Columns

Delaware Dem Advances Pompeo Nomination for the Sake of a Good GOP Friend

Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), left, and Chris Coons (D-Del.) arrive on Capitol Hill on Aug. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — A Democratic senator opposed to Mike Pompeo for secretary of State voted “present” Monday to advance the nomination after one of his best friends on the other side of the aisle had to miss the critical Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote.

There are 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats on the panel. But Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) was unable to make the 5 p.m. meeting, having just delivered the eulogy at his best friend’s funeral.

So, the Delaware Dem stepped in to give his good friend a hand.

“I’ve spoken to Johnny; I know how very demanding and draining this eulogy was for him today,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said during the meeting, explaining his “present” vote.

“This was not an act of courage or an abandonment of principles, it was simply a courtesy to a friend who would do the same for me,” he said in a statement after the meeting. “I think we need more of that in the Senate, and I think we need more of that in this country.”

After the vote, Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was driven to tears when thanking Coons for “displaying the statesmanship that I’ve been accustomed to seeing in the Senate — 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,” said Corker.

Isakson tweeted, “Thank you to @ChrisCoons for voting present at today’s committee vote on the secretary of state nomination to accommodate my absence after delivering the eulogy at the funeral of a close friend in Atlanta. You are a good friend, and your kindness and decency is much appreciated.”

Coons stressed he is against Pompeo and will vote against the nominee on the Senate floor, but told MSNBC that Pompeo couldn’t advance out of committee with one Republican senator missing.

“My good friend Johnny Isakson was home in Georgia, delivering a eulogy for his best friend that afternoon. The only that changing my vote to present did was change the hour of the vote — if I hadn’t done that, Senator Isakson would have been compelled to come to Washington last night, he could have gotten in at about 11, 11:30, and we would have reconvened and he would have had to cast the same vote,” Coons said. “So it didn’t change the outcome, but it did change the timing. And it was an opportunity for me to show a small measure of kindness and respect in the Senate.”