Senator Chris Coons Committee Assignments
Chris Coons has worked hard to find bipartisan solutions to the issues facing Delaware and the nation. He has emerged as a strong voice for job creation and the innovation economy, fighting in Congress for deficit reduction, progressive social justice, and forward-looking foreign policy. Unwilling to be sidelined by partisan gridlock, Chris has worked tirelessly to build relationships with his Republican and Democratic colleagues to find creative ways to get results for the people of Delaware. In March 2017, the Bipartisan Policy Center recognized Chris for his commitment to working across the aisle and awarded him its Legislative Action Award. In November 2016, the independent congressional tracking website GovTrack ranked Chris in the top three most productive Senators of both parties.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations, Foreign Relations, Judiciary, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Ethics committees, Chris is uniquely positioned to nurture American innovation and make the United States more competitive in the global marketplace. He is the senior Democrat on two subcommittees: the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. court and bankruptcy systems, and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which funds a broad array of government agencies – including those responsible for carrying out critical Wall Street reforms.
Putting pragmatism ahead of politics, Chris has partnered with Republicans to draw attention to a number of key issues facing Delaware and the United States. Chris and Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas founded the Senate Competitiveness Caucus to support policies that promote U.S. innovation and competitiveness in the global economy.
Along with Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, Chris founded and leads the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, which aims to strengthen local, state, and federal public safety efforts and improve police-community relations. Chris also worked with Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia to establish the Senate Chicken Caucus, through which the Senators helped persuade South Africa to eliminate longstanding barriers to U.S. poultry imports for the first time in 15 years. He’s also the co-founder of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, which he leads with Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Chris’ top priority as a Senator is fighting for Delaware, and he has hosted dozens of job fairs throughout the First State to help veterans and Delawareans of all backgrounds find work. Committed to harnessing the economic potential of American innovation, Senator Coons is leading a campaign in the Senate to refocus Washington’s attention on manufacturing jobs. The Manufacturing Jobs for America (MJA) initiative aims to build bipartisan support for legislation that will modernize America’s manufacturing sector, help our manufacturers grow and create jobs, and equip American workers with the skills to succeed in the next generation of manufacturing jobs.
MJA has already led to some real bipartisan successes. Chris’s bipartisan Manufacturing Universities legislation, which supports manufacturing and engineering training at U.S. universities, was signed into law in December 2016. In December 2015, Chris’s proposal to extend the R&D tax credit to startups and small businesses was signed into law by President Obama.
Having spent eight years working in the private sector for an advanced materials manufacturing company in Delaware, Chris knows firsthand how important intellectual property protections are to promoting investments in breakthrough technologies and cures. On the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chris has fought to strengthen and modernize our nation’s patent system and establish new protections for American inventions and innovations. In May 2016, President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act, a bill that Chris introduced with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah to provide federal legal protections for trade secrets of U.S. companies in Delaware and across the country.
Chris knows that Delaware can’t reach its economic potential at home if we don’t maintain American leadership throughout the world. That’s why he’s used his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to advocate for key foreign policy and national security priorities, from introducing a bill to establish a Senate Select Committee on Cyber Security with Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado to speaking at The Brookings Institution on the importance of pushing back on Russian aggression. Chris knows that a safe and secure world depends on clear-eyed American leadership – and he is confident that we can keep our country safe without jeopardizing our fundamental values.
A member of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, Chris has emerged as an important voice on the continent’s security challenges and economic opportunities. He is focused on building partnerships throughout Africa and ensuring that health programs, food aid, economic development, and security assistance effectively reach those who need it most. Chris has worked to improve access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa; engage businesses in expanded trade and investment opportunities; end preventable maternal and child deaths; protect wildlife from trafficking; and promote peace, democracy, and human rights across the continent.
Every fall, Chris brings business and nonprofit leaders from around the world to Wilmington as part of his annual “Opportunity: Africa” conference, which seeks to promote trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa. Chris’ commitment to the continent stems from his interest in African affairs that began long before he became a U.S. Senator. In college, Chris spent a semester studying at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. He returned to the continent in the late 1980s to work with the South African Council of Churches in the anti-apartheid movement.
Chris’ election to the Senate in 2010 capped a decade of successful service in New Castle County government. In four years as New Castle County Council President and six years as New Castle County Executive, Chris earned a reputation for delivering real results on behalf of Delawareans and supporting the county during the least stable economic climate in decades. Chris balanced six budgets by eliminating wasteful spending and created jobs through innovative public-private partnerships. His Safe Streets partnership removed dangerous parole violators from Delaware neighborhoods and cleaned up dozens of the worst county properties. He also preserved thousands of acres of open space and fought for an independent ethics commission to make county government more transparent.
Prior to serving as County Executive, Chris worked as an attorney for Delaware-based W.L. Gore & Associates, one of the 200 largest privately held companies in the United States. As a law student, Chris founded the Delaware chapter of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, which helps low-income students make the academic journey from elementary school through college. Shortly after receiving his law degree and clerking on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, he began working at the organization's national office, where he launched and ran its AmeriCorps program in fifteen cities. In this program, AmeriCorps members help recruit and train volunteers to mentor students participating in the Foundation’s college-attainment program.
Chris graduated from Amherst College with a B.A. in Chemistry and Political Science, and earned his law degree from Yale Law School and a Master's in Ethics from Yale Divinity School. Senator Coons grew up attending Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church and was an ordained elder with West Presbyterian Church. He continues to preach occasionally at houses of worship across Delaware. In February 2017, he and Republican Senator John Boozman of Arkansas co-chaired the 65th National Prayer Breakfast, an annual tradition dating back to President Eisenhower that brings over 4,000 people of all backgrounds, faiths, and political parties together through a celebration of spirituality and prayer.
Chris holds two honorary degrees, a doctorate in public administration from Goldey-Beacom College and an honorary law degree from Widener University Delaware Law School.
Chris grew up in the Pike Creek and Hockessin areas and lives in Wilmington with his wife, Annie, and their three children, Michael, Jack, and Maggie.
Coons grew up in Hockessin, a suburb of Wilmington, Delaware. After attending preparatory school, he went to Amherst College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and chemistry in 1985. A recipient of a Truman scholarship, Coons spent his junior year in Kenya, taking courses at the University of Nairobi. Coons later enrolled at Yale University and earned (1992) both a master’s degree in religion from the Yale Divinity School and a doctorate in jurisprudence from Yale Law School.
As a teenager, Coons worked on the 1980 presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan and the 1982 senatorial campaign of Delaware’s William Roth; both of the candidates were Republicans. In the mid-1980s, however, Coons moved to the Democratic Party. In 1996, after having worked in South Africa and for a nonprofit organization concerned with caring for the homeless, he became legal counsel to a Delaware textile manufacturer. Also that year he married Annie Lingenfelter, and the couple later had three children.
Coons’s political career began in 2000, when he was elected to the New Castle County Council in Delaware. He became county executive in 2005, serving until 2010. That year he entered a special electoral race to fill a U.S. Senate seat and defeated controversial Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell by almost 17 points.
After taking office in November 2010, Coons developed a reputation as a moderate Democrat, supporting abortion rights, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and other broadly accepted party positions while breaking with them, and Pres. Barack Obama, on occasion. Much of his criticism of the Obama administration focused on foreign policy, notably its response to the Syrian Civil War. Coons was instrumental in the passage of several pieces of legislation protecting women’s and children’s rights. While on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he dedicated himself to programs for job creation and the revitalization of domestic manufacturing.