Tom Cotton
Tom Cotton official Senate photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Arkansas
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Serving with John Boozman
Preceded byMark Pryor
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th district
In office
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
Preceded byMike Ross
Succeeded byBruce Westerman
Personal details
Thomas Bryant Cotton

(1977-05-13) May 13, 1977 (age 43)
Dardanelle, Arkansas, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Anna Peckham (m. 2014)
EducationHarvard University (AB, JD)
WebsiteSenate website
Military service
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service
  • 2005–2009 (active)
  • 2010–2013 (reserve)
RankArmy-USA-OF-02.svg Captain
Battles/warsWar on Terrorism

Thomas Bryant Cotton (born May 13, 1977) is an American attorney, military veteran and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Arkansas since 2015. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 to 2015.

In 2005, Cotton commissioned in the United States Army, where he rose to the rank of captain. His military background includes service in Afghanistan and deployment to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom; he is a Bronze Star recipient. Cotton was elected as the U.S. Representative for Arkansas's 4th congressional district in 2012 and to the U.S. Senate at age 37 in 2014, defeating two-term Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor.

Early life, education and military career (1977–2013)

Formative years and education

Tom Cotton was born on May 13, 1977 in Dardanelle, Arkansas.[1] 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.[2] Cotton's family had lived in rural Arkansas for seven generations, and he grew up on his family's cattle farm.[3][4] 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.[4][5]

While in high school, Cotton developed an intense desire to attend Harvard College, and worked intently on his studies toward that goal.[4] 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.[5] In articles, Cotton addressed what he saw as "sacred cows" such as affirmative action.[6] 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.[4]

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 enrolled at Harvard Law School.[4] Cotton graduated from Harvard Law School with a J.D. degree in 2002.[7]

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 to start paying off his student loans, and later at the law firm of Charles J. Cooper & Kirk from 2003 to 2004.[8]

Military service

On January 11, 2005, Cotton entered active duty service in the U.S. Army.[9] 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.[10] In March 2005, he entered Officer Candidate School, and in June 2005 was commissioned in the infantry as a second lieutenant.[11]

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.[11] In December 2006, Cotton was promoted to first lieutenant. He was assigned as a platoon leader for the 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) at Fort Myer, Virginia.[12] 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.[11] His 11-month deployment ended on July 20, 2009 and he returned from Afghanistan.[11]

In July 2010, Cotton transferred to the United States Army Reserve. His military record shows his final discharge from the U.S. 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.[11][13][14]

Letter to the New York Times

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 classified government 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.[15][16] 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.[17] In October 2006, The New York Times public editor Byron Calame reversed his previous position that supported the article, saying that the paper should not have published the story.[18]

Political 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.[4] An attempt was made to draft Cotton for the 2010 United States Senate election in Arkansas to run against incumbent Democratic U.S. senator Blanche Lincoln. Cotton declined, believing he would be rushing a political candidacy.[19] Following his active duty service, Cotton served in the Army Reserve and did consulting work for McKinsey & Company,[4][20] before running for Congress in Arkansas' 4th congressional district following the retirement announcement of Democratic incumbent Mike Ross.[21][22]

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

Cotton participating in a 2012 congressional debate at Southern Arkansas University

In September 2011, the Arkansas Times editor, Max Brantley, criticized Cotton 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.[23][24]

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.[5] In the primary on May 22, 2012, Cotton won the Republican nomination, with 57.6% of the vote; in second place was Beth Ann Rankin who received 37.1% of the vote.[25]

The Club for Growth endorsed Cotton.[26] 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] Cotton was also endorsed by Senator John McCain.[27] Cotton was supported by both the Tea Party movement and the Republican establishment.[28][29]

In the general election on November 6, Cotton defeated state senator Gene Jeffress, 59.5% to 36.7%.[25] 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.[30] On January 3, 2013, Cotton was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives by Speaker John Boehner.[31]

As a freshman, Cotton was considered a rising star in the Republican Party. Politico named him "most likely to succeed."[32][33] 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.[34] 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.[35] He also voted against the revised measure, the Agricultural Act of 2014,[36] which expanded crop insurance and a price floor for rice farmers.[37][38]

