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Tom Cotton United States Senator
War on Terrorism
Thomas Bryant Cotton (born May 13, 1977) is an American politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Arkansas since January 3, 2015. He is a member of the Republican Party.
At 41 years old, he is currently the youngest incumbent U.S. Senator. Cotton was first elected to the Senate at age 37 in 2014, defeating two-term Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor. From 2013 to 2015, Cotton served one term in the United States House of Representatives.Contents
Tom Cotton was born on May 13, 1977 in Dardanelle, Arkansas. Cotton's father, Thomas Leonard "Len" Cotton, was a district supervisor in the Arkansas Health Department, and his mother, Avis (née Bryant) Cotton, was a schoolteacher who later became principal of their district's middle school. Cotton's family had lived in rural Arkansas for seven generations, and he grew up on his family's cattle farm. He attended Dardanelle High School where he played on the local and regional basketball teams; standing 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall, he was usually required to play center.
While in high school, Cotton developed an intense desire to attend Harvard University, and worked intently on his studies toward that goal. He was accepted to Harvard after graduating from high school in 1995, and majored in government. At Harvard, Cotton was a member of the editorial board of 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 with an A.B. magna cum laude in 1998 after only three years of study, having written his senior thesis on The Federalist Papers.
After graduating from Harvard, Cotton 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 instead returned to Harvard to attend the Harvard Law School. Cotton graduated from Harvard Law with a J.D. in 2002.
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.Military service
On January 11, 2005, Cotton enlisted in the U.S. Army. Cotton declined offers to serve in the Army J.A.G. Corps and instead volunteered for the infantry. Cotton had resolved to serve as an Army infantryman in his third year of law school while watching live news coverage of the September 11 attacks, and had begun a regimen of physical exercise and studying military history. In March 2005, he entered Officer Candidate School, and in June 2005 was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.
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 December 2006, Cotton was promoted to First Lieutenant. He was assigned as a platoon leader for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at Arlington National Cemetery in Northern Virginia. 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 farming his family ranch.
In July 2010, Cotton transferred to the U.S. 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.Accusations of New York Times journalists
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."House and Senate elections and career, 2013–Present
Shortly after Cotton's Afghanistan deployment ended, his former boss at the Claremont Institute 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 Democratic U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln. Cotton declined, believing he would be rushing a political candidacy. Following his active duty service, Cotton served in the Army Reserve and did sporadic consulting work for McKinsey & Company, before deciding to run for the Arkansas 4th following retirement of Democratic incumbent Mike Ross.U.S. Congressman See also: United States House of Representatives elections in Arkansas, 2012 Cotton participating in a 2012 congressional debate at Southern Arkansas University
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." He quickly became a vocal opponent of the Obama administration's foreign and domestic policies. He 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 February 2013. Cotton voted against the 2013 Farm Bill over concerns about waste and fraud in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program voting later that month to strip funding from food stamps. He also voted against the revised measure, the Agricultural Act of 2014, which expanded crop insurance and a price floor for rice farmers.
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.Cassandra Butts nomination Senator Cotton at First In The Nation Townhall, New Hampshire
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. 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, although 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' nomination.
Butts told New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that she had gone to see Cotton about his objections to her nomination, and claimed Cotton had told her that because he knew that the president and Butts were friends, it was a way to "inflict special pain on the president", Bruni claimed. Cotton's spokeswoman did not dispute Butts' characterization. Butts died on May 26, 2016, still awaiting a Senate vote.Committee assignments
On August 6, 2013, Cotton officially announced he would challenge Democratic 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.Letter to Iran's leaders
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[clarification needed] 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 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps 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, 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 " 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."Support of President Trump Tom Cotton (left) with president Donald Trump and Republican senator David Perdue (right).
Cotton, a supporter of Donald Trump on the issue of immigration, was at a meeting in which the president reportedly described Haiti and African nations as "shithole countries", but Cotton and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) said in a joint statement that "we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically". The Washington Post reported that Cotton and Perdue told the White House they heard "shithouse" rather than "shithole".Committee assignments Senator Cotton visits Air Defenders at Osan Air Base during his three-country tour to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan
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 pro-Israel Republican billionaires who contributed millions of dollars to William Kristol's Emergency Committee for Israel spent $960,000 to support Cotton.Potential role in the Trump Administration Further information: Cabinet of Donald Trump Cotton with President Donald Trump and Senator David Perdue
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 then incumbent, Rex Tillerson.Political positions Domestic policy Gun laws
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.Healthcare
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 United States Office of Personnel Management's ACA ruling.
