John Cornyn
Sen.

John Cornyn

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Party R
State TX
Years in DC 14
Next Election 2020

LibertyScore®

F 42%

Cornyn at a Glance

John Cornyn is the senior senator from Texas.  He served as a district judge in Texas from 1985 until 1991. He was then elected to the Texas Supreme Court, a position he held for six years. In 1998, he was elected Texas Attorney General, serving one four-year term before running for Senate in 2002. He was re-elected to the Senate for a third term in 2014.  

Cornyn has risen through the ranks of the Republican conference fairly quickly. In 2006, he was selected as Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. He served for four years as the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In this role, Cornyn towed the party line and did not endorse conservative candidates like now-senators: Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. In the 2010 Florida primary, he explicitly endorsed Charlie Crist over Rubio.

In 2012, he was elected Senate Minority Whip under leader Mitch McConnell. He serves on the Budget, Finance, and Judiciary Committees. He chairs the Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness and the Judiciary Subcommittee on The Constitution. Overall, Cornyn is a reliable vote for Republicans yet has not led many conservative fights, despite his official leadership position. Since the arrival of Senator Ted Cruz, Cornyn has moved the right on fiscal issues.   

Because Senator Cornyn serves on the Judiciary Committee and represents Texas, he is closely watched by his peers and the media when immigration issues arise.  Cornyn seems to flirt with supporting amnesty during each push of the issue since 2006, but ultimately withdraws at the last moment. Since 2013, he has attempted to offer a watered down border amendment which conservative groups argued would have provided cover for supporting the Gang of 8 amnesty bill. More recently, Cornyn has expressed his support for the DREAM Act.[1]

As Minority Whip, Cornyn has the unique position of being able to influence other members of the Republican Party. However, he has worked counter to several conservative initiatives; examples include major budget battles and opposing the effort to defund Obamacare.  As is the case with official positions in Leadership, Cornyn will vote against a bill, but decline to use his official Leadership position to encourage members to unite behind the conservative position.  However, Cornyn has consistently supported social conservative causes and has been a reliable vote for defending and advancing 2nd Amendment rights.              

There is no other state more important to conservatives than Texas. Texas has lead the way on rejecting the Medicaid expansion, EPA regulations, Common Core, and pushing for a secure border and interior enforcement. Yet, Cornyn seems to take a wait and see approach to several of these issues despite the leadership show at the state level in Texas. As the Republican Whip Cornyn has the potential to one day be Majority or Minority Leader in the Senate and that alone makes him one of the most important members to watch. 

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[1] Since 2013 he attempted a watered down voter bill, more recently Cornyn has expressed support for the DREAM Act.  

What You Don't See on the Scorecard

Check and Balances:
  • On October 20, 2011, John Cornyn posted on Facebook, “’Checks and balances’ protect our liberty and distinguishes our political system from the rest of the world.[1]  Less than four months before this post, Cornyn voted[2] to allow the president to appoint 200 appointees going forward without a Senate vote. This bill, which became law, dramatically reduced the level of checks and balances in our system.
Immigration:
  • Although Senator Cornyn has voted against final amnesty bills on the Senate floor, he has been a participant in helping forge a compromise. In 2013, although his border amendment was rejected by Democrats, it helped revive the beleaguered Gang of 8 bill and eventually gave rise to the Corker-Hoeven compromise and final passage. In the wake of the summer of 2014 border crisis, when conservatives were united in rejecting the president’s request for more border funding, Cornyn proposed a plan which largely approved the funding request in return for provisions that sounded good but did not address the underlying issue- lack of enforcement.  It also permitted illegals who were deported to re-litigate their cases[3].
  • Cornyn voted against the DREAM Act in 2010. Yet in 2011, he stated publicly, "the Dream Act is, in fact, the engine that could help pull the train for credible immigration reform."[4]  In 2013, Cornyn was viewed as a must-have and get-table vote by proponents of the Gang of Eight plan. He joined Democrats to vote the bill out of Judiciary Committee. On Twitter, he expressed a desire to pass something because in his estimation it was “better than the status quo.[5]” He later voted to proceed with debate and to bring the bill to the floor.
  • He offered an amendment to the Gang of 8 bill, the “RESULTS Amendment”, containing four triggers necessary for a change in status from 'registered provisional immigrant' to legal resident. He noted that he would've been open to a pathway to citizenship if his RESULTS amendment had been included in the final legislation. His amendment was criticized by conservatives as another example of amnesty first and promises of enforcement 10 years from now[7]. Ultimately, Cornyn voted against the comprehensive plan that passed the Senate 68-32.[8]
  • After opposing the Gang of Eight's plan in 2013, by January 2014, Cornyn was repeating the talking points of pro-amnesty Republicans: “We can win in 2014 without resolving it. We can’t win in 2016 without resolving it.”[9]
  • Cornyn’s top political aide, Rob Jesmer, is the campaign manager for FWD – Mark Zuckerberg’s pro amnesty PAC that has placed deceptive ads trying to persuade conservatives that they are not supporting amnesty. [10],[11]  The group also ran ads attacking conservatives like Steve King for not supporting amnesty.[12]


[1]https://www.facebook.com/Sen.JohnCornyn/posts/262255973811166?comment_id=3500921&offset=0&total_comments=38

[2] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=1&vote=00101

[3] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/07/16/Anti-Amnesty-Group-Cornyn-s-New-Immigration-Bill-Doesn-t-Fix-2008-Trafficking-Law

[4] Fawn Johnson, Absent Action, Cornyn has a lot to say on immigration, National Journal (June 28, 2011).

