|United States Senator
January 3, 2015
Serving with John Boozman
|Preceded by||Mark Pryor|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th district
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Mike Ross|
|Succeeded by||Bruce Westerman|
|Born||Thomas Bryant Cotton
May 13, 1977
Dardanelle, Arkansas, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Anna Peckham (m. 2014)|
|Education||Harvard University (BA: 1998; JD: 2002)
Claremont Graduate University
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||2005–2009 (active)
|Unit||506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
3rd Infantry Regiment
|Battles/wars||War on Terror
• Iraqi insurgency (2003–11)
• War in Afghanistan (2001–2014)
|Awards|| Bronze Star Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge
Thomas Bryant Cotton (born May 13, 1977) has been the junior member of the United States Senate from Arkansas since January 3, 2015. He is a member of the Republican Party. At forty years old, he is currently the youngest U.S. Senator. Cotton was first elected to the Senate in the United States Senate election in Arkansas, 2014, defeating two-term Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor. From 2013 until 2015, Cotton served one term in the United States House of Representatives.
Tom Cotton was born on May 13, 1977 in Dardanelle, Arkansas. He is the son of Thomas Leonard, a cattle farmer, and Avis (née Bryant) Cotton, a school teacher and principal. He grew up on the family cattle farm. He graduated from Dardanelle High School in June 1995. He attended Harvard College, where he was a member of the editorial board of the The Harvard Crimson, often dissenting from the liberal majority. In articles, Cotton addressed what he saw as “sacred cows” such as affirmative action. He graduated in 1998, three years after enrolling. In 1997, he attended the Publius Fellowship program of the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank. In 1998, he was accepted into a master's degree program at Claremont Graduate University. He left in 1999, saying that he found academic life "too sedentary" and enrolled at Harvard Law School, where he received his Juris Doctor degree in June 2002. Immediately after finishing law school in 2002, he served for a year as a clerk for Judge Jerry Edwin Smith at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He then entered the practice of law, working at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for a few months, and at the law firm of Charles J. Cooper & Kirk from 2003 to 2004.
Cotton declined offers to serve as a Judge Advocate General's Corps, United States Army and instead volunteered for the infantry. In March 2005, he entered Officer Candidate School, and in June 2005 was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. He was initially stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he entered a 14-week Basic Officer Leaders Course. After completing the course in November 2005, Cotton attended the United States Army Airborne School as well as Ranger School, and United States Army Air Assault School.
Cotton's relationship with his enlisted basic training drill sergeant, Master Sergeant Gordon Norton, remained good and years later Cotton hired Norton to help with his political campaign.
In May 2006, Cotton was deployed to Baghdad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. In Iraq, he led a 41-man air assault infantry platoon in the 506th Infantry Regiment, and planned and performed daily combat patrols.
In June 2006, while stationed in Iraq, Cotton gained international public attention after he wrote an open letter to the editor of The New York Times, accusing three journalists of violating "espionage laws" by publishing an article detailing a Bush administration secret program monitoring terrorists' finances. The New York Times did not publish the letter, but it was published on Power Line, a conservative blog that had been copied on the email. In the letter, Cotton called for the journalists responsible for the newspaper article to be imprisoned for espionage. He asserted that the newspaper had "gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here." The article was widely circulated online and reprinted in full in several newspapers. The letter reached General Peter Schoomaker, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, who forwarded it via e-mail to all his generals, stating: "Attached for your information are words of wisdom from one of our great lieutenants in Iraq ..." Cotton said in an interview that after meeting with his immediate commander, he was "nervous and worried all night long" about losing his position and even worse, possibly being court-martialed. When he finally met the battalion commander, he was simply told "Well, here’s a piece of advice: You’re new here. No one’s trying to infringe on your right to send a letter or whatnot. But next time, give your chain of command a heads-up."
In October 2008, Cotton was deployed to eastern Afghanistan. He was assigned within the Train Advise Assist Command – East at its Gamberi forward operating base (FOB) in Laghman Province as the Operations Officer of a Provincial Reconstruction Team, where he planned daily counter-insurgency and reconstruction operations. His 11-month deployment ended on July 20, 2009 and he returned from Afghanistan. He then returned to the agricultural management of his family ranch.
