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Arkansas's U.S. Senators Still Won't Declare On Healthcare

U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton (left to right).

Arkansas’s congressional delegation is returning to Washington D.C. following a July 4th recess and the state’s U.S. Senators are as tight lipped as ever about the GOP’s stalled bill to end much of the Affordable Care Act.

Does Senator Tom Cotton support the healthcare plan he helped draft with 12 other white male Republican Senators? Does Senator John Boozman support the plan backed by the majority of his party? These are basic questions Arkansans don’t have answers to.

Constituents do know that both Republican Senators want the Affordable Care Act to be repealed and replaced. Both have made it a central tenant of their electoral campaigns since President Obama helped usher in insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of Arkansan. But the halls of Congress are not the campaign trail and both Cotton and Boozman are now entering yet another week where they’ve declined interviews and stonewalled questions from multiple media organizations. They say the situation is fluid, as the bill is being revised after falling short of support before the July recess.

When asked by KUAR on Monday whether Boozman supported the initial plan or held his nose for changes, spokeswoman Sara Lasure said, “It's fair to say that there was a lack of support for the initial proposal which is why it is continuing to be revised. Senator Boozman is continuing to work with his colleagues on a path forward. ”

When asked whether the lack of initial support included a lack of support from Sen. Boozman, Lasure replied via e-mail, "I think the focus needs to be that the Senate moved on from the initial plan and Senator Boozman is continuing to work with his colleagues on a path forward."

There have been reports in the New York Times that Boozman was a “no” on the original plan. And POLITICO has reported that Cotton is irate with “no” voters in the GOP caucus. But staff for both offices won’t address those claims with KUAR.

A stream of opponents of the repeal and replace plan have inundated Senators’ offices since the plan was first rolled out. With demonstrators – and the Arkansas Hospital Association - fearing the loss of insurance for potentially over 250,000 Arkansans, in addition to cuts to programs affecting those among us with the least of resources and the greatest of vulnerabilities.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said he has significant concerns about the plan. He's worried about a $500 million annual hole in the state budget and a loss of coverage. The Republican governor generally supports repealing the ACA but has called for four areas of major change to the Senate plan aimed in part at stemming a plan to reduce the amount of federal dollars flowing into Arkansas’s Medicaid system. Both Senator Cotton and Boozman’s offices have said those concerns have been shared with U.S. Senate leadership. But neither will say whether they personally share those concerns or support changes recommended by the governor.

From Senator Cotton's press officer Dylan Haney, "Senator Cotton is still reviewing the legislation, and has communicated with Governor Hutchinson throughout this process and as the debate unfolds that dialogue will continue. He's aware of the governor's concerns and has worked with Senator Boozman to share them with Senate leadership."

President Donald Trump supports the Senate plan and wants something passed before the August recess.

Jacob Kauffman is a former news anchor and reporter for KUAR.
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