Our friend Tom Cotton was one of the 87 Republicans who voted for “compromise” legislation that ended the partial government shutdown. Some conservatives are unhappy about his vote. One of our readers, a very smart activist conservative, has complained in no uncertain terms.
I think that Tom did the right thing when he voted “yes.” The partial shutdown was injuring Republican prospects with no realistic hope of forcing the administration to grant concessions. It was time to stop the bleeding.
Moreover, Tom thought that President Obama might well default on some U.S. obligations in order to create a crisis that, with the help of the media and the existing narrative, he successfully could blame on the Republicans. In this scenario, Democrats would have a good chance of recapturing the House, enabling Obama to enact left-wing legislation such as cap-and-trade.
Tom nonetheless could have voted “no,” safe in the knowledge that the legislation would pass anyway. I strongly suspect thatn more than a few Republican members took that course.
It’s not an honorable one, however. Nor would it have helped Tom. Mark Pryor, Tom’s 2014 opponent in the Arkansas Senate race, is using Tom’s refusal to vote for a “clean” CR against him. Voting in favor of a continued shutdown and against raising the debt ceiling would have been a gift to Pryor.
Having voted “yes,” Tom is in a pretty good position in his race against Pryor. He can point out (1) that Pryor’s vote gave us Obamacare, which is massively unpopular in Arkansas, (2) Tom’s vote against a clean CR gave Pryor and other Democrats a chance to rethink their position on Obamacare in view of its obvious problems, (3) Pryor, following the lead of Obama and Harry Reid, doubled down on Obamacare, and (4) Tom then voted responsibly by supporting the Reid-McConnell compromise.