Mark Pryor Rips Tom Cotton Vote Against Student Loan Bill

LITTLE ROCK - Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor didn't hesitate in going after expected Republican rival Tom Cotton on Thursday for his vote against a measure that would lower the costs of college borrowing for millions of students.

Pryor's re-election campaign called Cotton's vote against the measure a sign that Cotton is ignoring the needs of his district. Cotton was one of six Republicans in the House and the only Arkansas representative who voted against the measure on Wednesday.

"Tom Cotton is once again positioning himself far outside the mainstream of most Arkansans, choosing the side of reckless Washington special interests while ignoring the needs of families of our state," Jeff Weaver, Pryor's campaign manager, said in a statement issued by the campaign.

The bill passed Wednesday and awaits President Barack Obama's signature. The bill links student loan interest rates to the financial markets. It would offer lower rates for most students now but higher rates down the line if the economy were to improve as expected.

Cotton, who was elected to represent south Arkansas' 4th District in November, is expected to announce Tuesday night that he'll challenge Pryor.

In a statement from Cotton's office he defended his vote and criticized an overhaul of the student loan program that was attached to the federal health care law in 2010. The overhaul cut banks out of the process and made the government the primary lender to students.

"A better path is to repeal Obamacare, which nationalized the student loan business, and let Arkansas' hometown banks work with students and families to finance education, just as they do with homes, farms, businesses and other loans," Cotton said.

Sen. Pryor, the son of former governor and Sen. David Pryor, was first elected in 2002 and re-elected without any Republican opposition in 2008. He's the only Democrat from the state's delegation in Washington. Republicans view Pryor as the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate next year, and national Republican groups have said they're prepared to back Cotton's bid.

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