Cotton accused Obama of holding up a "false choice" between his framework deal on Iran's nuclear program and war. Cotton was also criticized in some media outlets for underestimating what successful military action against Iran would entail,[39] 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."[39][40] On July 21, 2015, Cotton and Mike Pompeo claimed to have uncovered 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.[41][42]

Committee assignments

U.S. Senate (2015–present)

Cotton and Senator Jon Kyl speaking at Hudson Institute
Senator Cotton and former Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Senators Joni Ernst, Daniel Sullivan, John McCain, Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, and Cory Gardner attending the 2016 International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit in Singapore

On August 6, 2013, Cotton officially announced he would challenge Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor for his seat in the United States Senate.[43] Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call called Pryor the most vulnerable Senator seeking re-election.[44] Cotton was endorsed by the conservative Club for Growth PAC,[45][46][47] Senator Marco Rubio,[48] the National Federation of Independent Business,[49] and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who campaigned for Cotton.[50][51] The Associated Press called the race for Cotton immediately after the polls closed;[52] he prevailed by a margin of 56.5%-39.4%.[53] Cotton was sworn into office on January 6, 2015.[54]

During his term as U.S. Senator, Cotton has received multiple death threats. In 2018, Adam Albrett of Fairfax County, Virginia was arrested for "faxing death threats" against President Donald Trump and members of Congress, including Cotton. Police traced the fax to Albrett using the phone number listed in the fax header.[55]

In October, 2019, James Powell, 43 and a resident of Arkansas, was charged by local authorities with "first-degree terroristic threatening" following an investigation by U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI. The felony charge carries a maximum six-year prison sentence and $10,000 fine. Arkansas Representative Rick Crawford, a Republican, was also threatened with death by Powell.[56][57] In January 2020, 78 year old Henry Edward Goodloe was sentenced to two years probation for sending a threatening letter and a package containing white powder to Cotton. Goodloe admitted to mailing an envelope containing white powder to Cotton’s office, with a note stating, “You ignored me. Maybe this will get your attention.” The Senate mail facility intercepted the letter, which included Goodloe’s home address, and alerted a hazardous response team which determined the powder was unbleached flour and starch.[58]


Cassandra Butts nomination

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 U.S. Senators. First, Senator Ted Cruz placed a blanket hold on all U.S. State Department nominees.[59] 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's nomination.[59]

Butts told New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that she had gone to see Cotton about his objections to her nomination and said he had told her that because he knew that President Obama and Butts were friends, it was a way to "inflict special pain on the president", Bruni said. Cotton's spokeswoman did not dispute Butts's characterization. Butts died on May 26, 2016, still awaiting a Senate vote.[59]

Potential roles in the Trump administration

Tom Cotton (left) with President Donald Trump and Senator David Perdue (right)

Cotton was mentioned as a possible candidate for United States Secretary of Defense in the Trump Administration.[60] However, retired general James Mattis was chosen instead.[61] 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 U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.[8]

In November 2017, The New York Times reported that Cotton was a potential choice to succeed CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who was elevated to United States Secretary of State after President Trump "soured" on the then-incumbent, Rex Tillerson.[62]

In December 2018, Politico reported that Cotton was a potential choice to replace Jim Mattis as United States Secretary of Defense after Mattis announced his resignation for January 1, 2019.[63] Ultimately, Mark Esper was chosen to succeed Mattis on June 18, 2019.[64]

Committee assignments

Senator Cotton visits Air Defenders at Osan Air Base during his three-country tour to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan


Political positions

Domestic policy

Corporate disclosure

In June 2019, along with Democrats Mark Warner and Doug Jones and fellow Republican Mike Rounds, Cotton introduced the Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act, a bill that would mandate shell companies disclose their real owners to the United States Department of the Treasury and update outdated federal anti-money laundering laws through bettering communications among law enforcement, regulatory agencies, the financial industry, and the industry and regulators of advanced technology.[65]

