Friday, April 01, 2016

TOP STORY >> Cotton: Increase defense spending

Leader staff writer

The presidential race, the Supreme Court nomination and more funding for the military and local highways were some of the topics Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) spoke about Wednesday morning during the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s Coffee with Cotton event at the police department.


Cotton, who is on the Armed Services Committee, said he is trying to increase defense spending that would help the base.

He said the defense budget has been underfunded for the past seven years.

“We are $100 billion short on where we should be. It is dangerous because our troops aren’t getting the equipment, weapons and training they need,” he said.

“Their units are undermanned at a time when the world is growing more dangerous every single day. We have tens of thousands of troops stationed overseas. It is creating a long-term wave of underinvestment in Air Force platforms, like a long-range bomber, a fifth-generation fighter and tactical and strategical airlift that we need to move equipment and personnel all over the world,” Cotton said.

“I don’t think the budget can drive our strategy when it comes to national security. It is the foremost responsibility for the federal government to keep our country safe from enemies, whether they be terrorist enemies like the Islamic State or traditional nation states,” Cotton continued.

Cotton is hoping for more military funding next year with a new president.

“I consulted with many of the Republican presidential nominees and told them you need to propose an emergency spending bill in early 2017 to show our troops that help is on the way. President Obama hasn’t done it and Secretary Clinton is probably not going to it,” the senator said.


State Rep. Bob Johnson (D- Jacksonville) asked Cotton if he would willing to help with federal highway funding to connect Interstate 555 in Jonesboro to Hwy. 67-167 which would help to change Hwy. 67-167 into Interstate 30.

Johnson said it will encourage economic growth with industry, commerce and jobs to the area and Arkansas State University.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said it is important to advocate for additional funding for the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

“I don’t like taxes, but sometimes taxes are needed if that is the way in needs to be funded. Our infrastructure is crumbling beneath our feet,” Cypert said.

Cotton said he agreed. He opposed the highway bill last fall.

“It used too many budget gimmicks and dug a lot of quarters out of a lot of federal couches in ways it’s not going to ultimately pay for itself,” Cotton said.

Cotton said control of the highway decisions needs to be returned to the states.

The highway bill needs to be refocused on highway infrastructures. Cotton said 20-percent of that legislation was spent on public transportation. Only two-percent of consumers use buses, subways and light rail. It might be great for people to get around living in New York City, but not so great in Pulaski County.


“Hillary Clinton is running for president to pardon herself,” Cotton said that brought laughter in the conference room.

Cotton then spoke about the presidential races.

“It is way too early to predict what is going to happen in this race and who the nominees are going to be. On (the Republican) side we are down to three finalists out of 16 candidates. There are more days in the primary season than there are behind us. It may go all the way to the convention,” Cotton said.

“On (the Democratic) side, Hillary Clinton has a strong lead, but Bernie Sanders won three races over the weekend. There is the real threat of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices. I think she’s disqualified herself from being the Commander in Chief by her cavalier disregard for national security and secrecy.

It’s soon to say she is going to be the nominee either,” Cotton said.

“Whoever the nominees of both parties are and whoever the president is, it is hard to imagine a president who works more poorly with Congress than Barack Obama has done,” Cotton continued.

Cotton said Obama has over promised and under delivered. Cotton said Obama first came on the scene during the Democratic National Convention 12 years ago talking about unity and when he became president spoke on transcending the party divisions. Now polarization is higher as it’s ever been. Cotton said Obama does not interact with either party in Congress.


With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last month Cotton said the voice of the American people should not be silenced on who is going to control the Supreme Court.

“We should wait until after the election and let the people speak. It is very rare that Americans get the choice of who is going control both the presidency and the congress this year. It is even rarer the choice of who is going to control the Supreme Court,” Cotton said.

“I don’t think we should go forth on a nomination just a few months before the election. Particularly from a president who has consistently shown disregard to the Constitutional limits of his office. Therefore, I am not going to vote for any nominee until after the election,” Cotton said.

Cotton said he was in Washington during the two week long Easter recess, because he had to gavel the Senate into a “pro forma” session (when no legislative business is conducted). Cotton said an obscure Constitutional provision allows the president the power to make appointments during recess. Cotton said it goes back to the days when the Senate would be out for months at a time. There were no trains or jets and the early presidents might need to fill a vacancy. The court rules say if the Senate is in recess for three days or less, the president can’t appoint someone to a vacancy. Cotton said the Senate decided to keep a session every three days.