LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged Tuesday that U.S. Rep. John Boozman would have a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee if he was elected, an important post but far from the stature of the one his opponent has as the panel's chairman.
Answering questions together in Little Rock, the two Republicans said unseating even one Democrat would make a difference in the Senate.
Boozman, who represents northwest Arkansas, is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who is seeking a third term.
"With John Boozman in the Senate, we'll work down the national debt," said McConnell, who also appeared at a fundraiser for Boozman.
Boozman and McConnell criticized Lincoln for regularly voting with her party and supporting President Barack Obama.
"I don't think there's any question ... John Boozman would be voting very differently for the people of Arkansas," McConnell said.
Lincoln spokeswoman Katie Laning Niebaum criticized McConnell and Boozman for having "repeatedly obstructed disaster aid for Arkansas farmers and unemployment assistance for Arkansans searching for a job." [See where Lincoln's campaign cash comes from.]
Lincoln is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where she wields considerable power in developing farm legislation. Boozman wouldn't address the loss of clout that would result from unseating a chairman from Arkansas, but McConnell said there could be a Republican chairman next term.
"There's a lot of (Senate) seats in play," McConnell said. Republicans now have 41 seats in the 100-member Senate and would need a majority to control committee chairmanships. McConnell acknowledged the party has a long way to go to claim a majority.
"It's too early to spike the football," he said.
Boozman would not say how many people attended the fundraiser or reveal how much money his campaign raised from the event. The latter figure will have to be made public in financial disclosure forms. [See who is giving money to Boozman's campaign.]
Boozman disagreed with Lincoln's office's claim that providing unemployment assistance is an effective way of stimulating the economy.
"The problem is, we have to pay for these things," Boozman said, adding that stimulus money only destabilizes the economy.
"When the (stimulus) money runs out, the job runs out," he said.
Boozman also said the recently passed health care reform legislation will result in reductions in service because of lower payments to doctors and increased numbers of people relying on the government to pay their health care costs.
"Something's got to give and that's the quality of care," Boozman said.
Lincoln voted for the package, which cleared the Senate by a 60-40 margin.
"One vote can make a big difference," McConnell said.
Boozman said health care reform may drive small hospitals out of business, costing smaller communities high paying jobs and scaring away employers who don't want to be in a town without a hospital.
Boozman also said he wants the U.S. to secure its borders, hold employers accountable for hiring foreign workers and make English the nation's official language.
McConnell said last week that he would oppose Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. Boozman said Tuesday he also would oppose Kagan's nomination, citing questions raised about her by the National Rifle Association, among other things.