Criminal justice reform

Senator Cotton at First In The Nation Townhall, New Hampshire

In 2016, Cotton said that the United States had an "under-incarceration problem", as opposed to a problem with over-incarceration.[66] Cotton said that reduced sentencing for felons would destabilize the United States, arguing that "I saw this in Baghdad. We’ve seen it again in Afghanistan."[66]

In November 2018, while arguing against a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, Cotton mistakenly said that there had been no hearings on the bill. PolitiFact noted that Cotton "ignored years of congressional debate and hearings on the general topics of the bill, as well as the consideration and bipartisan passage of largely similar bills at the House committee level, by the full House, and by the Senate Judiciary Committee."[67] Arguing against the bill in question, the FIRST STEP Act, Cotton asserted that "convicts of certain sex-related crimes could accrue credits making them eligible for supervised release or 'pre-release' to a halfway house". A spokesperson for Mike Lee rebutted that "just because a federal offense is not on the specific list of ineligible offenses doesn’t mean inmates who committed [a] non-specified offense will earn early release".[68] The bill passed 87–12 on December 18, 2018. Cotton voted against it.[69]

Tom Cotton and Brett Kavanaugh in August 2018

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."[70] 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.[71]

In January 2019, Cotton was one of thirty-one Republican senators to cosponsor the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill introduced by John Cornyn and Ted Cruz that would grant individuals with concealed carry privileges in their home state the right to exercise this right in any other state with concealed carry laws while concurrently abiding by that state's laws.[72]


Cotton opposes the Affordable Care Act, saying in 2012 that "the first step is to repeal that law, which is offensive to a free society and a free people".[73][74] 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.[75]

Cotton was part of the group of 13 Republican Senators that drafted the Senate version of the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA).[76]


Cotton opposes amnesty or a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.[77]

In July 2013, after the Senate's bipartisan 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.[78] Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan spoke at one podium arguing for the bill's passage.[79] Cotton spoke at another podium arguing against the bill, even exchanging terse comments with Speaker Boehner.[78] 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.[79]

Cotton supported President Trump's 2017 Executive Order 13769 that prohibited immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.[80]

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.[81][82]

Cotton, a supporter of President Donald Trump on the issue of immigration, was at a meeting in which Cotton disputes an alleged attribution that described Haiti and African nations as "shithole countries".[83] Cotton and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) said in a joint statement that "we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically".[84][85] The Washington Post reported that Cotton and Perdue told the White House they heard "shithouse" rather than "shithole".[86] Sen. Cotton reiterated on CBS's "Face The Nation" interview "I certainly didn’t hear what Sen. Durbin has said repeatedly. Sen. Durbin has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings, though, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by that,” Cotton added, “And I was sitting no farther away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was, and I know what Dick Durbin has said about the president's repeated statements is incorrect”.[87]

In December 2018, Cotton placed a senatorial hold on H.R.7164 - A Bill to add Ireland to the E-3 Non-immigrant Visa Program.[88] The bill did not create new non-immigrant visas, but rather allowed Irish college graduates to apply for any surplus E-3 visas in Specialty Occupations, that had gone unused by Australians within their annual cap of 10,500.[89] The bi-partisan bill which had passed the House of Representatives on November 28, 2018 and had also received the backing of the Trump Administration did not reach the Senate floor for consideration as a consequence of Sen. Cotton's hold.[90]

"Cease and desist" letter mailed from Senator Cotton's office

Cotton's immigration positions have led to protests in his Washington D.C office. In January, 2018, five demonstrators were arrested for obstructing Cotton's office while they were protesting his position on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. They were released after paying a $50 fine.[91]

In response to what Cotton's office has referred to as harassment, members of the "...liberal activist group Ozark Indivisible" received "cease and desist" letters. One member of the group admitted to using “an f-bomb or two” in conversation with Cotton's staffers. Another recipient of a letter allegedly called " of Cotton’s 19-year-old interns a “c–t.”[92][93]

In February 2019, Cotton was one of sixteen senators to vote against legislation preventing a partial government shutdown. The bill also funded $1.375 billion to improve security along the U.S.-Mexico border, an amount far below the $5.7 billion requested by the Trump administration.[94]

