Tom Cotton

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Tom Cotton
Tom Cotton official Senate photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Arkansas
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Serving with John Boozman
Preceded by Mark Pryor
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th district
In office
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by Mike Ross
Succeeded by Bruce Westerman
Personal details
Born Thomas Bryant Cotton
(1977-05-13) May 13, 1977 (age 41)
Dardanelle, Arkansas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Anna Cotton (m. 2014)
Children 1
Residence Dardanelle, Arkansas, U.S.
Alma mater Harvard University (A.B., J.D.)
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Methodism
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 2005–2009 (active)
2010–2013 (reserve)
Rank Army-USA-OF-02.svg Captain
Unit 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
3rd Infantry Regiment

War on Terrorism


Thomas Bryant "Tom" Cotton (born May 13, 1977) is an American politician who is the junior United States Senator from Arkansas. A member of the Republican Party, Cotton has served in the Senate since January 3, 2015. At age 41, he is currently the youngest U.S. Senator.

Early life and education

Tom Cotton was born on May 13, 1977 in Dardanelle, Arkansas, the son of Thomas Leonard and Avis (née Bryant) Cotton, and grew up on the family farm.[1] Tom Cotton graduated from Dardanelle High School in June 1995.[2] He attended Harvard College, where he wrote for the Harvard Crimson,[3] graduating in 1998, three years after enrolling.[4] In summer 1997, Cotton attended the Publius Fellowship program of the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank.[5][6] 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", enrolling at Harvard Law School,[4] where he received his J.D. degree in June 2002.[2][7] 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 private practice, working at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for a few months, and at Cooper & Kirk from 2003 to 2004.

Military service

On January 11, 2005, Cotton enlisted in the United States Army.[8][9] According to his recruiter, Lieutenant Colonel Roger Jones, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Houston, Cotton decided not to pursue a commission as an officer at the rank of Captain in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, United States Army, the typical rank and specialty for a person with his education and training. Instead, he chose to enlist under the US Army's Officer/Warrant Officer Enlistment Program, Enlistment Option 9D[10] at the rank of Specialist or Corporal, with the guaranteed opportunity to Officer Candidate School and pursue a commission as a military officer.[11][12][13] Cotton's relationship with his enlisted basic training drill sergeant, Master Sergeant Gordon Norton, remained so good that years later he would hire Norton to help with his political campaign.[14] In March 2005, he entered Officer Candidate School, and in June 2005 was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.[11][12][13] He was initially stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he entered a 14-week Officer’s Basic Course. After completing OBC in November 2005, Cotton attended the U.S. Army Airborne School as well as Ranger School and Air Assault School.[2]


In May 2006, Cotton 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,[15] and planned and performed daily combat patrols.[16] In June 2006, while stationed in Iraq, he gained international public attention after he emailed a letter to The New York Times, criticizing the paper's publication of an article detailing a Bush administration secret program monitoring terrorists' finances. The newspaper ignored his letter, but it was published in Power Line, a prominent conservative blog which had been copied on the email.[17][18] 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.[19] 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 ..."[20] 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."[2][20]

The Old Guard

In December 2006, Cotton was promoted to First Lieutenant. He was assigned as a platoon leader for the 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) at Arlington National Cemetery in Northern Virginia.[21]


In October 2008, Cotton deployed to eastern Afghanistan. He was stationed within the Regional Command East at its Gamberi Forward operating base (FOB) located in one of the command's 14 province locations, Laghman Province. The overall mission at his duty station – the Gamberi FOB from April 2008 to June 2009, during Operation Enduring Freedom IX – included military logistics, civil reconstruction engineering, government organization, and training from a Joint Task Force. The Joint Task Force at Gamberi FOB included Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), the 101st Airborne Division, NATO, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Interagency Partners, and CJTF-101/Regional Command East Forces. These joint forces sought to secure the citizenry governance, and to rebuild a sustainable economy in order to extend Afghanistan (GIRoA) authority as the legitimate government of the Afghan people.[22][citation needed][23] He said his assigned duty was as a military logistics officer of a Provincial Reconstruction Team, where he also helped plan logistical operations for counter-insurgency.[2][24] His 11-month deployment to Gamberi FOB in Laghan province ended when he returned from Afghanistan on July 20, 2009.[9]

Reserve duty and military awards

In July 2010, Cotton joined in the United States Army Reserve. His military record shows his final discharge from the Army Reserve was in May 2013 and he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, and earned the following: Ranger Training Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and Iraq Campaign Medal.[16][25]

Post-military service

After his active duty service, Cotton did sporadic consulting work at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.[4][20][26] He then returned to the agricultural management of his family ranch.[27]

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 PAC. The blog Power Line also continued to promote Cotton. An attempt was made to draft Cotton for Arkansas’s 2010 Senate race, to run against incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln.[4][20] In 2011, when the Democratic congressman who had represented Cotton's home district retired after twelve years in office, Cotton ran for Congress.

