Ark. US House members step into divided Congress

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Associated Press

Posted on November 7, 2012 at 8:00 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas is sending Republicans to Washington for all four of its House seats, where they'll join the majority in the lower chamber. But Democrats retained their majority in the U.S. Senate, making it unlikely that the GOP can roll back health reform and other policies enacted in the last four years.

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, re-elected to a second term from the 2nd District in central Arkansas, said Wednesday that Congress and the White House will have to address the federal budget and other issues.

Griffin said President Barack Obama will have to be willing to trim spending.

"The president has to realize we can't keep having trillion-dollar deficits," Griffin said. "We'll see if he has the courage to make difficult decisions."

Griffin said he's voted "for every bipartisan agreement on trade, the budget and funding the government."

But he said there is bound to be disagreement between the parties in the next Congress.

"I wasn't elected to avoid conflict. I was elected to represent the people of the 2nd District," Griffin said.

U.S. Rep.-elect Tom Cotton, who won the 4th District seat being vacated by Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, expressed a similar sentiment, saying there are areas such as tax reform in which the parties may be able to reach an agreement on legislation.

"Elections are always somewhat fraying on the nerves but there are measures where we have room for bipartisan compromise, such as fundamental tax reform. I don't believe any party believes our tax system right now is efficient or fair," Cotton said Wednesday.

But he added that voters did not elect him to be "a rubber stamp for Barack Obama."

Repealing Obama's health reform package is no longer a realistic goal, Cotton said.

"So we have to work in other fashions to try to improve the law and eliminate some of its worst parts — the parts that are most offensive to free-market principles and individual liberties," he said.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, who won a second term representing the 1st District in east Arkansas, said the delegation was elected to carry a conservative message to Congress.

"This is a pretty strong statement for Arkansas that Arkansans want to see conservative representation and conservative leadership not only in Washington but I think around the country we're seeing that," he said Tuesday night.

When reached again Wednesday, he said it is critical to address fiscal issues.

"It is the role of everyone to work together to address our nation's debt crisis before it destroys our economy," Crawford said by email. "My fear is that both parties will kick the can down the road by temporarily reducing spending instead of imposing permanent spending controls.

"Congress has done this numerous times only to see the problem grown substantially worse. We need to overhaul the system instead of tinkering around the edges."

During his campaign, Crawford softened criticism of health reform and, in an about-face from his first race, said he supported a 5 percent tax on millionaires to help address the budget deficit. Two years earlier he'd pledged to never support a tax increase.

Speaking to The Associated Press on Tuesday night, Crawford said he hoped the parties can find common ground.

"There's opportunities to find partnerships across the aisle and that's really what it's going take," he said. "I hope that the president will come back to Washington with that attitude. I think we're going to come back to Washington with the attitude that we're going to move the country forward in the right direction and look for opportunities to work together in that regard."

A spokesman for 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack didn't respond to an interview request Wednesday.

In a statement issued after he was declared the winner over two small-party candidates Tuesday night, Womack said the country is at an important juncture.

"America is at a tipping point, and now, more than ever, we must come together to pass real reforms — including restoring fiscal discipline, regulatory burden-relief, and corporate tax reform — to create a stable economic environment that will encourage businesses to expand, create new jobs, and, ultimately, get America back on track," Womack said.

Womack, who represents northwest Arkansas, claimed 76 percent of the vote Tuesday, with Green Party candidate Rebekah Kennedy getting 16 percent and Libertarian David Pangrac getting 8 percent, according to returns that showed 88 percent of precincts reporting.

Crawford defeated prosecutor Scott Ellington, a Democrat, 56 percent to 39 percent, while Cotton won against state Sen. Gene Jeffress, 59 percent to 37 percent. In the tightest of the seemingly easy races, Griffin beat Democrat Herb Rule, 55 percent to 39 percent.

Arkansas didn't have a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot this year. The lone Democrat, Sen. Mark Pryor, is up for re-election in 2014 and has said he is running.

Griffin has been mentioned as a potential rival to Pryor in 2014, but said Tuesday night that he was focused on his job in Congress.

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Associated Press writer Jeannie Nuss contributed to this story.

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Contact Chuck Bartels at www.twitter.com/cbartelsLIT

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