Senator Mark Pryor on VA, Eric Shinseki and Student Loans

May 29, 2014

Democratic Senator Mark Pryor at the Butler Center.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Amidst the on-going investigation into deadly delays and an alleged cover-up at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center Democratic Senator Mark Pryor Thursday called for patience in determining if Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign.

“My view on that is not yet. I’m not going to call for that yet,” said Pryor.

Pryor also expressed frustration and anger about the VA situation and said major changes must be made to the entire system and not just in Phoenix where claims of fraudulent scheduling reports originated. He suggested one change may include getting a new Secretary. But Pryor said he wants to await the results of a final report and offered some defense of Shinseki. 

“If they were cooking the books there how could he have known what was going on because probably the stuff he was seeing, everything was fine, there’s not a problem. I want to spend some time looking at this and I do have immense respect for him, his military service, and just him as a person,” said Pryor.

Republican Representative Tom Cotton, one of Pryor’s challengers, has previously characterized the Senator as silent and inactive. Pryor said he is arranging to visit Arkansas VA centers and is co-sponsoring the bi-partisan VA Management Accountability Act that he believes will pass this summer.

The Senator commented on the VA's problems after meeting at the Butler Center in Little Rock with college students about education costs.


Pryor touted his record on mitigating college costs while criticizing Tom Cotton’s record. He talked about his positions and votes with a group of Arkansas college students pre-selected by his campaign. Pryor said he’s voted to cut student loan interest rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent and criticized Cotton’s vote.

“He voted against that even though he used those very same student loans when he went to college. He used Stafford Loans when he went to college and he’s voted against this,” said Pryor.

Pryor noted his votes in support of more funding to Pell Grants and for increased eligibility for loan forgiveness. He said Cotton has not supported those goals.

A number of the students asked what could be done to lower not just interest rates but the cost of college. Pryor argued many aspects of cost control are beyond the control of government.

KUAR has reached out to the Cotton campaign for comment on Pryor's arguments on the VA and education.