor Beebe’s disaster declaration request for the 23 impacted counties,” Cotton said in the release, adding, “I have heard from many farmers about the impact of the recent flooding, and I look forward to working with our friends in Arkansas to make sure farmers are able to access the emergency funds they need.”

But, as the Huffington Post noted, the emergency funds come from the federal Farm Bill — legislation Cotton voted against in 2013 and 2014. Cotton told the Arkansas Farm Bureau in April that he’d opposed the 2014 bill because it didn’t do enough to cut the food stamp program, repeating the previously debunked claim that the program might provide free meals to millionaires.

But despite his stated view that the Farm Bill was a “bad bill for farmers, it was a bad bill for taxpayers, it was a bad bill for Arkansas,” Cotton joined with the delegation earlier this month to request “swift consideration and approval” of those funds, including loans the request called “vital to farmers and ranchers who may have no other source of revenue over the next year.”

A Pryor campaign spokesman told the Arkansas Times, “It takes a special kind of arrogance for Congressman Cotton to take credit for disaster relief funds that he consistently and recklessly opposed.” The Cotton campaign had not provided a response as of the paper’s press time.

While Cotton’s opposition to these particular emergency funds were part of a larger farm bill, he has also voted against stand-alone emergency funding when other states were in need. Last year, he was one of just a few dozen members of Congress to oppose both the $50.7 billion emergency aid package for Superstorm Sandy victims and the smaller $9 billion emergency Sandy relief bill.

Cotton’s apparent hypocrisy is not unique to him. Dozens of other Congressional Republicans voted against the Sandy aid measures despite their own history of supporting aid for their own districts. Last September, Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner (R) and three other Colorado Republican Congressmen pushed a bill to lift the cap on flood aid for their state, despite their unanimous opposition to the Sandy funding.