This morning in Hot Springs, Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman announced he will seek the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional District.
Westerman spoke to supporters at the Garland County Republican Headquarters before addressing the press. He began his remarks by saying, “We are called to be free,” adding that “it’s our duty to use our freedom to serve others.” Westerman said that while liberals in Arkansas and Washington talk about “progress,” the only progression he sees is one “away from our freedoms.”
After his remarks, Westerman spoke with reporters about his campaign and his policy priorities, should he land a spot in Congress. The first question was about the role of the ‘private option’ in this primary:
I’m not sure how big of a role that will play. I know there’s a statewide effort to get it on the ballot to repeal it. I’ve had absolutely nobody come up to me and tell me they wished I would’ve voted for the private option. Now that I’ve said that to the media, I’ll probably get some people telling me that, but I’m comfortable with where I’m at on the private option. If somebody wants to make that an issue, we can make it an issue and I’ll gladly defend my record on the private option.
This question may have been prompted by the comments Lt. Gov. Mark Darr made to the Associated Press last night. Darr, who also announced for the 4th District race this week, told the AP that the ‘private option’ wouldn’t have become law without Westerman, adding:
I just think that one he did the research for it, he helped write the bill and at the last hour he pulled out and said I’ve got something else. To me, that’s a CYA bill. It just covers your own rear and says this is my own.
(If you’re unfamiliar with the meaning of “CYA,” visit Urban Dictionary.)
Westerman was an early sponsor of the bill that ultimately became the ‘private option,’ but he told me on The Alice Stewart Show this morning that he “never supported” the plan (AUDIO HERE). Once the plan was written into the bill, Westerman removed himself as a sponsor, voted against the bill, and even spoke against it on the House floor, giving his now-famous ‘30 pieces of silver’ speech.
Westerman campaign spokesman Ryan James responded to Darr’s comments last night:
I’m sure there were many in the Capitol that would have enjoyed hearing the Lt. Governor’s ideas on the private option while they were timely and relevant. Leadership is recognizing a bad deal for Arkansans, doing what one’s constituents demand, and not waiting over 100 days to weigh in on a controversial issue — all things Bruce Westerman did as House Majority Leader.
Today, Westerman was asked to respond himself to Darr’s comments on the ‘private option:’
I didn’t pay that much attention to [the comments]. Somebody asked me earlier about some comment about ‘CYA’ on the alternative legislation I proposed to the private option and actually I would call my bill ‘CTP:’ Cover Taxpayers’ Pocketbooks” because that’s what I was looking at with that other bill. It would provide real reform to the Medicaid system…could’ve got a global waiver and a bloc grant, and we had provisions in there to help people transition off of government assistance. You know, Medicaid was developed for the aged, the blind, the disabled, and it’s become a whole lot more than that.
Finally, I asked Rep. Westerman to outline his top three domestic policy priorities:
First off, we’ve got to repeal Obamacare. That is a bad law, it’s been called by Democrats a ‘train wreck.’ It is a train wreck. We find out something new every day that’s not working in it. So that’s going to be a top priority, to stand the ground and oppose that. Some other important issues are the regulations and the edicts that come down out of Washington that affects the states and prohibits the states’ abilities to function and do the things that are best in their state. I believe that a government closest to the people is the most effective government and I want to try to untie the binds that the federal government has on our state legislature, our state government, and also our local — school boards, quorum courts, city boards. It’s all affected by what goes on in Washington. Immigration is going to be another big issue.
Westerman added that he does not support any of the existing immigration reform proposals in their current form. He said he needs more time to do more research on how we can solve our immigration problems, but he definitively stated, “I’m not for an amnesty plan. I’m for a plan that allows immigrants to come here legally and work here and come in by the rules. But amnesty gives somebody a place at the front of the line that ignored the rules to start with.”
It seems likely that this will not be the last disagreement over policy before the primary. As always, stay tuned to TheArkansasProject.com for all the latest.