Veteran Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is seeking re-election as a “strong conservative” in a state known to dislike Washington and to be heavily dominated by the Republican Party.
But observers say he is facing headwinds of his own making this election year.
Critics put it more simply. They say he has undermined his own effort by calling the tea party a “purity movement” and “exploitative” and by not standing up to President Obama’s agenda to move the nation toward more socialism.
They even raise questions about his characterization as a “conservative.”
That’s why tea party favorite Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, told WND he will challenge Cornyn for his Senate seat. Stockman said Cornyn simply folded when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, launched a Senate fight over the president’s signature socialistic program, Obamacare.
And it appears that Stockman’s assessment that Cornyn hasn’t lived up to his billing as a conservative is correct.
Critics say his voting record doesn’t entirely fit the vision of an America with limited government and a free-market economy that encourages innovation and self-reliance.
Tea-party advocate Freedom Works blasted Cornyn for his “less confrontational” approach in dealing with Obama, an issue for which House Speaker John Boehner also faced criticism.
In Boehner’s case, he said, “Mr. President, this is your moment. We’re ready to be led not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. We want you to lead not as a liberal or a conservative, but as the president of the United States of America. We want you to succeed.”
While many conservatives say plainly they don’t want Obama to succeed in his stated goals, Cornyn took a different approach, more closely aligned with Boehner.
He told the Texas Monthly: “I would say that I hope we’ll be less confrontational … The shutdown did not help our cause. What did help our cause was the president’s implementation of Obamacare.”
Cornyn said defunding Obamacare is “not possible” but that it will undo itself.
Constitutional attorney Harold Pease, however, said the Obamacare fight isn’t that complicated.
The Constitution gives the U.S. House, not the Senate and not the White House, the power of the purse, he said.
“House opposition to funding Obamacare would have been far more powerful if made a ‘stand alone’ bill not attached to general funding, but it is not. ‘Stand alone,’ having no other parts, would have left the Senate no wiggle or compromise room once it went to them, nor would there be for the Joint Conference Committee thereafter that reconciles any differences between the two houses. There would be nothing to reconcile, Obamacare is merely defunded,” he said.
The bottom line, however, remains Cornyn’s voting record, which could offer foundation for challenges to his “conservative” claim.
Constitution and civil liberties
Regarding the Constitution and civil liberties, Cornyn has voted five times to approve the indefinite detention of American citizens and the use of military force against American citizens.
It’s in the National Defense Authorization Act 2011 language, and Cornyn endorsed it, then affirmed it by voting against an amendment clarifying that the language would only apply to noncitizens.
Those votes are in addition to Cornyn’s support of CIA reforms to permit detention and “enhanced” interrogation of American citizens. In 2006, Cornyn voted for detention of American citizens without charge or trial by voting “no” on Senate Amendment 5095, Oversight of CIA Interrogation and Detention Amendment. Source: Vote Smart.
Though most Republicans voted for the “indefinite detention” provisions in the NDAA, subsequently telling their constituents that no such provisions exist, federal courts have found the provision do exist and have voided their application.
Obama’s attorneys are fighting to have the “indefinite detention” provisions restored.
Video has been captured of Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, NDAA sponsors, rejoicing that “for the first time … the homeland is part of the battlefield” and that people can be detained without trial, “American citizen or not.”
There is an apparent contradiction between the claims of some Republicans that “indefinite detention” does not exist and the evident intention of the provision’s authors. Graham, as one of the NDAA sponsors, said from the Senate floor, “1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”
But the Fourth and Fifth Amendments prohibit the federal government from holding citizens without trial or treating citizens as "combatants," protections stemming from the British occupation of the American colonies.
Further, the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits use of the U.S. military against citizens or even use within U.S. borders without approval of state governors. The Posse Comitatus Act was enacted after the Civil War "reconstruction era," when Southern states were governed by the U.S. military in a quasi-dictatorship.
Cornyn's office cited a separate vote on another amendment, in which Cornyn did oppose such detention, although he was not opposed to the entire bill.
Cornyn also voted six times to extend provisions of the Patriot Act that have been challenged as unconstitutional by advocates of citizen privacy rights.
Obama is empowered by the Patriot Act to define who is and is not a "terrorist" and what is and is not "terror."
Obama's Department of Homeland Security has identified conservatives as potential terrorists. Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee recently joined in filibuster against the Patriot Act and Obama's widely denounced "citizen assassination" program.
The Patriot Act also permits warrantless wiretapping, warrantless entry, human tracking, access to bank statements and phone records, access to Internet records, "enhanced" interrogation and more – all targeted at those designated as "terrorists."
The definition of terrorism is subject to frequent conspicuous change, such as the DHS report labeling pro-lifers or Ron Paul supporters "terrorists."
Cornyn also voted to expand FISA court surveillance powers to include American citizens and to grant immunity to telecoms that shared the protected personal data of citizens with the federal government.
And Cornyn voted against proposed amendments that would have published the decisions of FISA and brought transparency to the way the Patriot Act and FISA were being used against citizens.
Democracy and free speech
Also, Cornyn voted with Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid to end the historic filibuster, a tradition consistent with the U.S. Senate's reputation as "the most deliberative" body in the world.
The result is that now only 51 senators are required to pass legislation and confirm officers, with no need for minority cooperation. Subsequently, Cornyn voted for "fast track" of presidential "czars," so that new appointments wouldn't need Senate confirmation.
