New York Deomcratic Senator Chuck Schumer rarely shies away from confrontation. He’s no stranger to the spotlight, and specializes in offering up media friendly soundbites. Now, as the Senate Minority Leader, he’s got an even stronger platform. Yet he may want to pick his battles wisely, as he learned when he went up against Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton.
Schumer and Cotton got into a rather heated exchange regarding the confirmation of Trump’s pick to head the CIA, Mike Pompeo.
Schumer, concerned Senator Diane Feinstein’s absence from earlier confirmation hearings, had asked for a delay in the hearings for Pompeo and Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General. After much debate, the Republicans agreed. Yet they had one stipulation: confirm Pompeo in time for the inauguration.
That didn’t happen.
From The Weekly Standard:
But on January 19, one day before Trump’s inauguration, Ron Wyden said he’d seek to delay Pompeo’s confirmation when the Senate convened late Friday afternoon. That evening Cotton, who is close to Pompeo from their time together in the House of Representatives, began calling his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Wyden, seeking to avoid the delay. Some of the calls were cordial. Others were testy.
The Senate reconvened after the inaugural ceremonies on Friday, with Pompeo’s nomination set to come up at 4:50pm. Cotton angrily confronted Schumer about his broken promise. According to witnesses, Schumer told Cotton to lower his voice and asked him move off of the Senate floor to an adjacent hallway for a private discussion. “We need to take this out into the hallway,” Schumer said.
Cotton walked with Schumer but loudly rejected his first request. “Don’t tell me to lower my voice!” he shouted, with an additional salty admonition tacked on for emphasis. Burr and Cornyn were present, as was Senator Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and several aides.
Those familiar with the junior senator from Arkansas might have well advised Schumer to back off a bit. But they didn’t, and Schumer didn’t back off.
Schumer told Cotton that the Senate had never previously confirmed a CIA director on Inauguration Day and if Cotton had been around eight years earlier, he’d know that Republicans didn’t extend that courtesy for incoming president Barack Obama. “Eight years ago, I was getting my ass shot at in Afghanistan,” Cotton snapped. “So don’t talk to me about where I was 8 years ago.”
Hyperbole and metaphor aside, Cotton was in Afghanistan. When Cotton joined the Army, he was offered a the rank of Captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Instead he chose to go infantry. During his time in the Army Cotton was awarded the Bronze Star. He earned a Ranger Training Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and Iraq Campaign Medal.
Cotton asked Schumer why he’d gone back on his word. Schumer claimed that he’d only been speaking for himself when he promised to let Pompeo through. “I said that I would not block him,” Schumer said, emphasizing the personal pronoun, according to sources who witnessed the exchange. “I never said that I could speak for 47 other Democrats.”
There’s a lesson here for the Republicans. Shumer, the Senate Minority Leader, can’t speak for the 47 other Democrats.