|United States Senator|
from North Carolina
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2015
Serving with Richard Burr
|Preceded by||Kay Hagan|
|Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives|
January 26, 2011 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Joe Hackney|
|Succeeded by||Tim Moore|
|Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives|
from the 98th district
January 24, 2007 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||John Rhodes|
|Succeeded by||John R. Bradford III|
Thomas Roland Tillis
August 30, 1960
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
|Relations||Rick Tillis (brother)|
|Education||Chattanooga State Community College|
University of Maryland University College (BA)
Thomas Roland Tillis (born August 30, 1960) is an American politician serving as the junior United States Senator from North Carolina since 2015. A member of the Republican Party, he is seeking reelection in 2020.
In 2006, Tillis was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives representing the 98th district, and in 2011, he was elected Speaker. He was elected to the United States Senate in 2014, defeating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.
Early life and education
Tillis was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Margie and Thomas Raymond Tillis, a boat draftsman. He was the oldest boy among six children, with three older sisters. By age 17, his family had moved 20 times, and Tillis never attended the same school in consecutive years, living in New Orleans and Nashville, among other places.
Following his 1978 graduation from high school, Tillis left home to get a job. He then attended Chattanooga State Community College before receiving a bachelor's degree in technology management from the University of Maryland University College in 1996.
After high school, Tillis worked at Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co. in Chattanooga, Tennessee, helping computerize records in conjunction with Wang Laboratories, a computer company in Boston. Wang eventually hired Tillis to work in its Boston office. He spent two and a half years there before being transferred back to Chattanooga, and then Atlanta. In 1990, he was recruited to work for accounting and consulting firm Price Waterhouse. In 1996, Tillis was promoted to partner. In 1998, he and his family moved to Cornelius, North Carolina.
PricewaterhouseCoopers sold its consulting arm to IBM in 2002 and Tillis went to IBM as well. Tillis began his political career in 2002 in Cornelius, as he pushed for a local bike trail and was elected to the town's park board. He ran for town commissioner in 2003 and tied for second place.
North Carolina House of Representatives
After a two-year term as town commissioner, Tillis ran for the General Assembly in 2006. He defeated incumbent John W. Rhodes in the Republican primary, and went on to win the election unopposed. Tillis was reelected unopposed in 2008, 2010 and 2012. He formally left IBM in 2009. He was campaign chairman for the House Republican Caucus in 2010. In that year's elections, Republicans won a majority in the North Carolina House for the first time in almost 20 years. The House Republican Caucus selected Tillis to be the next Speaker over Paul Stam. When the legislative session opened on January 26, 2011, he was elected the fifth Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House in the state's history.
In May 2011, Governing magazine named Tillis one of 17 "GOP Legislators to Watch" on the basis of such perceived qualities as leadership, ambition, and political potential. In the 2012 elections, the Republican Party added nine seats to its majority, winning 77 of the 120 House seats. In January 2013, Tillis was unanimously reelected Speaker of the House by the Republican Caucus. The state house overseen by Tillis enacted a complete restructuring of the state's tax code, including a reduction of personal and business income taxes, elimination of the estate tax, and a cap on the gas tax. It passed legislation to sunset existing state rules and regulations and limit new regulations to a ten-year duration, unless renewed by the state government. Under Tillis's leadership, the state house also passed voter-identification legislation that was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court.
- Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
- Committee on Armed Services
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Committee on Veterans' Affairs
- Special Committee on Aging
In keeping with an earlier promise to serve only four terms (eight years) in the state house, Tillis announced that he would not run for reeelection to the legislature. Instead, he ran for U.S. Senate against first-term incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. In the Republican primary, he was endorsed by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, then-North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The New York Times called Tillis a "favorite of the party establishment."
During his primary campaign, Tillis skipped four candidate forums in an effort to avoid lesser-known rivals in the crowded field, and to cement his image as the "inevitable nominee". But he participated in several televised debates with the four major Republican primary candidates. According to the National Journal, Tillis was criticized during the Republican primary campaign for raising money for his Senate campaign from groups lobbying the state house, which is allowed because he is running for federal office.
Tillis was announced the winner of the Senate race at approximately 11:30 PM on November 4. He received 48.82% of the vote, the lowest winning total in North Carolina history for a U.S. Senate candidate.
