Pryor pushes foe on ObamaCare program

Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor’s campaign is seeking to insulate the vulnerable Democrat from conservative attacks on ObamaCare by highlighting the role a senior political aide to his GOP opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), played in expanding Medicaid in the state.

Cotton supports repeal of ObamaCare, but his campaign’s political director, Arkansas state Rep. John Burris (R), was an architect of the bipartisan “private option” deal that lets the state use federal Medicaid funding included in the healthcare law to help poorer citizens buy private insurance.

Burris worked with Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) to create the alternate program.

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The compromise has split Republicans in Arkansas, and Pryor’s campaign is already using the private option Burris helped create to attack Cotton.

“Tom Cotton needs to explain why he would take away health care from the 63,000 Arkansans already enrolled under the private option,” Pryor campaign manager Jeff Weaver tells The Hill.

Arkansas political strategists say Burris’s role in implementing a core part of ObamaCare in the state gives Pryor a weapon to return fire on Cotton and outside conservative groups, who have made the senator’s vote for the healthcare law a central issue in the 2014 campaign.

“Pryor will use Burris as a bit of a weapon. If Cotton comes after him in debates, he could respond that Cotton’s own political director supported this,” said Arkansas politics expert Roby Brock, the editor of talkbusiness.net.

“He’s [already] made some comments on the stump where he’s articulated, if ObamaCare is so bad, why did Republicans embrace this at the state level?”

Pryor is viewed as the most vulnerable senator up for reelection next year, and the race is a must-win for Republicans if they hope to win control of the Senate.

Burris says his support for the compromise was his attempt to do the best with the bad situation ObamaCare has created.

“Mark Pryor voted for an unconstitutional bill that raised taxes, cut Medicare for seniors and payments to hospitals. Tom supports the repeal of that. Mark Pryor doesn’t,” Burris said. “It needs to be repealed, and until then, the states are having to grapple with the terrible consequences, which is what we’re doing now.”

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