LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor wrangled over health care, earmarks, Social Security and several other issues during their second debate Tuesday.

LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor wrangled over health care, earmarks, Social Security and several other issues during their second debate Tuesday.


Cotton, R-Dardanelle, and Pryor, D-Ark, who are vying in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the nation, met in Fayetteville for the debate, which aired live on television stations KHBS/KHOG, KATV and KAIT. No more debates between them are scheduled.


The candidates were asked what should happen, if the nation starts over on health-care reform, to the roughly 200,000 Arkansans who have obtained health insurance under the private option. The program uses federal Medicaid money, made available under the Affordable Care Act, to subsidize private insurance for low-income Arkansans — many of whom could not previously afford insurance.


"I think we have to start over on health-care reform, because Obamacare has been a disaster," Cotton said. "It has continually created harm for Arkansans."


Cotton said the law, which Pryor voted for, has caused insurance premiums to rise and blamed it for the recent announcement that Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield is cancelling about 4,000 customers’ Medicare Advantage plans. He said he supports replacing the Affordable Care Act with reforms such as allowing people to shop for insurance across state lines and letting states decide how to use health-care funding.


Pryor said many more Arkansans are on Medicare Advantage now than before the Affordable Care Act passed. He also accused Cotton of not answering the question.


"Cotton Congressman has no answer for the people that he would kick off of these private insurance policies here in Arkansas," he said.


Responding to a question about the Interstate 49 project and federal earmarks, Cotton said he opposes earmarks.


"Earmark spending is the gateway to higher spending, which is what we’ve had under Mark Pryor," Cotton said. "Over the last six years, with Barack Obama in office, Sen. Pryor has voted for every single dime of a trillion dollars in new deficit spending. That’s bad for our economy, and it’s an immoral burden for the next generation."


Cotton said a better alternative to earmarks would be for states to send less tax money to Washington and keep it to spend however they see fit.


Pryor said he supports the I-49 project and has voted for earmarks in the past, although the Senate no longer funds local projects through earmarks. He said Cotton has voted to cut infrastructure funding because "the billionaires who are underwriting his campaign have told him to."


‘They say ‘Jump,’ he says, ‘How high?’" Pryor said.


The candidates were what they would do to strengthen the financial health of Social Security. Cotton said the most important thing to do "is get people back to work and paying into the system, not taking out of the system. That’s not happening in the Obama-Pryor economy."


Cotton also said that Obama and Pryor "robbed $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. If they’re willing to do it once, they’d be willing to do it again."


Pryor called Cotton’s claim "scurrilous." He said the $700 billion is money saved by cutting waste in Medicare and said it has extended the life of Medicare by 13 years.


"Congressman Cotton has taken the same budget votes, where he takes that $700 billion and guess what he does? He gives huge tax breaks to billionaires," Pryor said.


Pryor also said Cotton has voted for proposals that would have meant immediate cuts to Medicare benefits. Cotton said he voted to make changes that would not have affected people currently receiving benefits.


Responding to a question about the Common Core academic standards, Cotton called it a "one-size-fits-all" program and said he opposes efforts by the federal government to force it on states by linking it to federal funding.


"That’s Barack Obama and Mark Pryor’s way. My way is to trust our local communities," he said.


Pryor said he does not support a federal curriculum but said American students need a high-quality education that will "get people ready to compete in this global economy."


The candidates were asked what they would do to return to Fort Smith jobs lost in the 188th Fighter Wing’s conversion from A-10 fighter jets to drones.


Cotton, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he opposed the loss of the A-10s in Fort Smith.


"We need a manned flying mission here in Arkansas, and as your next senator, I’m going to work to restore that manned flying mission, because we have some of the lowest-cost, highest-efficiency training facilities in the River valley," he said.


Pryor said he helped to ensure that when the 188th lost its F-16 fighter jets, its mission was converted to A-10s. He said he is now working on getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for drones to fly in the local airspace and has been working to save the 188th’s fire trucks and emergency vehicles at the Fort Smith airport.


"I love working for Fort Smith. I love working alongside Fort Smith. That’s a very patriotic community," he said.


Also running for the U.S. Senate are Libertarian Nathan LaFrance and Green Party candidate Mark Swaney, who were not part of Tuesday’s debate. Early voting for the Nov. 4 election begins Monday.