Cornyn also voted in favor of TARP bank bailouts, which on paper cost Americans $500 billion, but in reality cost taxpayers in excess of $1.2 trillion, according to reports by Bloomberg following Freedom of Information Act disclosures.
Bloomberg, after substantial litigation, discovered that TARP was known from the outset to be an act of desperation to keep the banks open at a time when the survival of the United States as an economic entity was very much in question.
At American Thinker, James G. Wiles said Bloomberg's findings included:
- There were actually six different federal programs to keep the private credit markets functioning with taxpayer money in the fall of 2008, after the private lending markets had shut down.
- While the public was being told the 10 largest financial institutions had borrowed about $160 billion from the Treasury Department, the public was not told that the same firms were also borrowing $669 billion in emergency funds from the Fed. The borrowers included Morgan Stanley ($107 billion), Citicorp. ($99.5 billion) and Bank of America ($ 91.4 billion).
- Almost half of the Fed's top 30 borrowers were European firms, not American. This included Royal Bank of Scotland ($84.5 billion) and UBS AG ($77.2 billion).
- Several big American financial institutions who were trumpeting their liquidity at the time of the crisis were, in fact, relying on secret federal borrowings to keep afloat and avoid insolvency. In some instances, the Fed money provided all of an institution's available cash.
- A few institutions required emergency federal loans to stay liquid well into 2010.
The TARP bailouts included a $4 billion trust fund allowing grants to ACORN and other activist organizations and requiring everyone in the mortgage industry to submit to a federal fingerprint registry.
Cornyn defended his votes on TARP and other bailout measures, saying in 2010,"I'm responsible and proud of the vote I cast at the time because I thought it was a public necessity."
Cornyn voted against Rand Paul's budget amendment, which was said to have been set up to generate a $19 billion surplus without cutting entitlements. Cornyn also voted to increase the federal minimum wage, which has been shown by some studies to cause high unemployment as employers absorb the costs of the wage increase.
Additionally, Cornyn voted to support the "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska, a highly criticized pork barrel expenditure. He voted in support of the Medicare Part D expansion, adding trillions to unfunded federal liabilities and the national debt.
"Cap and trade" is an Obama-inspired energy use plan purportedly designed to reduce green house gas emissions from manufacturing as well as more traditional energy sources like coal. Obama told reporters his plan would "bankrupt" the coal sector, which provides half of the energy America uses and more than 80,000 jobs.
Cornyn voted for a cloture motion to proceed, effectively advancing "cap and trade" legislation. The Heritage Foundation estimated that, if enacted, "cap and trade" would reduce U.S. GDP by $9.4 trillion, increase unemployment by 1-2 million and increase household energy costs by an average of $1,241.
Land use, oil & natural gas exploration
S1813 and roll call vote 32 show Cornyn supported placing more land off-limits to energy exploration, reducing opportunities for domestic production and possibly increasing dependency on foreign energy sources, according to critics.
The Bush administration attempted to implement a decree from a NAFTA "panel" which "required" America to open its roads to an unlimited number of Mexican trucks. Critics contend the Mexican trucks could displace American truckers and pose risks for U.S. security. Cornyn voted in favor of Mexican trucks on American roads.
Comprehensive immigration reform
In 2007, Cornyn voted to give visas to illegal immigrants, considered "amnesty" by critics.
The vote was on the Vitter Amendment, No. 1157, "To strike title VI (related to Nonimmigrants in the United States Previously in Unlawful Status)." The bill, S. 1348 – one of the first major attempts at "comprehensive immigration reform" – contained provisions that included a "common security perimeter," visa waivers for all Mexican and Canadian nationals, tri-national law enforcement cooperation (Mexican and Canadian personnel allowed to exercise jurisdiction in U.S.), the relocation of border enforcement resources to Mexico's southern border and full mobility of labor.
WND earlier reported that Stockman was anxious to create a challenge.
"We think he [Cornyn] needs to be held accountable for his decisions, and we look forward to a vigorous campaign," he said.
Cornyn wields considerable power after 10 years in Washington and has been a member of the Republican Senate leadership since 2006. He was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. In 2012, he became Minority Whip for the 113th Congress.
Other entries in Cornyn's record of clashes with conservatives interests include:
- He has worked on plans that would make stronger mental health programs that could be used to restrict veterans' rights to weapons.
- He voted to raise the debt ceiling eight times, including in 2012 when Congress created a "fake crisis," according to Freedom Works, and pushed through a deal that raised taxes on three-quarters of America.
- He supported a plan eliminating hundreds of executive positions from congressional confirmation and allowing others to be on a "fast-track" procedure to speed Senate confirmation of Obama's picks.
- He supported confirmation of an anti-gun, pro-abortion ACORN lawyer as a federal judge.
Cornyn's campaign office answered WND, requesting a list of tea party organizations critical of the senator and subsequently claiming that Cornyn did not vote for cloture on the cap-and-trade legislation, citing a Red State article discussing the "Boxer Amendment."
Problematically, Sen. Cornyn did vote for cloture on S. 3036, the Climate Security Act (cap and trade), his vote on the Boxer Amendment notwithstanding.
Additionally, a staffer said that Cornyn introduced legislation to end TARP, has called for the FISA court to be reformed to ensure Texans' 4th Amendment rights are protected, and introduced a tough border security bill last spring that would have established mandatory E-Verify and stiffened penalties for hiring illegal immigrants.
The staffer also said, "The Boxer amendment was the final Cap and Trade bill, it was an amendment that was substituted in and served as the final legislation, which he did not vote for."