Christopher Andrew Coons (born September 9, 1963) is an American politician serving as the Junior United States Senator from Delaware since 2010. A member of the Democratic Party, he won a special election to succeed Ted Kaufman, who had been appointed to the seat when Joe Biden resigned to become Vice President of the United States. Previously, Coons was the county executive of New Castle County. Coons is the 1983 Truman Scholar from Delaware, and the first recipient of the award to serve in the United States Senate.
Raised in Hockessin, Delaware, Coons graduated from Amherst College, where he joined Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. He received graduate degrees from Yale Divinity School and Yale Law School. He went to work as a volunteer relief worker in Kenya, where he had taken classes in the University of Nairobi, later returning to the U.S. to work for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York. He spent some time as a legal clerk in New York before returning to Delaware in 1996, where he spent eight years as in-house counsel for a materials manufacturing company. In the interim he worked for several nonprofit organizations.
He worked on several political campaigns in his early career, including Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign. In college he switched from being a Republican to a Democrat, and in 1996 he became a delegate from Wilmington to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. His political career began in earnest on the New Castle County Council in 2000, where he served as council president. He was elected county executive in 2004 and served for six years. There he balanced the county budget with a surplus in fiscal year 2010 by cutting spending and raising taxes, and the county maintained a AAA bond rating.
Coons won the 2010 special election against the Republican candidate Christine O'Donnell. Coons was elected to a full term in 2014. Coons is currently the vice chair of the Senate Ethics Committee. His other committee assignments include Appropriations, Foreign Relations, Judiciary, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Coons previously served as ranking member of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy and the Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts.
Coons is the incoming co-chair for the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast. He previously co-chaired the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. Coons currently co-chairs the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast.
Senator Coons supports Roe v. Wade and that abortion should remain legal throughout the country. In 2015, Senator Coons signed on to an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Whole Woman's Health v. Cole case which urges the Court to step in to prevent states from creating laws that restricts a woman's access to abortion.
In June 2019, Coons and eighteen other Democratic senators sent a letter to USDA Inspector General (IG) Phyllis K. Fong with the request that the IG investigate USDA instances of retaliation and political decision-making and asserted that not conducting an investigation would mean these "actions could be perceived as a part of this administrationâ€™s broader pattern of not only discounting the value of federal employees, but suppressing, undermining, discounting, and wholesale ignoring scientific data produced by their own qualified scientists."
In 2019, Coons and 34 other senators introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, a bill that created 770,000 new child care jobs and that ensured families under 75 percent of the state median income did not pay for child care with higher earning families having to pay "their fair share for care on a sliding scale, regardless of the number of children they have." The legislation also supported universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3 and 4-year-olds and gave the child care workforce a changed compensation and training to aid both teachers and caregivers.
In April 2019, Coons was one of twelve senators to sign a bipartisan letter to top senators on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development advocating for the Energy Department to be granted with maximum funding for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), citing American job growth could be stimulated through investment in creating viable options to capture carbon emissions released into the atmosphere and expressing disagreement with the 2020 budget request of President Trump that called for combining the two federal programs that include carbon capture research.
As of 2010, Coons had a "F" rating from the National Rifle Association due to his stance on gun control. In 2015, Coons co-signed a letter to Obama, along with 23 other Democratic Senators, asking the president to take executive action on gun control in the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting. Coons supported the Feinstein Amendment, which sought to ban known and suspected terrorists from buying firearms. The next year, Coons participated in the Chris Murphy gun control filibuster.
In December 2010, Coons voted for the ratification of New START, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads as well as 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years along with providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.
Coons is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee and is a staunch supporter of Israel. He has also been a guest speaker at AIPAC events. Coons is also a co-sponsor of a Senate resolution expressing objection to the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories as a violation of international law.
In June 2017, Coons co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, Senate Bill 720, which made it a federal crime, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if protesting actions by the Israeli government. The bill would make it legal for U.S. states to refuse to do business with contractors that engage in boycotts against Israel. The bill has been vocally opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Coons condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis.
In October 2018, Coons was one of seven senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing that they found it "difficult to reconcile known facts with at least two" of the Trump administration's certifications that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were attempting to protect Yemen civilians and were in compliance with US laws on arms sales, citing their lack of understanding for "a certification that the Saudi and Emirati governments are complying with applicable agreements and laws regulating defense articles when the [memo] explicitly states that, in certain instances, they have not done so."
In November 2018, Coons joined Senator Marco Rubio and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in sending a letter to the Trump administration raising concerns about China's undue influence over media outlets and academic institutions in the United States. They wrote: "In American news outlets, Beijing has used financial ties to suppress negative information about the CCP. In the past four years, multiple media outlets with direct or indirect financial ties to China allegedly decided not to publish stories on wealth and corruption in the CCP...Beijing has also sought to use relationships with American academic institutions and student groups to shape public discourse."
In April 2019, Coons was one of thirty-four senators to sign a letter to President Trump encouraging him "to listen to members of your own Administration and reverse a decision that will damage our national security and aggravate conditions inside Central America", asserting that Trump had "consistently expressed a flawed understanding of U.S. foreign assistance" since becoming president and that he was "personally undermining efforts to promote U.S. national security and economic prosperity" through preventing the use of Fiscal Year 2018 national security funding. The senators argued that foreign assistance to Central American countries created less migration to the U.S., citing the funding's helping to improve conditions in those countries.
He is a supporter of free trade agreements. He has stated his opposition to the Obama-era government bailouts. He is against right-to-work laws, and supports internet sales tax.
In April 2019, Coons was one of forty-one senators to sign a bipartisan letter to the housing subcommittee praising the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building program as authorizing "HUD to partner with national nonprofit community development organizations to provide education, training, and financial support to local community development corporations (CDCs) across the country" and expressing disappointment that President Trump's budget "has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development." The senators wrote of their hope that the subcommittee would support continued funding for Section 4 in Fiscal Year 2020.
In May 2018, Coons was one of twelve senators to sign a letter to Chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority Colleen Kiko urging the FLRA to end efforts to close its Boston regional office until Congress debated the matter, furthering that the FLRA closing down its seven regional offices would cause staff to be placed farther away from the federal employees they protect the rights of.
In October 2018, Coons was one of twenty senators to sign a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging Pompeo to reverse the rolling back of a policy that granted visas to same-sex partners of LGBTQ diplomats who had unions which were not recognized by their home countries, writing that too many places around the world have seen LGBTQ individuals "subjected to discrimination and unspeakable violence, and receive little or no protection from the law or local authorities" and that the US refusing to let LGBTQ diplomats bring their partners to the US would be equivalent of America upholding "the discriminatory policies of many countries around the world."