U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) does not shy away from making controversial political statements, as evidenced this week by the controversy surrounding his role in drafting a letter signed by 47 Republican senators that undermined the United States’ negotiations with Iran.
Cotton has a history of making inflammatory statements that push the bounds of political decorum, even for the most bombastic lawmakers. These have included outlandish comments about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which he has virulently opposed.
During a November 2013 town hall meeting in his congressional district at the Clarion Lake Resort in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Cotton responded to a constituent’s question concerning ACA health insurance exchanges by telling her that her personal information may be stolen if she enrolled through the federal exchange.
“I certainly wouldn’t put my Social Security number or my tax information in there right now,” Cotton said. “Until I’m 100 percent confident that it’s not going to be stolen by Russian mobsters and I’d have my identity stolen and sold on the black market internationally.”
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
The latest news, delivered straight to your inbox.
It wasn’t the first time Cotton had made claims about the privacy protections in ACA health insurance exchanges.
During an October 2013 interview on MSNBC shortly after the implementation of the health care program, Cotton claimed that lawmakers knew the “websites aren’t ready, that there’s no privacy protections, that there’s likely to be data breaches.”
However, privacy regulations and security precautions that had been taken showed that Cotton’s characterization of the websites was not accurate.
Cotton defeated former Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who campaigned his vote in favor of the ACA, in the 2014 midterm election. Cotton was supported by right-wing groups such as the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund.
Cotton made other comments on the campaign trail criticizing the ACA’s effect on the state. He said that people in high-risk insurance pools with preexisting conditions were better off before the implementation of the ACA. Meanwhile, the implementation of the ACA pushed the percentage of uninsured Americans to an all-time low, and few states have benefited as much from the ACA as Arkansas.
State lawmakers brokered a bipartisan compromise in the Republican-controlled legislature that led to an alternative expansion of Medicaid under the ACA through a private health insurance exchange.
After that expansion, Arkansas saw significant increases to health care access for low-income residents. More than 183,000 residents have received health insurance through the program.