In October 2014, Senator John Cooper appeared in Batesville, Arkansas to endorse Linda Collins-Smith for Arkansas Senate. In his speech, Cooper emphasized the “trust and confidence” he had received from voters. He then criticized Democrats who voted for two pro-life measures only to turn around and fail to support the measures when the legislature voted on whether to override Governor Mike Beebe’s vetoes of the measures. Cooper said: “When you support something one time and don’t support it another, something has changed and in this case what changed was the governor’s veto. The issue did not change.” He criticized the Democrats’ flip flopping because of the expediency of the moment and proclaimed “the expediency of the time is not a factor with me.”
Little did you know, less than four months in the future Cooper’s criticisms would describe his own actions.
Senator Cooper was elected in a special election in 2014 and campaigned against Obamacare Medicaid Expansion (currently called the Private Option in Arkansas). Here are two statements he made on the subject. The second one was made on the night of his election.
John Cooper was against Obamacare Medicaid Expansion/Private Option
John Cooper – Private Option Rejected by the People
Now compare his campaign statements with what he actually did when Medicaid Expansion/Private Option came up for a vote on January 28, 2014. Newly elected Senator Linda Collins-Smith, who Cooper had supported, followed through on her promise to work to repeal the Private Option by filing SB144 of 2015. She presented her bill to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor on which Cooper is a member. Although he campaigned on repealing Medicaid Expansion/Private Option, Cooper did not vote for Collins-Smith’s bill which helped keep her bill from being considered by the full Senate.
In the same committee meeting, Senator Cooper voted to support the Private Option though SB96 of 2015. This legislation kept the Private Option alive until the end of December 2016 when it would need state and federal reauthorization anyway, and this legislation set up a task force with its first duty being to recommend a way to keep Arkansas as an Obamacare Medicaid Expansion state, whether in the form of the Private Option or some other form. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette headline on January 29, 2014 was clear on what Cooper’s vote for SB96 meant: “2 votes keep private option alive”.
Senator Cooper’s flip flop to vote for SB96 is contrasted with the votes cast by newly elected members of the House of Representatives, who also live in Cooper’s hometown of Jonesboro. These Jonesboro legislators kept their campaign promises to oppose Obamacare Medicaid Expansion/Private Option and voted against SB96: Representatives Brandt Smith, Jack Ladyman, Dan Sullivan, and Dwight Tosh.
As Cooper said in October 2014, “When you support something one time and don’t support it another, something has changed”. So what was it that changed?
- If it had been some convincing news about the big government program he would have told the voters instead of trying to still posture against the program.
- Was it political expediency? Did he not want to go against the governor or his new legislative friends who like big government? Did he see a path to reelection by pleasing health provider interest groups? Was there some other factor? We don’t have an answer. We only have the fading echo of his words: “the expediency of the time is not a factor with me.”
In Cooper’s speech endorsing Linda Collins-Smith he also said: “In my career with the telephone company I became aware that the best indicator of future performance is past performance.” Judge for yourself based on past performance.
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Here is an excerpt from Cooper’s Batesville speech followed by the full video of his speech.
When I was running for office, I urged people that I talked to (it’s been a historically democratic district), and I was able to convince some democrats that even at the time I talked to them, ideologically different that I am, and yet, because of the confidence that I would do the right thing on whatever issue it was that came along, I secured the votes of a good many of them. It was because of the trust and confidence that I was able to convince them that I had. When you support something one time and don’t support it another, something has changed and in this case what changed was the governor’s veto. The issue did not change.
The people that voted to sustain that veto were consistent. They voted for it the first time. They voted for it the second time. And the reason they did was their integrity and their convictions. Now that is a very basic principle and life is very basic. And when the other ones, because of the expediency of the moment, they changed on what was one of the most important votes that you can have and that’s the protection of life. Everything else starts from that.
We have a lot of issues that’s going to be coming up – economic and tax issues but the most important one is the principle of life and what we do with that. And the expediency of the time is not a factor with me. If we ask our voters to vote consistently because of virtue and break with the traditions of the past instead of just strictly voting strictly for a party. If we don’t uphold that ourselves, how can we expect our voters to do it.