By Peter Urban

Stephens Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., went on the offensive in his re-election bid Tuesday, launching a new campaign ad that blames U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, his likely Republican opponent, for "billions of dollars" of economic damage caused by the 16-day government shutdown.

"Tom Cotton cost us billions," says a male voice-over that opens the ad. "His irresponsible actions weakened our credit and damaged our economy."

The 30-second spot then switches to a female voice-over which highlights Pryor’s efforts to end the political impasse that had kept Congress from funding government services and extending the government’s borrowing power.

"Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed. Senators, like Mark Pryor, brought Democrats and Republicans together to end the shutdown and responsibly cut spending," the voice says.

Pryor campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a press statement that the advertisement highlights the different styles that Pryor and Cotton bring to Congress.

"There’s no question that Congressman Cotton endorsed this pointless shutdown and voted to prolong it, even as his reckless actions hurt our economy to the tune of $24 billion," Weaver said. "Arkansans know they can count on Mark to work with anyone of any party, so long as they’re serious about finding commonsense solutions that work for Arkansas families."

Cotton campaign manager Justin Brasell criticized the ad as "total fabrication," asserting that Cotton voted repeatedly for bills that would have ended the shutdown while Pryor opposed those measures.

"Tom Cotton voted five times to fund the government and end the shutdown. Senator Pryor voted against four separate compromise measures that could have opened the government sooner," Brasell said.

Pryor did support a bill to end the shutdown that passed the Senate, which Cotton and House Republicans blocked from consideration although a majority of House members apparently would have voted for it.

Senate Democrats refused to accept several proposals from House Republicans that would have funded government but weakened the Affordable Care Act.

One of the bills, Brasell said, would have "simply delayed the individual mandate in Obamacare for one year" as a compromise for opening the government.

The House and Senate eventually approved legislation to temporarily fund government and lift the debt limit, and to require Obamacare applicants to verify their income.

The Pryor campaign declined to discuss the details of the ad buy. But a source outside the campaign said Pryor is spending more than $160,000 on the buy. The ad will run through Nov. 1 on broadcast stations serving Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Jonesboro, as well as cable stations in Shreveport, La., and Springfield, Mo., according to the source.

The government shutdown began on Oct. 1 after Congress failed to agree to legislation needed to keep discretionary programs funded in the new fiscal year.

The shutdown cost the US economy about $24 billion, according to Beth Ann Bovino, an economist at Standard & Poor’s.

House Republicans had attempted to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act as part of any legislation to provide short-term funding for the government and, similarly, wanted concessions from Democrats to extend the Treasury’s debt ceiling.

The government was expected to hit its $16.7 trillion borrowing cap in mid-October, at which point it would no longer be able to issue new bonds to meet its obligations.

Cotton, R-Dardanelle, voted with other House Republicans in those efforts. He did vote in favor of legislation that ended the shutdown, which a majority of House Republicans opposed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., negotiated the deal that ended the impasse.

Some credit has been given to a bipartisan group of senators, including Pryor, who began negotiating amongst themselves ahead of the deal. They presented their proposal to Reid and McConnell but it was rejected. Some elements of it, however, were also part of the final bill.

A CNN report said the bipartisan effort began when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, about a week into the shutdown to begin talks. Pryor soon joined the group.