Congressional career

U.S. House of Representatives (2013–2015)

Cotton's official congressional photo

Cotton was a candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican in Arkansas' 4th congressional district in the 2012 election, vacant as a result of Democratic U.S. Congressman Mike Ross' retirement.[28] 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.[4][20]

In September 2011, Cotton faced criticism for his Harvard Crimson article, in which he questioned the value of the Internet as a teaching tool in the classroom.[29] Cotton has since said that he believes the Internet has matured significantly over the past decade and has become a "vital tool for education and daily life", unlike the Internet of 1998.[30]

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.[31] In the primary on May 22, Cotton won the Republican nomination, with 57% of the vote; Rankin received 38%.[32]

Cotton was endorsed by Senator John McCain.[33] Cotton was supported by and has close ties to both the Tea Party movement and the Republican establishment.[34][35][36][37]

In the general election on November 6, Cotton defeated State Senator Gene Jeffress, 59% to 37%. Cotton was the second Republican since Reconstruction to represent the 4th district.[38]

On January 3, 2013, Cotton was sworn into the U.S. House by House Speaker John Boehner.[39] As a freshman, he has been considered a rising star in the Republican Party. Politico named him "most likely to succeed."[40][41]

Domestic issues

In February 2013, Cotton voted for the Federal Pay Adjustment Act, which prevents a 0.5% pay increase for all federal workers from taking effect.[42]

Cotton opposed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, also known as the Farm Bill, because he believed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program included waste and fraud, and he then voted for a bill that stripped funding from food stamps in June 2013.[43] In January 2014, Cotton ultimately voted against the $1 trillion bill expanding crop insurance by $7 billion over the next decade and creating new subsidies for rice and peanut growers that would kick in when prices drop.[44][45]

In June 2013, Cotton voted in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill to ban abortions that would take place 20 or more weeks after fertilization.[46] Cotton has stated his support for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,[47] and has signed an amicus brief in support of Senator Ron Johnson's legal challenge against the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's ACA ruling.[48]

After the Senate’s Gang of Eight passed comprehensive immigration reform, House Republicans held a closed door meeting in the basement of the United States Capitol to decide whether to take up the bill in July 2013.[49] Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan spoke at one podium arguing for the bill’s passage.[50] Freshman Cotton spoke at another podium arguing against the bill, even exchanging terse comments with Speaker Boehner.[49] Cotton’s argument was 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.[50] The House decided to not consider the bill.[50]

In August 2013, Cotton voted against federal student loan legislation in Congress. Cotton said that his vote was based on his opposition to the nationalization of the student-loan business which he wrote had been a component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Cotton stated, "I'm committed to bringing affordable higher education to every Arkansan and ending the federal-government monopoly on the student-lending business."[51]

In September 2014, Cotton said he would vote for the Arkansas Minimum Wage Initiative, a November 2014 statewide ballot initiative that calls for raising Arkansas' minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017.[52]

Foreign issues

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." When Cotton's amendment came under harsh criticism regarding the constitutionality of the amendment, he withdrew it.[53][54]

Committee assignments

U.S. Senate (2015–present)

On August 6, 2013 Cotton officially announced he would challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor.[55] Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call called Pryor the most vulnerable Senator seeking re-election.[56] Cotton was endorsed by former Presidential nominee Mitt Romney,[57] the fiscally conservative Club for Growth PAC, Senator Marco Rubio, and the National Federation of Independent Business.[58][59][60][61][62] Romney campaigned for Cotton in the state.[63] Cotton defeated Pryor in the general election, 56.5% to 39.5%.[64] 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.[65] The open letter was released in English as well as a poorly-translated Persian version (which "read like a middle schooler wrote it" according to Foreign Policy).[66] Within hours, commentators suggested that the letter prepared by Cotton constituted a violation of the Logan Act.[67][68] Questions also were raised as to whether it reflected a flawed interpretation of the Treaty Clause of the United States Constitution.[69]

President Barack Obama mocked the letter, referring to it as an "unusual coalition" with Iran's hard-liners as well as an interference with the then-ongoing negotiations of a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program.[70] 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."[71]

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".[72]

Cotton on March 15, 2015 defended the letter he and fellow Senate Republicans sent to Iranian leaders about their nuclear negotiations with the United States, 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."[73][74][75] 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're 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."[76]