In June 2019, after President Trump announced a two-week delay for a plan involving the deportation of an estimated 2,000 migrant families as part of an attempt to give Congress a chance to work on immigration reform, Cotton stated his support for Trump's plan and questioned who the United States could deport if it was unable to "deport an illegal alien who has a final and legal order of removal adjudicated by an immigration judge".[95]


In February 2019, Cotton was one of eleven senators to sign a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urging them "to work with all federal, state and local regulators, as well as the hundreds of independent power producers and electricity distributors nation-wide to ensure our systems are protected" and affirming that they were "ready and willing to provide any assistance you need to secure our critical electricity infrastructure."[96]

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.[97][98]

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.[99] Cotton has stated that "I believe Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were wrongly decided."[100] He was one of 183 co-sponsors of the version of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act introduced in 2013.[101]

Cotton has stated "I oppose the destruction of human embryos to conduct stem-cell research and all forms of human cloning."[100] 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."[102] In 2013, Cotton voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, saying that the federal powers in the act were too broad. His website, at the time of the vote stated, "Violence against women is unacceptable, period."[102][103]

In September 2013, Cotton was one of 103 co-sponsors of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.[104] 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.[105]

After the violent incidents surrounding the 2017 Unite the Right rally, Cotton issued a statement condemning white supremacism.[106]

In April 2019, Cotton described the Southern Poverty Law Center as being a "political hate group" and asked the IRS to check if the SPLC should retain its tax-exempt status.[107]

In July 2019, along with Pat Toomey and Todd Young, Cotton introduced the Government Bailout Prevention Act, a bill that would prohibit any arm of the federal government including the Federal Reserve System and Treasury Department from paying or guaranteeing state and local obligations in the event that state or local government entities file bankruptcy, default on debts or are at risk of bankruptcy or default. Cotton said the bill "would ensure American taxpayers aren’t stuck with the tab for the spending binges of a few irresponsible politicians."[108]

In June 2020, amid protests over the death of George Floyd, Cotton advocated that the military be used to support police, and to give "... No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters."[109][110] In the military, the term "no quarter" refers to the killing of lawfully surrendering combatants, which is a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Cotton subsequently said that he was using the “colloquial” version of the phrase and cited examples of Democrats and the mainstream media also using the phrase. [111][112]

Student loans

In August 2013, Cotton voted against the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, that sets interest rates on student loans to the 10-year Treasury note plus a varying mark up for undergraduate and graduate students.[113] Cotton preferred a solution that ended what he described as the "...federal-government monopoly on the student-lending business." His characterization referred to the provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that changed the way the federal government makes student loans.[114]

Foreign policy

US congressional delegation at Halifax International Security Forum 2014

Cotton's foreign policy views have been characterized as "hawkish".[115][116]

During a February 5, 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Cotton called for housing more prisoners at Guantanamo Bay instead of closing it. He also said of the prisoners in the camp "...every last one them can rot in hell, but as long as they don't do that they can rot in Guantanamo Bay".[117]

In September 2016, Cotton was one of thirty-four senators to sign a letter to United States secretary of state John Kerry advocating for the United States using "all available tools to dissuade Russia from continuing its airstrikes in Syria" from an Iranian airbase near Hamadan "that are clearly not in our interest" and stating that there should be clear enforcement by the US of the airstrikes violating "a legally binding Security Council Resolution" on Iran.[118]

In July 2017, Cotton voted in favor of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act that grouped together sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.[119]

In July 2017, Cotton co-sponsored the bi-partisan Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.270), which amended existing federal law that criminalized foreign-led boycotts of U.S. allies, by specifically prohibiting the support of foreign governments and organizations imposing a boycott on Israel. The proposal generated controversy as some interpreted the law as a restriction on activities by private citizens and potentially a violation of constitutional rights.[120][121] Others viewed it as a clarification of the existing Export Administration Act of 1979, in response to the 2016 United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions that called on corporations to re-assess business activities that may impact Palestinian human rights.[122]

