Democratic Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) brought emotion in the Senate and tears to the eyes of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) according to a report on CNN. Coons act toward a member of the opposition Republicans is gold.
The setting was the committee’s tense vote on the nomination of current CIA Director Mike Pompeo for the recently vacated seat of Secretary of State, replacing the embarrassingly eliminated Rex Tillerson.
Pompeo’s ability to be confirmed by the committee and have his nomination move along to the full Senate was in serious question until the last moment after committee member Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) had joined all of the Democratic members of the body to indicate that they would oppose the nomination.
Senator Paul was strong-armed by President Trump into reversing his position, however, after assuring the libertarian-leaning Senator that Pompeo believed that “Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan,” all positions that Paul feels strongly about.
With Paul’s vote assured, the embarrassment of having Pompeo be the first Secretary of State nominee to be rejected by the committee in nearly a hundred years was averted. However, when the time came for the official vote, the Republicans were still one vote short of the total they needed since Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) could not be present for the tally due to a funeral he was attending.
The committee faced the prospect of reconvening late in the night once Senator Isakson returned from his mourning ceremony, but, realizing that the delay was only postponing the inevitable once the full Republican membership was present, Senator Coons decided to save everyone time and effort by changing his vote from “no” to “present” to allow the nomination to move forward without further delay.
Committee Chairman Senator Corker was so moved by Senator Coons’ politically accommodating behavior that he choked up as he thanked the Delaware legislator for his courtesy, despite the vote’s inevitability.
“I, in particular, want to thank Sen. Coons, for displaying the statesmanship that I’ve been accustomed to seeing in the Senate,” Corker said fighting back tears. “And I’m proud of him, I’m proud of our committee and I’m happy for the American people. I think it showed that senators, at the right time, can do outstanding things.”
Another committee member, Senator Jeff Flake, who like Corker has opposed Trump on occasion and has decided not to run for reelection in November, took to Twitter to praise his colleague from across the aisle.
Stand up move by @ChrisCoons. Decency wins.
— Jeff Flake
Pompeo’s nomination now goes to the full Senate floor for a final confirmation vote which he is expected to win after several politically vulnerable “Blue Dog” Democratic Senators from conservative Trump-supporting states announced their assent to Pompeo’s bid.
If only there was a Republican Senator with the decency of Chris Coons when President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court was not even allowed to advance to the committee stage. Hopefully the stance on moral high ground will eventually pay off for the Democrats in legislative success, but it’s doubtful that will happen before they regain majority control of both chambers of Congress.