WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton should not have missed votes to attend a fundraiser in Houston, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor said Tuesday.
Cotton's campaign spokesman, David Ray, said Cotton was absent because the House was not originally scheduled to vote Monday. House leadership changed the voting schedule late last week, he said.
Ray said the campaign would not comment on Cotton's travel or fundraising schedule.
Pryor and Cotton are in a tight race for the U.S. Senate seat, the outcome of which could help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the chamber.
In a telephone conference call with reporters Tuesday, Pryor said that missing the votes shows Cotton puts political ambitions first.
"Instead of being there on the House floor and voting, which is what we expect here in Arkansas, he's down in Houston with his wealthy donors. And it raises the question of who he is working for, and it's pretty clear the answer is not us," Pryor said.
Fundraising calendar website Politicalendar.com lists an event Monday evening at the Houston home of Bobbie and John Nau.
John Nau is chief executive officer of Silver Eagle Distributors LP, the country's largest Anheuser-Busch distributor. Both John and Bobbie Nau have contributed thousands of dollars to conservative candidates and groups, including American Crossroads, a political action committee led by Karl Rove.
The contact person for the event, Caroline Baum Spencer, said someone with her company would return a phone call from the newspaper. Follow-up calls were not returned Tuesday.
Pryor said Cotton should have been in Washington.
"Going out to fund-raise and missing 13 votes is not the kind of standard that I think most people in Arkansas expect," Pryor said. "While he was doing that, I was on the floor of the United States Senate voting for equal pay for equal work."
The Senate bill, which would have required employers to prove that pay disparities exist for reasons other than a person's sex and would have increased penalties for violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963, was blocked on a party-line vote 52-40. The bill needed 60 votes to move forward.
The 13 bills voted on in the House on Monday did not pertain to the main issues being discussed in Washington this week.
The House and Senate are focused on a resolution to continue funding the government at its current level until mid-December and to provide funding to arm Syrian rebels against Islamic State fighters who have taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria.
Monday's House bills included transfers of land between federal agencies and the creation of a commemorative coin. All but one were approved by a voice vote. Voice votes are common in the House, especially on noncontroversial bills.
The recorded vote, on a bill creating a program to allow law students to practice patent and trademark law pro bono, passed 327-22. Cotton was among 82 House members not present to vote.
Pryor said every vote matters, whether or not it is recorded.
"We're up here for a reason," Pryor said. "The bottom line is he missed a number of votes [Monday], including one recorded vote."
Since October 2013, Cotton has missed seven of 633 recorded votes, according to GovTrack.us, which monitors legislation and members of Congress. Ray said Cotton missed six votes May 9 to attend a funeral.
Pryor has missed 35 of 344 recorded votes since October 2013, most occurring between April and June, according to the site. Most of the missed votes occurred in the weeks after tornadoes killed 16 people in Arkansas in April, Pryor's Deputy Campaign Manager Erik Dorey said.
It's not the first time Democrats in Arkansas have criticized Cotton for missing votes to do fundraising.
In September 2013, shortly before the government shutdown, Cotton missed votes on two bills while at a Houston fundraiser. The bills passed easily, and Cotton's spokesman said at the time said he would not have missed the votes if he hadn't been assured they would pass.
Metro on 09/17/2014