Lawmakers in U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's home state of Arkansas are clearing the path for a 2020 White House bid that the freshman Republican hasn't even floated as a possibility.
The state Senate on Thursday gave initial approval to a proposal to allow U.S. Senate and congressional candidates in Arkansas to appear on the ballot as presidential or vice presidential candidates. The measure now heads to the state House.
Republican Sen. Bart Hester has said Cotton was the type of candidate he had in mind when he proposed the change in state law. Cotton was elected in November and has received national attention this week for writing a public letter, with 46 other GOP senators, to Iran about nuclear negotiations involving the United States.
"At the end of the day, (the vote) shows this isn't a partisan issue," Hester said after the Senate approved the measure 32-1.
Hester has compared the proposal to a Texas law that allowed Lyndon Johnson to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate and appear as the vice presidential nominee in 1960. The proposal also follows efforts in Kentucky to allow U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to run for re-election and president next year.
Cotton, who defeated two-term Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in November, hasn't publicly discussed any interest in running for president in 2020. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Hester said he's talked with Cotton about the legislation, but the senator didn't ask him to push for the change in state law.
"It could affect a whole lot of people. Obviously it gives him an option here in a few years," Hester said.
The proposal is being pushed after Cotton, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, authored the letter warning the leaders of Iran on Monday that any nuclear deal they cut with President Barack Obama could expire the day he leaves office.
Hester's proposal was approved without any discussion or debate. The one Democrat who opposed the measure, Sen. Stephanie Flowers, said she cast her vote as a referendum against the state's all-Republican congressional delegation.
"I can't imagine who we have in Congress that I'd like to be running for Congress and president or vice president," Flowers said.
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