Cotton was part of the group of 13 Republican Senators that drafted the Senate version of the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA) behind closed doors.Immigration
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 the bill to a vote. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan spoke at one podium arguing for the bill's passage. Cotton spoke at another podium arguing against the bill, even exchanging terse comments with Speaker Boehner. Cotton noted that a tougher stance on immigration had done little 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.Activists had been urging the senator via phone calls and letters to support positions regarding issues such as health care and immigration. The senator's office sent letters asking some of them to cease-and-desist from such contacts, or else the office would contact the US Capitol Police.
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 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 President Trump, Cotton and Senator David Perdue (R-GA), jointly proposed a new immigration bill called the RAISE Act which would 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 (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) both expressed opposition to the bill.
After the violent incidents surrounding the 2017 Unite the Right rally, 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.
On January 14th, 2018, on ABC's Face the Nation, Cotton stated that President Trump had not disparaged Haiti, Haitians, Africa, Africans, and Salvadorans in a meeting in the Oval Office regarding immigration policy and the status of those falling under the Obama Administration's DACA protections (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Speaking to media again on January 16th, 2018, Cotton repeated this assertion. In both instances, his statements were predicated on his assertion that his colleagues, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), lied in their statements that the President had in fact disparaged those nations and peoples in the January 11 meeting, and that the President's language had been salacious, including derogatory curse words that persons on all sides of the incident had described as "vulgar".Minimum wage
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's 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.Social issues
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 said, "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 2013, Cotton voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.
In September 2013, Cotton was one of 103 co-sponsors of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act. In October 2015, Cotton was one of 24 co-sponsors of the Thin Blue Line Act, a federal bill that would impose the death penalty in the case of the killing of police officers.Student loans
In August 2013, Cotton voted against the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, which lowered interest rates on student loans. Cotton had received federally-subsidized student loans when he was a student but said he didn't want the government in the student loan business, noting that he and his family worked for years to afford his college education.Foreign policy
Cotton has criticized the foreign policies described as the Clinton Doctrine, Bush Doctrine, Obama Doctrine for failing to earn widespread public support of the common American, described by Cotton as "Jacksonian America". Cotton's own foreign policy ideas were described by The Wall Street Journal as "hawkish and realistic, though tinged with idealism", and similar to the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe doctrine, claiming to seek to avoid intervention while steadfastly committing, "There is always a military option. That is the case everywhere in the world". Generally, Cotton believes in peace through strength by forming alliances with Old World countries (in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe), partially as defense and partially to fulfill "moral aspirations for America's role in the world".
Cotton is decidedly hawkish toward every country among America's primary "headline" relations: China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Cotton is perhaps most hawkish on Iran–United States relations, describing Iran as a greater long-term challenge than North Korea. Cotton insists China is "a rival in every regard … not a partner", and believes the superpower rivalry between the United States and Russia is inherent given the conflicting forms of government and relative power. He has shown less concern with the rightward shift of Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Turkey. Cotton's approach almost exclusively relies on bilateral relations over multilateralism, and focuses more on security than idealism or values.Sanctions on Iran
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.Personal life
Cotton married attorney Anna Peckham in 2014. The couple have two children. Their first child, a boy, was born on April 27, 2015.
Cotton is a member of the United Methodist Church.
Cotton has said that Walter Russell Mead, Robert D. Kaplan, Henry Kissinger, Daniel Silva, C.J. Vonn, and Jason Matthews are among his favorite authors.Electoral history Arkansas's 4th Congressional District Republican Primary Election, 2012 Party Candidate Votes % +% Republican Tom Cotton 20,899 57.55% Republican Beth Anne Rankin 13,460 37.07% Republican John Cowart 1,953 5.38% Arkansas's 4th Congressional District Election, 2012 Party Candidate Votes % +% Republican Tom Cotton 154,149 59.53% Democratic Gene Jeffress 95,013 36.69% Libertarian Bobby Tullis 4,984 1.92% Green Joshua Drake 4,807 1.86% U.S. Senate Election in Arkansas, 2014 Party Candidate Votes % +% Republican Tom Cotton 478,819 56.50% Democratic Mark Pryor* 334,174 39.43% Libertarian Nathan LaFrance 17,210 2.03% Green Mark Swaney 16,797 1.98% Write-in votes Write-in votes 505 0.06% See also
U.S. House of Representatives Preceded by