Every senator should follow Chris Coons’ example
The series of events this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee represent one of the lowest points in this new era of hyper-partisan Supreme Court confirmation politics.
This week saw several tears, senators excoriating their colleagues right in front of them, senators walking out of committee hearings and one specific senator getting scolded by a protester while cornered in an elevator.
The senator was Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). It was particularly notable because this past Friday, following a dramatic sequence of events, Flake forced the Senate to delay the floor vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. The delay would be for no more than a week, pending an F.B.I investigation into allegations of sexual assault made against him.
It is very widely known that Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) has many friends on the other side of the aisle, and that is something he takes pride in, as he should. One of those close friends is Flake.
When a reporter broke the news about Flake’s original intention to vote “yes” on Kavanaugh, Coons let out a quick expletive and got choked up.
It was a striking moment of humanity from Delaware’s junior Senator. It was abundantly clear that Coons was very disappointed in his friend’s position on this nomination, to say the least.
Coons then told the story about how everything unfolded to Nancy Cordes of CBS News.
Before the committee hearing began, Flake dramatically, but quietly, asked Coons to follow him into a side room. Flake then confided in Coons, as a friend, about how conflicted he was about what to do. They talked for a bit, and eventually Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking member, became involved. Coons then said that somehow it seemed like every senator on the committee was eventually there with them, but Flake made it clear that he wanted to talk to Coons alone, whom he specifically wanted input from.
Coons also talked to Cordes about the relationship that he observed between former titans of the senate: Joe Biden (D-Del.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who publicly remained very close until McCain’s recent death. They disagreed on many fundamental issues, but somehow found a way to enjoy each other’s friendship for decades, eventually providing strong support to the other’s family when each tragically went through a fight against the same type of brain cancer.
The fact that Flake sought Coons’ advice on a major decision for which he was facing intense pressure from both sides of the issue should stand out to every American. All Delawareans should be immensely proud that Coons’ guidance was sought and valued by Flake, a Republican, in a potentially career-changing moment
It could be said that the testimony by and questioning of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh made Sept. 27 the darkest day in the United States Senate in years. As someone who holds the Senate and its weird processes, protocols and traditions in very high regard, the whole day left me feeling incredibly pessimistic about the chamber’s future. The events of Friday, Sept. 28, however, have given me a bit more confidence in the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress.
Where does the Senate go from here? The answer to that question is not immediately clear, but what is unmistakable is that the Senate certainly needs more people like Chris Coons.
Jacob Wasserman is a sophomore political science and public policy student at the university. He is the President of the College Democrats of Delaware, and also a Senior Reporter at The Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.