WASHINGTON — An hour or so after being sworn in as a freshman member of the 113th Congress, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton was deep into a discussion about raising the debt ceiling with Mike Allen, the chief political correspondent for Politico — a must-read for political junkies inside the beltway.
The Republican from Dardanelle said he would consider casting a vote against raising the federal borrowing limit when it comes up in two or three months if it is not accompanied by serious spending cuts. Any default on payments, he said, could be reduced by enacting legislation sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that would prioritize payments.
Politico on Thursday named Cotton one of the freshmen "Most Likely to Succeed" in the 113th Congress, noting that he stood out, not just because of his 6-foot-6-inch frame, but also because of an impressive resume and willingness to speak out on both national security and domestic issues.
Cotton opened his Capitol office to visitors Thursday afternoon, and a parade of lobbyists and other well wishers tramped through. His office has been freshly painted dark blue with a red carpet — his choice. The walls await photographs and artwork, which can’t be hung without first contacting the Architect of the Capitol.
"I have the Internet and phones that work," Cotton said.
His parents, Len and Avis Cotton, travelled up from Dardanelle for the event. They watched from the House gallery as their son received the oath of office.
"I’m very proud of him," Len Cotton said. "Tom will do a very nice job. If he’s got any shortcomings, I don’t know about them."
Aside from the swearing in ceremony, the House elected Republican John Boehner to a second term as House speaker. The roll-call vote was taken in alphabetical order with each member announcing his or her choice, making for a drawn out event. Cotton said he is looking forward to casting future votes electronically, which will speed up the process.
"It was hot in there," he said.
Cotton planned to take his parents to an evening reception hosted by Boehner at the Library of Congress. His parents planned to return home Friday.
Reps. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, were sworn in to a second term in Congress on Thursday.
Griffin said he was excited to see Cotton "standing in the aisle" with the other Arkansas Republicans. Cotton was elected to the seat formerly held by Rep. Mike Ross, a Democrat from Prescott who did not seek re-election in November.
"I am hopeful we can turn our attention to spending now," Griffin said.
The Arkansas Republicans expect that difficult partisan battles lay ahead over reducing federal spending.
A New Year’s Day deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" addressed some tax issues but punted on spending cuts needed to replace automatic, across-the-board cuts that were scheduled to begin this year.
The automatic cuts were put off for eight weeks. At that time, Congress will also likely face a need to raise the debt ceiling or potentially default on its bills. Congress must also complete work on the budget for the 2013 fiscal year.
Griffin blamed President Obama and Democrats for resisting budget cuts that he believes are needed to reduce the federal debt.
"We need to have a spending intervention with the President," Griffin said. "We’ve got a debt problem and he doesn’t seem to know it."
Womack said there is a "real possibility" that the looming budget battles will result in a partial shutdown of the federal government. If that occurs, however, he expects it won’t last more than a week.
"It’s going to be about spending so get ready for it," Womack said.