In December 2018, after President Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops in Syria, Cotton was one of six senators to sign a letter expressing concern for the move and their belief "that such action at this time is a premature and costly mistake that not only threatens the safety and security of the United States, but also emboldens ISIS, Bashar al Assad, Iran, and Russia."[123]

In January 2019, Cotton was one of eleven Republican senators to vote to advance legislation intended to block President Trump's intent to lift sanctions against three Russian companies.[124]

In August 2019, Cotton revealed he suggested to Trump and the Danish ambassador that the U.S. should buy Greenland.[125][126]

Cotton supports U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies agreement, which lets nations use special aircraft to monitor each other's military activities. In 2018, Cotton asserted that the agreement was outdated and that it favored the interests of Russia.[127]


In 2018, Cotton was a cosponsor of the Countering the Chinese Government and Communist Party's Political Influence Operations Act, a bill introduced by Marco Rubio and Catherine Cortez Masto that would grant the U.S. Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) the authority to create an interagency task force with the purpose of examining attempts by China to influence the U.S. and key allies.[128]

In August 2018, Cotton and 16 other lawmakers urged the Trump administration to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against Chinese officials who are responsible for human rights violations in western China's Xinjiang region targeting the Uyghur ethnic minority.[129] They wrote in a bipartisan letter: "The detention of as many as a million or more Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in "political reeducation” centers or camps requires a tough, targeted, and global response."[130]

In February 2017, Cotton was part of a group of Senate Republicans that signed a letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi requesting Pelosi invite President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen to address a joint meeting of Congress. The request came amid heightened tensions between the US and China and was seen as angering Chinese leadership if extended by Pelosi.[131]

In May 2019, when asked about the impact of tariffs on farmers in Arkansas, Cotton admitted there would be "some sacrifices on the part of Americans, I grant you that, but I also would say that sacrifice is pretty minimal compared to the sacrifices that our soldiers make overseas that are fallen heroes that are laid to rest in Arlington make" and that farmers were willing to make sacrifices in order for the United States to fend off against Chinese attempts to displace the US globally.[132]

In May 2019, Cotton was a cosponsor of the South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act, a bipartisan bill reintroduced by Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin that was intended to disrupt China's consolidation or expansion of its claims of jurisdiction over both the sea and air space in disputed zones in the South China Sea.[133]

In July 2019, Cotton and Democrat Chris Van Hollen were the primary sponsors of the Defending America's 5G Future Act, a bill that would prevent Huawei from being removed from the "entity list" of the Commerce Department without an act of Congress and authorize Congress to block administration waivers for U.S. companies to do business with Huawei. The bill would also codify President Trump's executive order from the previous May that empowered his administration to block foreign tech companies deemed a national security threat from conducting business in the United States.[134]

In April 2020, Cotton said that Chinese students in the United States should be restricted to studying the Humanities and not allowed to obtain science-related degrees. In an interview with Fox News, Cotton said, "It is a scandal to me that we have trained so many of the Chinese Communist Party's brightest minds."[135][136]


Cotton was the first member of Congress to warn the Trump administration about the Corona virus. On 28 January, he urged the Trump Administration to halt commercial flights from China to the United States due to the developing threat of the virus. On 31 January, spurred in part by Cotton's warnings, the Trump Administration banned most travel from China.[137][138][139][140]

During a February 17, 2020 Fox News interview, Cotton said that the corona virus may have started in a "...biosafety level 4 super laboratory" in Wuhan, China. "Now we don’t have evidence that this disease originated there," Cotton said, "but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning we need to at least ask the question."[141] Subsequently, Cotton was widely criticized for promoting a "conspiracy theory" about the virus,[142] despite the fact that in 2018, US diplomats had sent warnings to Washington "...about safety and management weaknesses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology."[143][144]

Weeks later, U.S. intelligence officials were investigating the possibility that the virus started in the lab identified by Cotton.[145][146][147] An April 16, 2020 CNN story said that "An intelligence official familiar with the government analysis said a theory US intelligence officials are investigating is that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and was accidentally released to the public."[148]

