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Tom Cotton says Mark Pryor is out-of-touch on a lot of things, especially health care.
Cotton, the representative from Arkansas running for Senate, ties the incumbent Democrat’s vote for the Affordable Care Act to an unbridled loyalty to President Barack Obama and his party, rather than to Arkansas.
In numerous ads, interviews and releases, the Cotton campaign has blasted his opponent’s support of the health care legislation, frequently bringing up that Pryor said the law has been an "amazing success."
"Sen. Pryor voted for Obamacare, and he continues to insist that it’s an 'amazing success,'" a recent email to supporters said.
Yes, Pryor voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2009, and he doesn’t shy away from that vote. But has he been such a valiant supporter throughout his campaign?
First, we looked to see if and when Pryor first said the Affordable Care Act was an "amazing success." We found that the statement comes from comments Pryor made Aug. 6, 2013, during a visit to Mercy Hospital in Rogers, Ark. This was months before the rocky rollout of healthcare.gov, the Affordable Care Act online exchange.
"Well, I would say if you want a good opinion about Obamacare, go right here to Mercy Hospital and ask them how they feel about it. It’s been an amazing success story so far. Now the other side won’t ever tell you that. They won’t tell you all the good things that are working," he said to a local television reporter.
We can’t be certain if he was saying the legislation was an "amazing success" overall, or if it was a success at Mercy Hospital, specifically, though his campaign says it was the latter. The same week he made those comments, he also said at a different event that Mercy Hospital added 100 new jobs because of the Affordable Care Act.
A few months later, at an event with voters Dec. 4, an attendee asked Pryor whether he still believes the law was an "amazing success," according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Pryor said he had made that comment immediately after meeting with hospital administrators who believed the health care law would benefit them because so many of their patients are poor.
"For a lot of hospitals, that is going to keep the doors open, and that is a success right there to try to keep the rural hospital doors open," he said at the event.
Cotton’s campaign said Pryor "continues to insist" that the law has been an "amazing success." But looking through news reports, it seems that his August comments were the only time Pryor has used the phrase "amazing success" in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act.
Throughout his campaign, Pryor has followed the pattern of other Senate Democrats running for re-election by saying he supports the Affordable Care Act, but there are still changes and improvements to be made.
"Let me say on the front end: The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. We need to go in and reform it and fix it," he said on Aug. 8, the same week he made the "amazing success" comment.
He has publicly held that stance as early as March 2010, when he released a statement discussing potential amendments to the law, and he has maintained it through recent months. This June, he told Politico that "the law ‘isn’t perfect’ and that he would ‘work to make it better,’ but ‘something needed to be done’ to rein in the insurance industry."
Here are some of his other statements on the Affordable Care Act since the "amazing success" comment:
Dec. 4, 2013 -- At the Political Animals Club in Little Rock, he said the law would be beneficial to Arkansas’ rural hospitals, according to Arkansas News Bureau. He said of the vote, "I do remember that there were a lot of other things included in there. You run into this sometimes, where maybe you like one idea in something but they put a bunch of other stuff in there that makes it to where it’s something I couldn’t vote for."
Feb. 8, 2014 -- Pryor gave an interview to the Pine Bluff Commercial in which he said, "With large pieces of legislation like this, if you get 80 percent of it right, then you are doing well," and that he would vote for the law again.
April 14, 2014 -- KARK television asked Pryor if he would vote for the law again. "You know, I would have," he said. "Of course, I would want to see changes back then. But I think on something like this, it's big, it's complicated, it's difficult. If you get 80 percent of this right, you've really done something. We probably did get 80 percent of it right. We need to go back and really work on that other 20 percent and get it going in the right direction."
June 13, 2014 -- At the Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference, he said the law is not perfect, but he is working on ways to fix it. "When I talk to my Republican friends about it I say, give me something better and I’ll vote for it," he said, according to Arkansas News Bureau.
The Cotton campaign said Pryor "continues to insist" that Obamacare is "an amazing success."
We found that Pryor said the Affordable Care Act was an "amazing success," but he was likely saying it was a success for a particular hospital he was visiting at the time. That comment came a year ago, and Pryor has not repeated it since. The comment also doesn’t fit with Pryor’s usual talking point -- that the law is not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.
There’s some truth in Cotton’s claim, but it leaves out crucial context and distorts Pryor’s comments, so we rate this Mostly False.
Cotton for Senate email, "He’s Running From His Record," July 25, 2014
40/29 News, "Rep. Tom Cotton Running for Senate," Aug. 6, 2013
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Pryor defends health-law support," Dec. 5, 2013
Arkansas Times, "Tom Cotton releases video; Mark Pryor releases transcripts," Aug. 9, 2013
Arkansas News, "Pryor goes all in on Obamacare," Aug. 14, 2013
Politico, "Tom Cotton’s message to voters: I’m no grinch," June 16, 2014
Pryor for Senate, "The Gotcha Game," Aug. 9, 2013
Email interview, Cotton spokesman David Ray, July 28, 2014
Phone and email interviews, Pryor spokesman Erik Dorey, July 28, 2014
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