In July 2010, Cotton transferred to the United States Army Reserve. His military record shows his final discharge from the Army Reserve was in May 2013; he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and earned a Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and Iraq Campaign Medal.
In 2009, Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of the Claremont Institute while Cotton had been in the Publius Fellowship program, introduced Cotton to Chris Chocola, a former Congressman and the president of Club for Growth, an influential Republican political action committee. An attempt was made to draft Cotton for the United States Senate election in Arkansas, 2010 to run against incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln. Cotton declined, beleiving he would be rushing a political candidacy.
In the United States House of Representatives elections, 2012, Cotton ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican in Arkansas' 4th congressional district, vacant as a result of the retirement of Democratic U.S. Congressman Mike Ross.
In September 2011, Cotton faced criticism for an article that he wrote in The Harvard Crimson in 1998, in which he questioned the value of the Internet as a teaching tool in the classroom, referring to the internet as having “too many temptations” to be useful in schools and libraries. Cotton later stated that the internet had matured since he wrote the article in 1998.
Beth Anne Rankin, the 2010 Republican nominee, and John David Cowart, who carried the backing of the Louisiana businessman and philanthropist Edgar Cason, were the only other Republican candidates in the race after candidate Marcus Richmond dropped out in February 2012. In the primary on May 22, 2012, Cotton won the Republican nomination, with 57.6% of the vote; Rankin received 37.1%.
The Club for Growth endorsed Cotton. Of the $2.2 million Cotton raised for that campaign, Club for Growth donors were responsible for $315,000 and were Cotton's largest supporters. Cotton was also endorsed by Senator John McCain. Cotton was supported by both the Tea Party movement and the Republican establishment.
In the general election on November 6, Cotton defeated State Senator Gene Jeffress, 59.5% to 36.7%. Cotton was the second Republican since Reconstruction Era of the United States to represent the 4th district. The first, Jay Dickey, held it from 1993 to 2001—during the presidency of Bill Clinton, whose residence was in the district at the time.
On January 3, 2013, Cotton was sworn into the U.S. House by United States Speaker of the House John Boehner. As a freshman, Cotton was considered a rising star in the Republican Party. Politico named him "most likely to succeed."
In February 2013, Cotton voted for An Act to eliminate the 2013 statutory pay adjustment for Federal employees, which prevented a 0.5% pay increase for all federal workers from taking effect.
In June 2013, Cotton voted against the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, also known as the Farm Bill, because he believed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that was a part of the bill included waste and fraud. That same month, he voted for a bill that stripped funding from food stamps.
In January 2014, Cotton voted against a revised farm bill. The bill, which included $1 trillion in spending, that expanded crop insurance by $7 billion, and created new subsidies for rice and peanut growers that kick in when prices drop, passed regardless.
In June 2013, Cotton voted in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill to ban abortions occurring 20 or more weeks after fertilization. Cotton has stated that "I believe Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were wrongly decided." He was one of 183 co-sponsors of the version of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act introduced in 2013.
Cotton has stated "I oppose the destruction of human embryos to conduct stem-cell research and all forms of human cloning."
In 2012, Cotton stated "Strong families also depend on strong marriages, and I support the traditional understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I also support the Defense of Marriage Act."
In September 2013, Cotton was one of 103 co-sponsors of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.
In September 2012, Cotton said regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that “the first step is to repeal that law, which is offensive to a free society and a free people”. In April 2014, Cotton was one of 38 Republican lawmakers that signed an amicus curiae in support of Senator Ron Johnson's legal challenge against the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's ACA ruling.
Cotton has stated "We cannot afford to grant illegal aliens amnesty or a so-called earned path to citizenship. Amnesty would cost billions of dollars that our government cannot afford. Also, amnesty would attract millions of new illegal aliens, just as the 1986 amnesty did, by advertising to the world that America lacks the political will to enforce its borders. Finally, amnesty is unjust and immoral because it favors those who broke our laws over those standing in line at embassies hoping to immigrate legally."
In July 2013, after the Senate’s bi-partisan Gang of Eight passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, an immigration reform proposal, House Republicans held a closed door meeting to decide whether to bring bill to a vote. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan spoke at one podium arguing for the bill’s passage. Freshman Cotton spoke at another podium arguing against the bill, even exchanging terse comments with Speaker Boehner. Cotton, who was against immigration reform, noted that a tougher stance on immigration hadn't done much to diminish Mitt Romney's electoral support among Hispanics in 2012 compared to John McCain's in 2008. The House decided to not consider the bill.