[5] http://dailycaller.com/2013/06/10/an-alternative-to-the-gang-of-8/

[7] http://dailysignal.com/2013/06/17/senator-cornyns-border-security-amendment-doesnt-cut-it/

[8] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00168

[9] http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/inside-boehner-s-election-year-immigration-strategy-20140114

[10] http://www.fwd.us/washington_dc

[11] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/05/07/FWD-us-Gloats-After-Buying-Deceptive-Amnesty-Ads-to-Help-Rep-Ellmers-Win-Primary

[12] http://time.com/67944/zuckerberg-immigration-group-targets-steve-king/

Legislation & Initiatives

Education:

  • Introduced A-Plus Act. Supported by conservatives because it countermands NCLB requirements and allows states flexibility to spend the money the way they see fit [1] conservative position

Second Amendment:

  • Cornyn introduced a concealed-carry reciprocity bill to Manchin-Toomey [2] conservative position

Food & Drug Administration:

  • In a move highly criticized by conservatives, Cornyn teamed with Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to co-sponsor a bill that expands FDA power to regulate tobacco [3],[4] liberal position
Obamacare:
  • Cornyn removed his name from Senator Mike Lee's letter urging Congress to defund Obamacare and refusing to support any government spending bill that funds implementation or enforcement of Obamacare.[5] When asked about his name being removed, Cornyn's staff replied that he supports defund but did not want to risk a government shutdown. Staff also explained that after "reviewing the letter, Cornyn decided the best approach was Senator Cruz's bill [to defund Obamacare]."[6] liberal position

Immigration:

  • Cornyn worked with Senator Kyl (R-AZ) to offer an immigration plan in 2005, the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act. The bill was criticized by conservatives for putting illegal immigrants ahead of legal immigrants in the line for visas. [8] liberal position
  • In July 2014, Cornyn joined with fellow Texan, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) to introduce the Humane Act in response to the swell of unaccompanied minors coming into the U.S. from the southern border. The bill would make it easier to deport these minors back to their home countries in Central America by trumping current trafficking law that requires that the children be released to the custody of relatives as they wait for their court dates. Cornyn’s bill was criticized by conservatives for failing to defund Obama’s amnesty and for allowing illegal immigrants who have been here since January 2013 to have another chance to seek amnesty through the court system.[10] liberal position
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):
  • Cornyn voted against VAWA in 2013, but then praised its passage because it included a provision that he introduced, the “SAFER Act,” intended to reduce the number of rape kits held by law enforcement without being tested.[11]
  • In 2012, Cornyn worked with Grassley and Kay Bailey Hutchison to introduce a VAWA alternative bill. The legislation included removing of special protections for LGBT individuals, lowering the number of visas for legal and illegal immigrant victims of domestic violence, and designating a procedure within the federal courts for trying perpetrators of abuse on Native Americans. While Democrats sought to have these abusers tried in tribal courts, Cornyn called this "unconstitutional" and "bowing to special interests."[12]


[1] http://dailysignal.com/2013/06/25/a-plus-a-conservative-alternative-to-nclb/

[2] http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00100

[3] http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=6256eaae-802a-23ad-4e2d-69c2c05ae64e

[4] http://www.redstate.com/diary/erick/2009/06/02/why-side-with-teddy-kennedy/

[5] http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/how-the-uber-conservative-john-cornyn-ticked-off-the-tea-party

[6] http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/how-the-uber-conservative-john-cornyn-ticked-off-the-tea-party

[8] http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2005/09/the-cornyn-kyl-immigration-reform-act-flawed-but-fixable

[10] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/07/15/Key-Amnesty-Critic-Warns-Border-Bill-Could-Open-Door-To-Dreaded-Conference-Committee

[11] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/john-cornyn-violence-against-women-act_n_2839282.html

[12] http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2013/02/violence_against_women_act_pas.php

Political & Electoral History

After serving as Texas Attorney General from 1999-2002, John Cornyn, supported by the Texas Republican Party, easily won the 2002 Primary and was elected to his first term in the U.S. Senate filling the seat of outgoing Texas Senator Phil Gramm. Cornyn was re-elected in 2008 and in the running for his re-election in 2014.

Elections:

  • When he was chair of the NRSC in 2010, he criticized Jim DeMint for recruiting conservative candidates as alternatives to his establishment picks[1].


[1] http://www.rollcall.com/news/-200774-1.html