During the campaign, Tillis paid $30,000 to Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm. The North Carolina Republican Party paid the firm $150,000 during the campaign. Cambridge Analytica touted its role in Tillis's campaign on its website and listed the race as a case study. Tillis paid Cambridge Analytica $25,000 in 2015. In March 2018, Facebook banned Cambridge Analytica after reports that the firm had illicitly obtained information about Facebook users. Questions were raised as to whether the Tillis campaign benefitted from Cambridge Analytica's illicit activities and whether Cambridge Analytica's role in the race was enough to swing the election.
According to Politico, Tillis "began the Trump era by negotiating with Democrats on immigration and co-authoring legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. He even briefly opposed President Donald Trump's national emergency to build a border wall." In order to stave off a conservative challenger in his 2020 Republican primary, Tillis began to increasingly align himself with Trump, a move Politico described as "a shrewd political strategy amid a well-funded primary challenge from Garland Tucker, a conservative businessman who paints Tillis as an enemy of the Trump agenda."  As of May 2020, Tillis had voted with Trump's stated positions 93.3% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Tillis opposes abortion. In 2011, while speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, he helped the House pass a law, later struck down by the courts, requiring abortion providers to perform an ultrasound on women seeking abortions. When the law was struck down, Tillis said that the ultrasound provision was "the most critical part of the law" and that the decision should be appealed. In 2012 he voted to defund Planned Parenthood in North Carolina.
In 2014, a Tillis spokesman told The Washington Post that Tillis would support a personhood bill if it were brought to the Senate floor, but only if abortion would continue to be legal "in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger" and if women would continue to "have access to contraceptives."
Health care and public health
Tillis opposes the Affordable Care Act and voted to repeal it. He has said that health care is "not a government responsibility" and that he would "do everything in his power to overturn Obamacare."
In 2018, Tillis introduced legislation forcing insurers to cover patients with preexisting conditions, but a loophole would have left most patients with preexisting conditions without coverage. Within hours of introducing the bill, Tillis backtracked and pulled his support for his own legislation.
Tillis opposes public health regulations such as requiring restaurant employees to wash their hands. He believes the regulations are unnecessary and that restaurants' hand-washing policies should instead be publicized so that people can decide for themselves.
Following Trump's cancellation of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") executive order, Tillis announced his intention to propose legislation to give illegal immigrants who arrived before January 1, 2012, and are under age 16 ("Dreamers") legal status and allow them to remain in the US for five years with a pathway to citizenship. The proposal would grant high school graduates without a serious criminal record conditional immigration status for a five-year period. During that time, if they earn a higher-education degree, serve in the military or stay employed, they could apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship. About 2.5 million DREAMers would be eligible.
In February 2019, Tillis authored an op-ed in the Washington Post opposing Trump's national emergency declaration concerning the southern border in order to use funding from Department of Defense to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. In March 2019, he reiterated his opposition, saying, "I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress."
Tillis faced pressure from Trump and conservatives to support the emergency declaration, and some conservatives proposed a primary challenge against Tillis in 2020. A week after he made his statement reiterating his opposition, Tillis reversed his position and voted in favor of Trump's declaration.
In 2014, Tillis opposed increasing the federal minimum wage. He suggested the government should not set a minimum wage, labeling it an "artificial threshold." "I have serious concerns with the discussion around minimum wage because it drives up costs and it could harm jobs," Tillis said after making his bid official at the State Board of Elections in Raleigh. "Obviously we want people to be paid a wage that could help make ends meet, but when you increase artificially the cost of labor to do a job, then oftentimes those jobs will just go away."
Tillis has faced some blowback for comments on welfare he made in October 2011, which Washington Post columnist Greg Sargeant said evoked Romney's "47%" remarks. In a video, Tillis said we have to "divide and conquer" some people receiving public assistance by getting those who really need it to shame others who "choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government."[failed verification]
Tillis rejects the scientific consensus on climate change and has said that climate change "is not a fact." In 2015, he voted against an amendment saying human activity is a contributor to climate change but in 2018 he said human activity was a contributing factor. In a 2018 interview, Tillis said he had shifted his position and now believed climate change is happening, but remains unclear about whether he agrees with scientists that it is human-caused.
