Tom Cotton: From Dardanelle to DC
WASHINGTON (KATV) - Tom Cotton is busy in Washington these days.
Already appointed to the Financial Services Committee and a popular guest on cable news shows, the freshman congressman from Dardanelle is a rising Republican star after roughly three months in office.
Voted POLITICO's most likely to succeed, the Harvard grad has come a long way since growing up admiring Bill Clinton.
"I just thought it was very interesting that my governor was running for president and then was going to be president," said Cotton. "Once he became president I noticed the Democrats in Washington aren't like the Democrats in Arkansas."
At 15 years old, the 6-foot-5 former Army infantryman knew he was a conservative, fiscally and socially.
"Once President Clinton took office he raised taxes which I didn't think was the right way to go," he said. "I didn't think while he was office he was fully committed to defending America's role abroad."
Now 35, Cotton says he never forgot about home when he was fighting for freedom in Afghanistan. Now he's in the middle of a fight for fiscal freedom he says will affect rural Arkansas.
"The president has proposed targeting oil and gas producers in his package to replace sequestration which would have a devastating impact on our producers in south Arkansas," he said.
When you walk into his fourth floor office in the Cannon House Office Building, the bags of Riceland rice and the water cooler stocked with Mountain Valley Spring Water are small tokens of his home state more than a thousand miles away.
Cotton spends many mornings at the Rayburn House Office Building serving on the Financial Services Committee. It's a committee he was eager to join so he could have a voice against what he considers over regulation of community banks.
On Wednesday he heard testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Cotton has big concerns with the $6 trillion in debt accumulated during Barack Obama's presidency.
"Working families are going to have to pay higher interest rates on their mortgages, student loans, car loans, farm loans and so forth so we have to address the spending problem right here we have in Washington," said Cotton.
He has seen significant financial and vocal support from The Club for Growth, an influential anti-tax PAC in Washington. Its president, Chris Chocola, has publicly mentioned Cotton when referencing his organization's goal of "making life uncomfortable for folks who put us in this [debt] situation."
Cotton says a growing national debt is a worse threat than the incisions to the budget proposed in sequestration.
President Obama has been touring parts of the country week highlighting the possible consequences of across-the-board cuts to the Defense Department and many other government agencies. The president believes there will be significant damage done to a recovering economy if the White House and Congress do not strike a deal to avoid sequestration before Friday.
"I think $85 billion in spending cuts from a $3.6 trillion budget are not catastrophic or Draconian or brutal or anything the president has said."
But what about what everyone is saying about Cotton's future? The freshman congressman is already being mentioned for a potential senate run in 2014 that would put him up against Democratic Senator Mark Pryor in a general election.
"Some people have big plans for my life they don't always tell me what they are," said Cotton, laughing.
We just couldn't squeeze any more out of him about his bright Washington future. Although on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reportedly attended a fundraiser for Cotton in Washington DC.
Meanwhile, for this GOP favorite, the little pieces of home are never quite the real thing.
"Dardanelle is the same as it's always been," he said, "and I'm still just Tom when I'm running around Dardanelle."