GOP Senator John Cornyn to Lead GOP’s Effort to Work on “Bipartisan” Gun Control Legislation—Don’t Hold Your Breath May 31, 2022
Our nation is still reeling from the white supremacist Buffalo, NY 5/21/2022 massacre. Now that awful tragedy is in our rearview mirror. On 5/24/2022, not even one week later, another crazed young gunman barricaded himself in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and massacred 19 children and 2 teachers. Previously, Uvalde, TX was known as the home of John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, FDR’s VP for his first two terms (wikipedia, latimes.com, 5/26/22). Now, Uvalde will be infamously remembered along with Columbine, CO, and Newtown, CT for the assault rifle massacres of innocent young school students that occur far too many times only in the U.S. Why? Because too many of our legislators, (here’s looking at you GOPers), don’t have the intestinal fortitude to say “NO” to the NRA, the National Rifle Association, by enacting reasonable gun control legislation. The GOP has for decades been “bought and paid” for by the NRA, one of its main campaign finance contributors.
Maybe the outcries of talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, and many ordinary Americans have finally penetrated the GOP’s hard “I could care less about gun control” shell. On 5/26/2022, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told CNN that he had met earlier in the day with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). McConnell encouraged Cornyn to begin discussions with Democrats including strong gun control proponent Chris Murphy (D-CT) and AZ’s “mavericky” Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to ask them and others to find “common ground” on gun control legislation (cnn.com, Fox, Rimmer, Barrett, & Foran, 5/26/22). I would not hold my breath. McConnell, a gun control opponent, like the majority of his GOP members, would not say what the contours of that legislation would be, just that Cornyn should negotiate it. Legislation to get reasonable gun control legislation has been one of the thorniest and most divisive issues facing federal lawmakers. Sen. Cornyn himself stated that he didn’t know if they can “get there on background checks or other bills.” He added, that “this hopefully will provide a new, greater sense of urgency.” Cornyn, however, quickly declared, he “does not want to see the shooting used as a way to infringe on gun rights (cnn.com, Fox, et al).” Translation: even the slightest amount of legislation to regulate gun purchases is often seen by anti-gun safety opponents as “infringing on gun rights,” the GOP party line. Cornyn stated that wherever the “evidence leads us, I would say that this is not an excuse to infringe on Second Amendment (the right to bear arms in the Constitution) rights of law- abiding citizens (cnn. com).”
With these words and the GOP’s long record of non-actions on reasonable gun control, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made sure to tell McConnell and his deputy Cornyn that although “we have to try everything, and not leave a single stone unturned, this is not an invite to negotiate indefinitely. Make no mistake about it, if these negotiations do not bear fruit in a short period of time, the Senate will vote on gun safety legislation (cnn.com Fox et al, 5/26/22).” Schumer indicated that he will give bipartisan talks on a gun bill about two weeks (Amiri & Mascaro, latimes.com, 5/27/22). If such a vote takes place without an agreement, Democrats, with just 50 Senate members, will not be able to break a GOP filibuster that requires 10 more votes to reach the 60 super-majority needed. However, all GOPers will then be tarred as the true gun control obstructionists, while the Democrats will have shown that they were willing to fight for reasonable firearm safety. Some Senators, conservative Joe Manchin (D-WVA) and liberal Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), seem optimistic and hopeful that they can reach that critical 60-vote mass to break a filibuster. Because of Sen. Cornyn’s general record, I am not in that camp and remain quite skeptical. Just who is Sen. Cornyn?
Fourth-term GOP Senator John Cornyn (70) is TX’s senior U.S. Senator. Although certainly not as famous as his fellow junior Senator, flamboyant GOPer Ted Cruz, Cornyn has spent the past two decades quietly accumulating so much influence that he is the most powerful Texan to serve in the Senate since Democrat LBJ (Cohen & Cook, 2022 Political Almanac). Cornyn’s father was an Air Force oral pathologist who was stationed in Japan. John Cornyn attended high school in that country (Cohen & Cook 2022). When his father retired from the Air Force, Cornyn’s family settled in San Antonio. Cornyn graduated from San Antonio’s Trinity University in 1973 and from St. Mary’s Law School in 1977. He practiced law for five years in a firm that defended doctors and insurance companies in medical malpractice cases. In 1984, Cornyn successfully ran for District Court Judge in Bexar County, home to San Antonio. In 1990, Cornyn won election to TX’s State Supreme Court. In 1997, he ran for State Attorney General and won by a 10-point margin. He argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including one where he unsuccessfully defended the reading of the Lord’s Prayer at football games (Cohen & Cook 2022). In 2002, conservative GOP TX Senator Phil Gramm did not seek re-election. Cornyn ran for that seat. In the general election, Cornyn faced African American Democratic Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. Cornyn defeated Kirk by 12 points, 55%-43% (See Cohen & Cook 2022). Cornyn was re-elected to the Senate with 55% of the votes again in 2008. In 2014, Cornyn took 62% of the vote and in 2020, he won with 54% of the vote (Cohen & Cook 2022).
