Tom Cotton: Everything You Need to Know

Cotton is slated to speak at the RNC.

ByABC News
July 18, 2016, 4:57 PM

— -- Name: Thomas Bryant Cotton

Party: Republican

Date of Birth: May 13, 1977

Age: 39

What He Does Now: U.S. senator from Arkansas

What He Used to Do: Served in U.S. House from 2013 to 2014. Worked at McKinsey & Company management consulting firm. Previously, Cotton was inspired by the 9/11 attacks to join the U.S. Army and served in Iraq and Afghanistan for five years, from 2005 to 2009, with the 101st Airborne and a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Between his two combat tours, Cotton served with The Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, a prestigious unit that oversees the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Cotton received, among other honors, the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Ranger Tab. Cotton has degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and also served a clerkship with the U.S. Court of Appeals and at a private law practice.

Hometown: Dardanelle, Arkansas

Family Tree: Cotton, a sixth-generation Arkansan, and his wife, Anna, have one son, Gabriel. His parents run a cattle farm in Yell County, Arkansas. Cotton’s father volunteered to serve in Vietnam.

Key Life/Career Moments:

  • Began active duty service with the U.S. Army on Jan. 11, 2005 (according to FOIA’d Army docs), having been inspired to serve his country after the 9/11 attacks. He said he would have started his service earlier but wanted to pay off his student loans and also felt “duty-bound to the judge who had hired” him.
  • Spent only seven months in the U.S. House before announcing his ultimately successful bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.
  • Catapulted to electoral success after the conservative Club for Growth invested early in his U.S. Senate campaign.
  • Led the drafting of an open letter to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” saying that Senate Republicans viewed the Iran deal as “nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei” because Congress did not ratify the agreement, and that the next president could revoke the deal “with the stroke of a pen.”
  • Opposed a Senate criminal justice reform package and said in May that the United States has an “under-incarceration problem.”
  • What You Might Not Know About Him:

  • Cotton played basketball on his high school’s team, the Sand Lizards.
  • Cotton’s parents, Len and Avis Cotton, are longtime Democrats who supported Bill Clinton as their governor and president, according to The Atlantic.
  • There was once discussion as to whether or not Cotton was a real person after a letter he wrote to the The New York Times went viral among conservative bloggers -- there is also a hobbit named “Tom Cotton” in the Tolkien trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings."
  • What He Has Said About Trump:

  • On March 25, he said on "Morning Joe": “Well, I think he could be the commander-in-chief. He's one of our leading candidates, and as I said, any of our candidates right now would be a better commander-in-chief.”
  • Cotton met with Trump in March, telling "Morning Joe," “I didn't hear much different from what we've heard in public."
  • On Trump’s view that the U.S. does too much to prop up NATO, Cotton said he agrees but said the solution is to get other countries to contribute more money: “He identified a serious problem that I've tried to address, along with some of my colleagues," Cotton said. "I would just have a slightly different solution to that problem."
  • On May 11, US News quoted Cotton as saying,: “I've said all along, I'll support the nominee, because we can't afford another term of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy or for that matter, economic policy at home. And now Donald Trump's the presumptive nominee. So we obviously need to do some work to unify around our common and shared principles and Donald's got the responsibility and opportunity to do that in the coming weeks.”
  • “Well, I'd certainly advise him. I'd advise anyone who asked me for that. The most immediate thing I would say that we need to do to restore our capabilities around the world is an emergency supplemental spending bill for our military next year. If you extrapolate out what [former Secretary of Defense] Bob Gates predicted we would need in 2017, we're probably somewhere between $80 and $100 billion short, and you see that all around the world. In the end, there's a lot of stuff to change on our foreign policy, but foreign policy without military capability is largely empty.”
  • On June 8, the Washington Times reported that: Cotton encouraged Trump to campaign on beefing up military spending: “I suggested to Donald Trump the last time we spoke that that’s a very important policy we need to pursue,” the Arkansas Republican said at a forum hosted by The Heritage Foundation. “It’s also a winning political issue.”
  • On July 3 on NBC, Cotton said: “Donald Trump can ultimately make the case for himself … Donald Trump, like most Americans, like most Republicans, believes in protecting America's core national interests. He believes as do I, as do most Americans, that we aren't yet doing enough to take the fight to the Islamic State... .It's important to remember that whatever the presidential candidates of either party say, they will have to interact with the United States Congress, particularly the Senate, when it comes to crafting policy ... we play an important role. And I'm going to continue to play that role whoever is president.”