Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker held back tears when describing to reporters how he felt about Democratic Sen. Chris Coons' decision to vote "present" during an important committee vote.
While voting on whether CIA Director Mike Pompeo's nomination to be secretary of state would advance out of the committee with a favorable vote to the Senate floor, Coons voted "present," which let the nomination go forward by 11-9 on Monday even though GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia missed the vote because he was at a funeral.
"I, in particular, want to thank Sen. Coons, for displaying the statesmanship that I've been accustomed to seeing in the Senate," Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said while choking up. "And 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."
Under Senate rules, a member who is not present cannot cast the determinative vote. If the Delaware Democrat hadn't voted "present," Corker had said he'd hold the vote open until Isakson returned to Capitol Hill, which would be around 11 p.m. ET. In order to speed things up, Coons -- having already publicly voted against Pompeo's nomination -- voted present to move the nomination out of committee.
Coons and Corker could be seen hugging at the end of the vote.
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona also praised Coons for the move, writing on Twitter, "Stand up move by @ChrisCoons. Decency wins."
Democrats have raised concerns with what they view as Pompeo's hawkish posture on foreign policy and lack of willingness to stand up to President Donald Trump, who has a well documented close relationship with the current CIA chief.