WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, traded jabs Tuesday over missing votes and ducking issues in one of the most hotly contested U.S. Senate races this fall.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, traded jabs Tuesday over missing votes and ducking issues in one of the most hotly contested U.S. Senate races this fall.


The dueling campaign attacks found Cotton complaining that Pryor won’t debate national security when they meet head-to-head in a mid-October debate sponsored by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and Pryor slamming Cotton for skipping a House vote on Monday to fundraise in Texas.


Cotton was absent Monday when the House cast a series of votes on non-controversial bills. All but one was approved by voice vote. A bill to establish the Law School Clinic Certification Program at the U.S. Patent Office was approved 327-22. Cotton was among the 82 lawmakers who did not vote.


Pryor held a telephone conference call with reporters to point out the missed votes that came while Cotton attended a campaign fundraising event in Texas.


"He skipped out on votes yesterday to raise money. He put his political ambitions ahead of the people of Arkansas," Pryor said.


Cotton, meanwhile, issued a campaign statement Tuesday calling for Pryor to agree to debate national security given the threats the nation faces including Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, Russian aggression in Ukraine and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.


"The first responsibility of our government is to keep America safe. Thus, I’m surprised and disappointed that Senator Pryor refuses to debate these issues, especially when President Obama has asked us to cast the most consequential vote any Congress can take," Cotton stated. "I respectfully urge Senator Pryor to reconsider and join me for a second, one-on-one, statewide-televised debate that would include the topic of national security."


Cotton said Arkansans deserve to hear both candidates’ views on America’s role in the world and noted that the state is home to 6,000 active duty military, 4,000 military civilians and about 250,000 veterans who are especially interested in national security topics.


"All voters deserve to hear both candidates’ views. I am eager and happy to provide mine," Cotton said.


Pryor has not agreed to expand the Fayetteville debate to include foreign policy topics. Instead, he said that issue could be addressed in a second debate in which he has agreed to participate. That debate would feature a panel of questioners who may or may not bring up national security issues.


The Cotton campaign declined to comment on Pryor’s complaint that Cotton has missed votes to fundraise.