In August 2013, Cotton voted against the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, which lowered interest rates on student loans. Even though Cotton had taken advantage of federally-subsidized student loans when he was a student, Cotton said that he didn't want the government in the student loan business, noting that he and his family worked for years to afford an education.
After not taking a position on minimum wage during his campaign, in September 2014, Cotton said he would vote, as a citizen, in favor of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Initiative, a November 2014 referendum to raise Arkansas' minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Cotton was criticized for failing to take a public position on the issue until public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor.
In 2013, Cotton introduced legislative language to prohibit trade with relatives of individuals subject to U.S. sanctions against Iran. According to Cotton, this would include "a spouse and any relative to the third degree," such as, "parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids." After Cotton's amendment came under harsh criticism regarding its constitutionality, he withdrew it.
On August 6, 2013, Cotton officially announced he would challenge Democrat incumbent Mark Pryor for his seat in the United States Senate. Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call called Pryor the most vulnerable Senator seeking re-election. Cotton was endorsed by the conservative Club for Growth PAC, Senator Marco Rubio, the National Federation of Independent Business, and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who campaigned for Cotton. Cotton defeated Pryor in the general election, 56.5% to 39.5%. The race was called for Cotton just half an hour after the polls closed. Cotton was sworn into office on January 6, 2015.
On or about March 9, 2015, Cotton wrote and sent a letter to the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran, signed by 47 of the Senate's 54 Republicans, attempting to cast doubt on the Obama administration's authority to engage in nuclear-proliferation negotiations with Iran. The open letter was released in English as well as a poorly-translated Farsi version, which "read like a middle schooler wrote it" according to Foreign Policy. Within hours, commentators suggested that the letter prepared by Cotton constituted a violation of the Logan Act. Questions also were raised as to whether it reflected a flawed interpretation of the Treaty Clause of the United States Constitution.
President Barack Obama mocked the letter, referring to it as an "unusual coalition" with the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution as well as an interference with the then-ongoing negotiations of a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. In addition, during a Vice News interview, President Barack Obama said, "I'm embarrassed for them. For them to address a letter to the Ayatollah – the Supreme Leader of Iran, who they claim is our mortal enemy – and their basic argument to them is: don't deal with our President, 'cause you can't trust him to follow through on an agreement... That's close to unprecedented."
Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, responded to the letter by saying "[the Senators'] letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such mere executive agreements that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments". Zarif pointed out that the nuclear deal is not supposed to be an Iran–US deal, but an international one, saying that "change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran's peaceful nuclear program." He continued, "I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law."
On March 15, 2015, Cotton defended the letter amid criticism that it undermined the president's efforts. "It's so important we communicated this message straight to Iran," he told CBS News' Face the Nation "No regrets at all," and "they already control Tehran, increasingly they control Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad and now Sana'a as well." He continued to defend his action in an interview with MSNBC by saying, "There are nothing but hardliners in Iran. They've been killing Americans for 35 years. They kill hundreds of troops in Iraq. Now they control five capitals in the Middle East. There are nothing but hardliners in Tehran and if they do all those things without a nuclear weapon, imagine what they'll do with a nuclear weapon."
Cotton accused Obama of holding up a "false choice" between his framework deal on Iran's nuclear program and war. Cotton also seemed to underestimate what military action against Iran would entail, stating: "the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq. That's simply not the case." Drawing a comparison to President Bill Clinton's actions in 1998 during the Bombing of Iraq (1998), he elaborated: "Several days' air and naval bombing against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions."
On July 21, 2015, Cotton and Mike Pompeo alleged the existence of secret side agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on procedures for inspection and verification of Iran's nuclear activities under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal. Obama administration officials acknowledged the existence of agreements between Iran and the IAEA governing the inspection of sensitive military sites, but denied the characterization that they were "secret side deals", calling them standard practice in crafting arms-control pacts and arguing the administration had provided information about them to Congress.