Cotton has said he would hold China "accountable" for what it had done.[149] In an April 22, 2020 Wall Street Journal column written by Cotton, he pointed out that the January 24th edition of The Lancet reported that Chinese researchers had confirmed "... that the first known cases had no contact" with the Wuhan "wet market" many believed to be the source of the outbreak. Cotton went on to say that there was no evidence the market sold either bats or pangolins, believed to be the animals from which the virus jumped to humans, but both the WIV and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention were nearby facilities conducting virus research using bats.[150]

"This evidence is circumstantial, to be sure, but it all points toward the Wuhan Lab. Thanks to the Chinese coverup, we may never have direct, conclusive evidence -- intelligence rarely works that way -- but Americans can justifiably use common sense to follow the inherent logic of events to their likely conclusion."[150]


Cotton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July 2018

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.[151][152]

In March 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, casting doubt on the Obama administration's authority to engage in nuclear-proliferation negotiations with Iran.[153] 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.[154] Within hours, commentators[155][clarification needed] suggested that the letter prepared by Cotton constituted a violation of the Logan Act.[156][157] Questions also were raised as to whether it reflected a flawed interpretation of the Treaty Clause of the United States Constitution.[158]

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.[159] In addition, 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."[160]

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."[161]

Cotton defended the letter amid criticism that it undermined the president's efforts, "It's so important we communicated this message straight to Iran... No regrets at all... they already control Tehran, increasingly they control Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad and now Sana'a as well."[162][163][164] 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."[165]

Cotton received extensive financial 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.[166]

In July 2018, Cotton introduced the Iran Hostage Taking Accountability Act, a bill that would call for the president to compose a list of Iranians that were "knowingly responsible for or complicit in...the politically-motivated harassment, abuse, extortion, arrest, trial, conviction, sentencing, or imprisonment" of Americans and have those on the list face sanctions along with enabling the president to impose sanctions on their family members and bar them from entering the United States Cotton stated that Iran had not changed much since 1981 and called for Americans to avoid Iran and its borders as there were "many friendly countries in the region that you can visit where you'd be safer."[167]

In May 2019, Cotton said that in the event of a war with Iran, the United States could easily win in "two strikes. The first strike and the last strike."[115] He said there would be a "furious response" by the United States if there was any provocation from Iran.[115]


On 13 January 2018, in an interview on conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Cotton said that he expects Russian officials to "lie and deny" about the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, an ex-Russian spy on British soil.[168] After the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May gave Russia 24 hours to respond to the poison, Cotton said "I suspect the response will be the typical Russian response. They’ll lie and deny."[168] Cotton went on to suggest retaliatory measures that the U.K. and the U.S. could implement in response to Russia's alleged actions, including renewed sanctions on oil.[168]

Personal life

Cotton married attorney Anna Peckham in 2014. The couple have two children.[169] Their first child, a boy, was born on April 27, 2015.[170][171]

Cotton is a member of the United Methodist Church.[172]

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.[173]

