Mark Pryor, U.S. Senator

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Mark Lunsford Pryor

Birthplace: Fayetteville, Washington County, Arkansas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of David H. Pryor, Governor, U.S. Senator and <private> Pryor (Lunsford)

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Immediate Family

About Mark Pryor, U.S. Senator

Mark Lunsford Pryor (born January 10, 1963) is an American politician who served as a United States Senator from Arkansas from 2003 to 2015. He is a member of the Democratic Party, and he was Attorney General of Arkansas from 1999 to 2003.

Born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Pryor is the son of former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator David Pryor. He received his bachelor's degree and law degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He worked in private practice for several years until being elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1990. He was elected the state Attorney General in 1998. Pryor announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2001, running for the same Senate seat his father had held from 1979 to 1997. He was elected with 54 percent of the vote.

He was re-elected with no Republican opposition in 2008. During the 112th Congress he served as the chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance. Pryor ran for re-election in 2014, but lost to Representative Tom Cotton.

Personal background

Pryor was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas to the former Barbara Lunsford and former Governor and U.S. Senator David Hampton Pryor. He is married to Jill Pryor, and has two children, Adams and Porter, as well as a dog named Nic. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and went on to receive his Juris Doctor from the university's law school in 1988. During college, he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Prior to entering politics, Pryor worked as a private practice attorney. He was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1991 to 1994. He was elected the state Attorney General in 1998 and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

Religious views

Pryor is featured in the 2008 Bill Maher documentary Religulous, in which he tells Maher that he could believe in Young Earth creationism, yet he also sees evolution as a feasible idea. He states at the beginning of the interview that he is an Evangelical Christian. He also states that he believes in the Rapture, and that "You don't need to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate".

According to author Jeff Sharlet, Pryor is affiliated with a political organization called the Family. Sharlet quoted Pryor as stating that through the Family he "had learned that the separation of church and state was a sort of secular exaggeration" and that "Jesus did not come to bring peace. Jesus came to take over."

U.S. Senate

In late 2001, Pryor announced his candidacy for the Senate seat held by Tim Hutchinson, who six years earlier had become the first Arkansas Republican to serve in that body since Reconstruction. The seat had been held by David Pryor, who actively campaigned for his son. Hutchinson's popularity was considerably dragged down by the fact that he had divorced his wife of 29 years and married a congressional aide, but Pryor didn't make an issue of it during the campaign.

Pryor defeated Hutchinson 54% to 46%. He was the only Democratic candidate for the Senate to defeat a Republican incumbent in that election cycle. He faced no major-party opposition in 2008, which is unusual for a freshman Senator. The only Republican to express interest in the race, health care executive Tom Formicola, decided not to run. His only announced opponent was Green candidate Rebekah Kennedy whom he defeated 80% to 20%.

There had been speculation that former Governor Mike Huckabee would run against Pryor if his presidential bid were unsuccessful, but on March 8, Huckabee said he wouldn't contest the race.

Somewhat atypically, he was, for 19 days in January 2009, the Baby of the Senate, despite not having previously held that distinction during his first term, because of the defeat of the younger John E. Sununu (elected in the same year as Pryor). He was succeeded by Michael Bennet (who himself held it for only five days before the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand). He also has the distinction of being the oldest Senator (at 45) to become Baby of the Senate.

Pryor places great emphasis on constituent service. He has a sign on his desk that reads "Arkansas comes first," as his father did when he held the seat.

Political positions

On May 23, 2005, Pryor was one of the 14 senators who forged a compromise on the Democrats' use of the judicial filibuster. This effectively ended any threat of a Democratic filibuster (and thus also avoided the Republican leadership's threatened implementation of the so-called nuclear option.) Under the agreement, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance." The threat of a filibuster removed, Republicans were able to force cloture on the three most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor-no relation), who subsequently passed a vote by the full Republican-controlled Senate. He did, however, vote against the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing his concerns over Alito's views on the president's powers during wartime.

On September 28, 2006, Pryor was one of 12 Senate Democrats who voted to adopt S.3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006. He voted against the flag burning amendment in June 2006, and against repeal of the Federal Inheritance/Estate Tax.

On March 15, 2007, Pryor was one of 2 Democratic Senators to vote against a resolution aimed at withdrawing most American combat troops from Iraq in 2008. The vote, requiring 60 votes to pass, was 50 to 48 against.

Pryor was one of six Democrats to vote for the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. In 2007, however, he called for Gonzales to resign due to the firing of eight federal prosecutors. One of the attorneys fired was Bud Cummins, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Pryor and his Senate colleague, Blanche Lincoln, both say that Gonzales promised Cummins' replacement, Tim Griffin, would go before the Senate for confirmation. In truth, Gonzales used a provision of the USA PATRIOT Act that allowed Griffin to bypass Senate confirmation.

Pryor and Lincoln were very upset when the details of Griffin's appointment came to light. In an angry speech before the Senate on March 15, Pryor said that Gonzales had "broken faith" with him regarding the Cummins affair, and therefore had lost his confidence. "When the Attorney General lies to a United States Senator," Pryor said, "I think it's time for that Attorney General to go."

In June 2007, before the annual Arkansas Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson dinner, Pryor announced his endorsement of his colleague Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who served as First Lady of Arkansas for 12 years, for the President of the United States. Pryor noted the ability and competence of Clinton as a Senator and former U.S. First Lady.

Pryor opposes bringing Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States for trial.

Pryor voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, but later voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

On December 18, 2010, Pryor voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

On April 16, 2012, Pryor was the only Democratic Senator to vote against the "Buffet Rule", which was defeated 51 voting in favor to 45 voting against cloture of the Filibuster.

Pryor has expressed opposition to abortion on demand, and voted in favor of the partial birth abortion ban; however, he has voted in favor of the expansion of embryonic stem cell research and has also voted no on restricting UN funding for population control policies, on prohibiting minors crossing state lines for abortion, and on barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions.

Committee assignments

Electoral history

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Mark Pryor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

January 10, 1963
Fayetteville, Washington County, Arkansas, United States