In February 2015, Obama renominated Cassandra Butts, a former White House lawyer, to be the United States Ambassador to the Bahamas. However, Butts's nomination was blocked by several Republican senators. First, Senator Ted Cruz placed a blanket hold on all U.S. State Department nominees. Then, Cotton specifically blocked the nominations of Butts and ambassador nominees to Sweden and Norway after the Secret Service had leaked private information about a fellow member of Congress, even though that issue was unrelated to those nominees. Cotton eventually released his holds on the nominees to Sweden and Norway, but kept his hold on Butts's nomination. Butts told New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that she had gone to see Cotton about his objections to her nomination, and Cotton explained to her that because he knew that the president and Butts were friends, it was a way to "inflict special pain on the president," Bruni wrote. Cotton's spokeswoman did not dispute Butts' characterization. Butts died on May 26, 2016, still awaiting a Senate vote.
Cotton has received heavy support from pro-Israel groups due to his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and for his hawkish stance toward Iran. Several of pro-Israel Republican billionaires have contributed millions of dollars to Cotton, and William Kristol's Emergency Committee for Israel, a right-wing advocacy group, spent $960,000 to support Cotton.
In an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal in September 2016, Cotton and Mike Pompeo compared the policy of Immigration to Norway favorably to the policy of Immigration to Sweden. He maintained that the Norwegian government had to a greater extent than that of Sweden listened to the concerns of its citizens in contrast to the dominant Swedish major parties which did not listen to its constituents. He proceeded to compare the differing results in Scandinavia to that of the United States, where immigration-friendly elites have been held in check by immigration-sceptical constituents.
Cotton supported President Donald Trump's 2017 Executive Order 13769 that temporarily curtailed immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. He stated that “It’s simply wrong to call the president’s executive order concerning immigration and refugees ‘a religious test’ of any kind. I doubt many Arkansans or Americans more broadly object to taking a harder look at foreigners coming into our country from war-torn nations with known terror networks; I think they’re wondering why we don’t do that already.”
On February 7, 2017, in the presence of Donald Trump, Tom Cotton and Senator David Perdue of Georgia proposed a new immigration bill called the RAISE Act which would severely limit the family route or chain migration. The bill would set a limit on the number of refugees offered residency at 50,000 a year and would remove the Diversity Immigrant Visa. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have both expressed opposition to the bill.
After the violent incidents surrounding the 2017 Unite the Right rally Senator Cotton issued a statement condemning white supremacism. Cotton stated that "White supremacists who claim to ‘take America back' only betray their own ignorance of what makes America so special: our country's founding recognition of the natural rights of all mankind and commitment to the defense of the rights of all Americans. These contemptible little men do not speak for what is just, noble, and best about America".
In response to the 2017 New York City truck attack, Cotton slammed the Diversity Immigrant Visa program as a threat to national security following reports the attack's perpetrator was a recipient of the program. Cotton stated that "Yesterday's attack was an outrage, especially because it was entirely preventable. The diversity visa lottery program has long been deeply flawed, but now we see very clearly how it's a threat to our national security.
In September 2017, Cotton stated that he would support legalization of existing recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by giving them green cards if Congress passed legislation that would protect American workers from the effects of that legalization, including requiring E-Verify.
Cotton has an A rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which endorsed him during the 2014 election. The NRA's Chris W. Cox stated that “Tom Cotton will always stand up for the values and freedoms of Arkansas gun owners and sportsmen." In response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Cotton stated that he did not believe any new gun control legislation would have prevented the mass shooting from taking place.
Cotton is 6'5" tall.
Cotton was mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration. However, retired General James Mattis was chosen instead. Cotton frequently met with Trump's staff during the transition period, and, according to Steve Bannon, Cotton suggested John F. Kelly for the role of Secretary of Homeland Security.
In November 2017, the New York Times reported that Cotton was a potential choice to succeed CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who could be elevated to US Secretary of State after President Trump 'soured' with the current incumbent, Rex Tillerson.
|Arkansas's 4th Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2012|
|Republican||Beth Anne Rankin||13,460||37.07%|
|Arkansas's 4th Congressional District Election, 2012|
|U.S. Senate Election in Arkansas, 2014|
|Write-in votes||Write-in votes||505||0.06%|
|U.S. House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th congressional district
|Party political offices|
No nominee in 2008
Tim Hutchinson in 2002
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Arkansas
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Arkansas
Served alongside: John Boozman
|Baby of the Senate
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority
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