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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  3. ^ "New Arkansas Rep. Cotton Draws Spotlight; 113th Congress Sworn In". Times Record News. January 4, 2013.
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  5. ^ a b c Bolduc, Brian (October 7, 2011). "G.I. Tom". National Review.
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  7. ^ "COTTON, Tom". United States Congress.
  8. ^ a b Toobin, Jeffrey (November 13, 2017). "Is Tom Cotton the Future of Trumpism?". The New Yorker.
  9. ^ ROGIN, ALI (July 18, 2016). "Tom Cotton: Everything You Need to Know". ABC News.
  10. ^ Stern, Seth. "For Freshman Senator Tom Cotton, politics and patriotism are nothing new". Harvard Law Today. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e "NATIONAL DEFENSE PAC today announces with extreme pride its endorsement of Congressman Thomas Cotton" (PDF) (Press release). National Defense PAC. October 6, 2014.
  12. ^ Cotton, Tom (May 31, 2017). "Congress must support Arlington expansion". Philadelphia Media Network.
  13. ^ Milbank, Dana (May 12, 2014). "Dana Milbank: For Tom Cotton, a military record is no magic bullet". The Washington Post.
  14. ^ "Tom Cotton Army Service Record". MuckRock.
  15. ^ Johnson, Scott (October 23, 2012). "A FATEFUL LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES". Power Line.
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  17. ^ Baumann, Nick (November 10, 2011). "The GOP Candidate Who Wants Journos Jailed". Mother Jones.
  18. ^ Calame, Byron (October 22, 2006). "Can 'Magazines' of The Times Subsidize News Coverage?". New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
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  21. ^ Joseph, Cameron (July 25, 2011). "Rep. Mike Ross to retire". The Hill.
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  41. ^ Fabian, Jordan; Wong, Kristina (July 26, 2015). "White House launches Iran side deals counterattack". The Hill.
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  73. ^ "4th District hopefuls split on health care law". Associated Press. September 26, 2012.
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  83. ^ Ali Vitali, Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as 'shithole' countries,, January 12, 2017.
  84. ^ Ashley Killough, January 12, 2017, CNN, 2 Republican senators in Trump meeting say they don't recall 'shithole' comment
    "...We do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system,..."
  85. ^ Ruth Brown, January 12, 2017, New York Post, "GOP lawmakers 'do not recall' Trump's 'shithole' slur", Retrieved January 14, 2017, "...Republican Sens. David Perdue and Tom Cotton say they "don't recall" President Trump "specifically" smearing Haiti and African nations as "shitholes" ..."
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  99. ^ "House Vote 251 – Approves New Abortion Restrictions". The New York Times.
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  106. ^ "Cotton Statement on the Violence in Charlottesville" (Press release). United States Senate. August 13, 2017.
  107. ^ 🖉Times, Valerie Richardson The Washington (April 3, 2019). "Tom Cotton calls for IRS to investigate Southern Poverty Law Center's tax-exempt status". AP NEWS.
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  119. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 115th Congress - 1st Session". July 27, 2017.
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  157. ^ Bump, Philip (March 9, 2015). "What an 18th century non-war with France has to do with the Senate's letter to Iran". The Washington Post.
  158. ^ Jaffe, Alexandra (March 11, 2015). "Obama, Iranian official slam GOP letter on deal". CNN.
  159. ^ "Obama mocks Republican letter to Iran over nuclear talks". BBC News. March 9, 2015.
  160. ^ Lavender, Paige (March 13, 2015). "Obama: 'I'm Embarrassed' For Republicans Who Sent Letter To Iran". The Huffington Post.
  161. ^ Zarif, Javad (March 9, 2015). "Dr. Zarif's Response to the Letter of US Senators". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Iran).
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  163. ^ "Face the Nation: March 15 Kerry, Cotton, Manchin". CBS News. March 15, 2015.
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  167. ^ Lockwood, Frank E. (July 20, 2018). "U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's bill targets Iran over captives". Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
  168. ^ a b c Cotton: Russia will 'lie and deny' about British spy poisoning. 13 March 2018. The Hill. Retrieved 24 march 2020.
  169. ^ Brantley, Max (March 17, 2014). "Tom Cotton still mum on marriage details". Arkansas Times.
  170. ^ Cotton, Tom (April 28, 2015). "Hello, world! Since everyone is asking, my name is Gabriel". Twitter.
  171. ^ Gangitano, Alex (December 7, 2016). "Sen. Tom Cotton Welcomes Second Child". Roll Call.
  172. ^ "TOM COTTON ANNOUNCES U.S. SENATE CAMPAIGN" (Press release). Tom Cotton. August 6, 2013.
  173. ^ Takala, Rudy (June 27, 2016). "Tom Cotton: 'Deterrence, once lost, is very hard to regain'". The Washington Examiner.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mike Ross
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Bruce Westerman
Party political offices
Title last held by
Tim Hutchinson
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Arkansas
(Class 2)

Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Mark Pryor
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Arkansas
Served alongside: John Boozman
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Chris Murphy
Baby of the Senate
Succeeded by
Josh Hawley
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
James Lankford
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Steve Daines