In February 2019, in response to reports that the EPA intended not to set drinking water limits for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as part of an upcoming national strategy to manage those chemicals, Tillis was one of 20 senators to sign a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler calling on the agency "to develop enforceable federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, as well as institute immediate actions to protect the public from contamination from additional per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)."
Tillis has an "A+" rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). In 2014, the NRA endorsed him in his senate race. As of 2017, Tillis was the fourth most funded recipient of the NRA, totaling $4,418,012 in donations.
In response to the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Tillis voted for two Republican-backed bills, neither which passed the Senate. One bill would have expanded background checks and the other would have delayed gun sales for 72 hours for individuals on the terrorist watchlist while they were investigated by federal authorities. He also rejected two Democratic-sponsored bills, including the Feinstein Amendment which would have banned any individual on the terrorist watchlist from purchasing a gun and a second that would have required background checks at gun shows and during online sales.
Internet and technology
In March 2017, Tillis voted for the Broadband Consumer Privacy Proposal that removed the FCC's internet privacy rules and allowed internet service providers to sell customers' browsing history without their permission.
In 2020, Tillis sent letters to the California-based Internet Archive. The initial letters were sent in April and were in regard to the Internet Archive's National Emergency Library, created because the Coronavirus pandemic caused libraries to temporarily shut down. Tillis argued that the Internet Archive was deciding to "re-write copyright law at the expense of authors, artists, and creators"; the Internet Archive argued that it was a licensed library in the state of California and that the Copyright Act of 1976 "provides flexibility to libraries and others to adjust to changing circumstances." Despite restricting available titles to those older than five years and a method to remove a title, the National Emergency Library ended early due to a lawsuit. In June, Tillis took issue with the Internet Archive's Great 78 Program, which attempts to archive 78 rpm disc records digitally and physically. Tillis wrote, "your sound recording projects do not appear to comply with the relevant provisions of the Music Modernization Act, which deals only with pre-1972 sound recordings and would not allow for streaming or downloading." In fact, the Music Modernization Act allows for noncommercial use of audio recording made before 1972.
In 2012, then-Speaker Tillis played a leading role in pushing for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as occurring between one man and one woman. The measure ultimately passed. Following the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage, Tillis announced that he would oppose the ruling in his role as Speaker. This stance was relatively unique among major elected North Carolina Republican officials at the time, as even then-Governor Pat McCrory accepted the ruling.
In 2015, shortly after taking office in the Senate, Tillis voted in favor of an amendment to a non-binding resolution that would allow same-sex married couples living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage to have access to government resources.
Tillis and his wife, Susan, live in Cornelius, North Carolina, and have two children. Tillis previously twice married and divorced a girlfriend from high school. His brother, Rick, is a state representative in Tennessee.
On May 17, 2017, while participating in a three-mile race at Anacostia Park in Washington, D.C., Tillis collapsed and was taken to a hospital by ambulance. Later that day, he was released from the hospital.
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- Internet Archive Defends Massive Online ‘Emergency Library’ Bloomberg Law
- Senator Tillis Angry At The Internet Archive For Helping People Read During A Pandemic; Archive Explains Why That's Wrong Techdirt
- Let Internet Archive thrive The Editorial Board - The Blade
- This Senator Is Seemingly Obsessed With Threatening the Internet Archive Vice Media
- Senator Thom Tillis Seems Really Pissed Off That The Internet Archive Bought A Record Store To Make Rare Recordings Accessible Techdirt
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- Senator Thom Tillis official U.S. Senate website
- Campaign website
- Thom Tillis at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from North Carolina
| U.S. Senator (Class 2) from North Carolina
Served alongside: Richard Burr
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority
|114th||Senate: R. Burr • T. Tillis||House: D. Price • W. B. Jones II • G. K. Butterfield • V. Foxx • P. McHenry • R. Ellmers • G. Holding • R. Hudson • M. Meadows • R. Pittenger • A. Adams • D. Rouzer • M. Walker|
|115th||Senate: R. Burr • T. Tillis||House: D. Price • W. B. Jones II • G. K. Butterfield • V. Foxx • P. McHenry • G. Holding • R. Hudson • M. Meadows • R. Pittenger • A. Adams • D. Rouzer • M. Walker • T. Budd|