In the Senate, Cornyn, unlike fellow Texan Ted Cruz, is one of that chamber’s most mannered members and is considered “quiet by nature and not excitable.” When he speaks, “people are more inclined to listen to what he has to say.” However, Cornyn has an edge on Twitter and can infuriate Democrats (Cohen & Cook 2022). Just after Obama was inaugurated, while most of the country overwhelmingly wanted partisan bickering to stop, Sen. Cornyn placed a “hold” or blocked Obama’s nomination of Hillary for Secretary of State. Her nomination normally should have passed with a unanimous Senate floor vote. Cornyn “claimed” that he wanted more information on foreign donors who had given money to her husband Bill’s foundation. This was a completely bogus issue. Weeks before, Bill Clinton had released the names of these donors and this information was all over the media. Cornyn was believed to have a grudge against the Clintons and wanted to play petty politics.
Cornyn quickly moved up the GOP Senate leadership ranks. After serving two terms as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which helps select GOP candidates, his Republican colleagues chose him in 2013 as their Minority Whip. When the GOP regained control of the Senate in 2015, Cornyn became the Majority Whip. He helped round up GOP legislative votes, until term limits forced him to leave that post in 2019. Cornyn has made “no bones” about his desire to succeed 79- year-old Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as GOP Senate leader (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Cornyn worked on immigration reform in 2007 before abandoning that effort. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a key sponsor of that bill, accused Cornyn of using “arcane legal issues” to scuttle that bill (Cohen & Cook 2022). Cornyn was a strong fund raiser. During his time as GOP Senatorial Chair, he raised $115 million nearly matching the Democrats’ $130 million. GOPers gained six Senate seats during the time Cornyn ran that committee (Cohen & Cook 2022). Cornyn, despite, his calm “I can work with everyone manner,” has more of a hard- line right wing record than “in your face” Ted Cruz. From 2019-2020, Cornyn had a composite 0% Liberal v. 100% Conservative record, according to the Political Almanac ratings. Cruz had a 7% composite Liberal v. 93% Conservative record (Cohen & Cook 2022). In 2005, Cornyn was just one of 9 Senators to vote against an amendment sponsored by McCain to ban cruel treatment of prisoners captured in the war on terror (CQ 08 Politics Almanac). And where does Sen. Cornyn stand on gun control, for which McConnell wants him to deal with Democrats? In 2014, Cornyn introduced the “Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” which would provide interstate reciprocity for persons with concealed weapons permits. Cornyn called it similar “to a driver’s license.” The NRA gave him an “A” rating in 2003 and 2014. In 2018, that group rated him “A+ (Miller, 1/15/14, washingtontimes.com, Smith, texasmonthly.com, 2/22/18).” Cornyn voted with Demagogue Donald 92.2% of the time (projects.fivethirtyeight.com). Although Cornyn voted against GOPers objecting to certifying Biden’s electoral win, he voted against convicting Trump in his second impeachment trial on charges of inciting the fatal 1/06/2021 attempted Capitol coup (Cohen & Cook 2022). Cornyn was the highest profile-TX GOPer willing to engage President Biden from the start of his administration (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Cornyn voted to repeal the estate tax and raise the exemption to $5 million (reuters.com, Sullivan, 11/072011). He must defend the top 1% and then some. Cornyn voted against recognizing that climate change is manmade. He was one of the 22 Senators to sign a letter to Trump urging him to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris (environmental) Agreement. Biden rejoined this agreement (See theguardian.com/us-news/2017). In 2005, Sen. Cornyn voted against including oil and gas smokestacks in mercury regulations and was against banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He received a 0% score for his time in the Senate from the League of Conservation Voters (web.archive.org, lcv.org). Cornyn called the Supreme Court’s anti-sodomy ruling in “Lawrence v. Texas” a “startling display of judicial activism that threatens our fundamental institutions and values (glappn.org).” Cornyn opposes removal of Confederate statues (Houston Chronicle). In 2021, he helped Senate GOPers successfully filibuster voting rights reform (texastribune.org, Livingston, 6/22/21). Cornyn opposes abortion (Ratcliffe, 6/16/2007, chron.com/news/Houston). Cornyn is one of McConnell’s loyal lieutenants and will do nothing serious about gun control or stop any of the GOP right-wing agenda.
When he first heard of the Uvalde, TX school massacre, Biden emotionally stated what millions of us already felt, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby (whitehouse.gov/briefing, 5/24/22)?” Biden has spent much of his career as Senator and VP fighting for sensible gun control. When such measures passed, mass shootings went down. When these laws expired, mass shootings tripled, Biden aptly noted (whitehouse.gov). As Comforter-in-Chief, one of the modern President’s major roles, Biden and First Lady Jill went to Uvalde on 5/29/2022. There, Biden, who had previously lost his first wife and two of his children, gave as much comfort as he could to the victims’ families. He told people that he would try to do something about stopping this senseless carnage. He correctly called the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms “not absolute.” However, Biden needs 10 GOPers join the Democrats to break the filibuster on this issue. There is no indication, so far, that 10 GOPers will help Biden and his fellow Democrats beat the NRA’s anti-gun control stranglehold (See cnn.com, Collinson, 5/30/22). The only way to stop this horror? Democrats must vote in droves plus in 11/2022 for a Democratic House. They must also get at least two more Democratic Senators who want to abolish the, “F” word, the filibuster, so gun safety rules can pass. Voting is EVERYTHING. Our democracy, women’s right to choose, fighting domestic extremism, and keeping our school children safe all depend on our showing up “bigly” at the polls.