Claiming on Fox & Friends that he and other Republicans were happy to work with Democrats to come up with a “targeted relief bill”, the Arkansas senator railed against the plan – which is now expected to pass the House of Representatives and then head to Joe Biden’s desk – for sending payments of up to $1,400 to “those people who have actually been hurt” by the pandemic.
“Look how crazy some of the Democratic ideas are. They had a chance on Saturday morning to stop checks from going to prisoners, from going to the Boston bomber for instance, and on that vote, they declined. Every single Democrat wanted to continue the practice of sending checks to prisoners.
“They had a chance to turn down money for sanctuary cities and sanctuary states, that was my amendment. Again, they turned that down. They had a chance to stop money from going to schools that are closed … it just goes to show how radical their ideas are.”
As was pointed out by a CNN fact check, incarcerated people were also given money under the two Covid relief bills passed during the Trump administration – both of which Mr Cotton voted for.
The senator, who has called the latest relief bill a “partisan slush fund”, is a harsh critic of many Democratic policies, particularly on immigration and criminal justice, as well as various plans designed to encourage racial and gender equity.
His views on immigration made him a key congressional ally in the early part of the Trump administration, in particular when he co-sponsored legislation that would have effectively halved the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country while capping the number of refugees accepted. Known as the RAISE bill, it was reintroduced in the last Congress, but to no avail.
With Mr Trump’s plans for 2024 still unclear and his erratic behaviour scrambling the GOP’s fundraising plans, Mr Cotton’s presidential ambitions are as yet unknown, but he is widely thought to be seriously considering a run for the White House next time around – and his cultivation of issues like immigration and criminal justice would clearly be a good fit with the pro-Trump base.
Co-sponsoring Mr Cotton on the reintroduced RAISE bill in 2019 was another Trumpist and potential 2024 candidate: Josh Hawley, the Missouri Senator who together with Ted Cruz opposed the certification of Joe Biden’s election even after violent insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol while Congress was in session. The bill ultimately went nowhere, but both men can now say they had their names on it.
Mr Cotton was also behind an incendiary New York Times op-ed in which he called for the army to be sent in to quash anti-racism protests. The publication of the piece led to a reckoning at the paper, with many of the opinion section’s staff saying that by running it, the paper was putting its own Black employees in danger – and the section’s editor, James Bennet, ultimately resigned over the incident.
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