Military action against Iran

Cotton accused Obama of holding up a "false choice" between his framework deal on Iran's nuclear program and war. He[who?] also seemed to diminish what military action against Iran would entail.[77] Cotton also said: "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... 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."[78]

Iran side deals

On July 21, 2015 Cotton and Mike Pompeo announced the existence of side agreements between Iran and the IAEA on procedures for inspection and verification of Iran's nuclear activities under the Iran nuclear deal. These side deals have since become a flashpoint in the debate over the Iran deal, in part because their contents have not been publicly disclosed. Cotton described the side deals as "secret", though the Obama Administration disputed this, noting that the IAEA always has a duty of confidentiality.[79][80][81]

Heavy water amendment

In May 2016 the Senate voted down Cotton’s amendment to an energy spending bill that would have prohibited the U.S. from buying heavy water from Iran.[82]

Cassandra Butts nomination

In February 2015 Obama renominated Cassandra Butts, a former White House lawyer, to be United States Ambassador to the Bahamas. However, Butts' nomination was blocked by several Republican senators. First, Sen. Ted Cruz placed a blanket hold on all U.S. State Department nominees.[83] 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.[83] Cotton eventually released his holds on the nominees to Sweden and Norway, but kept his hold on Butts' nomination.[83] 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.[83] Cotton's spokeswoman did not dispute Butts' characterization, but stressed that Cotton had respect for her and her career.[83] Butts died on May 26, 2016, still awaiting a Senate vote.[83]

Committee assignments

Support from pro-Israel groups

Cotton has been receiving heavy support from pro-Israel groups due to his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and for his hawkish stance towards Iran. A number of pro-Israel American billionaires have contributed millions of dollars to Cotton., William Kristol's The Emergency Committee for Israel spent $960,000 to support Cotton.[84]

Immigration policy in Scandinavia and the United States

In an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, Cotton compared the immigration policy of Norway favourably to that of Sweden. He maintained that the Norwegian government had in 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.[85] 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.[85]

Personal life

Cotton married attorney Anna (née Peckham) Cotton in 2014.[86] Their first child, a boy, was born on April 27, 2015.[87] Cotton has said that Walter Russell Mead, Robert D. Kaplan, Henry Kissinger, Dana Silva, C.J. Vonn, and Jason Matthews are among his favorite authors. [88]

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


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  48. Ed O'Keefe. "38 GOP lawmakers join Ron Johnson’s Obamacare lawsuit". The Washington Post. 
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  55. Condon, Stephanie (August 6, 2013). "Republican Rep. Tom Cotton announces bid to challenge Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.". CBS News. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
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  64. "November 4, 2014 General election and nonpartisan runoff election Official results". Arkansas Secretary of State. Retrieved November 23, 2014. 
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  67. Waldman, Paul (March 9, 2015). "Republicans are beginning to act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
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  72. Dr. Zarif`s Response to the Letter of US Senators from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Iran), March 9, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015
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  74. "Face the Nation". CBS. March 15, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  75. "Tom Cotton, US Senator, apparently does not know the capital of Iran". The Independent. March 16, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  76. "Tom Cotton: I want complete nuclear disarmament". MSNBC. March 15, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  77. "Tom Cotton: Military Action Against Iran Would Take Only 'Several Days'". NPR. April 8, 2015. 
  78. Kendall Breitman (April 8, 2015). "Sen. Tom Cotton says U.S. could pursue targeted attack on Iran". POLITICO. 
  79. Demirjian, Karoun. "‘Secret deals’ become latest congressional complaint about Iran deal". 
  80. Jordan Fabian and Kristina Wong. "White House launches Iran side deals counterattack". 
  81. Schulberg, Jessica. "John Kerry's Confident The IAEA Can Handle Iran, But Congress Isn't Buying It". 
  82. 2016 (June 8, 2016). "Tom Cotton Warns of Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Consequences’". Retrieved August 2, 2016. 
  83. 83.0 83.1 83.2 83.3 83.4 83.5 "An Obama Nominee’s Crushed Hopes". The New York Times. June 7, 2016. Retrieved August 2, 2016. 
  84. "GOP's Israel support deepens as political contributions shift". 
  85. 85.0 85.1 Cotton, Tom; Pompeo, Mike (26 September 2016). "What We Learned in Scandinavia About Migrants.". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 September 2016. 
  86. Henry, Larry (March 18, 2014). "Tom Cotton Ties The Knot". Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  87. "Twitter". Retrieved August 2, 2016. 
  88. Takala, Rudy (June 27, 2016). "Tom Cotton: 'Deterrence, once lost, is very hard to regain'". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved June 27, 2016. 

External links