Did John Cornyn Just Risk His Leadership Future?
The Texas Senator puts his GOP colleagues in a difficult position.
John Cornyn’s decision to push forward a gun control bill on the eve of what most expect to be a tidal wave election for the GOP is a risky proposition. But the risk may ultimately be felt less by the candidates running for office this November and more by Cornyn himself, who is often considered a natural fit to replace Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader in the future.
Cornyn himself is electorally a safe bet: Texas is a difficult state to topple incumbents, and he’s not up for re-election until 2026. But by sticking his neck out on the gun issue to such a degree, he puts fellow Republicans in a difficult spot on the issue, and hands an easy line of criticism to many of his would-be opponents for the leadership job. Both Rick Scott and John Thune, considered dark horse candidates for the role, both voted against the measure.
John Cornyn knew he’d face blowback at his home state’s GOP convention for his bipartisan work on gun safety. He showed up anyway.
Faced with a chorus of boos and a rebuke from the Texas GOP over the weekend, Cornyn got a taste of what the reaction could be on the right for Republicans who vote for the Senate’s bill designed to curb mass shootings in America. What’s more, on Monday evening the NRA announced opposition to the package crafted by a quartet of senators that includes Cornyn, whose A+ rating from the gun group is probably about to take a downgrade.
But becoming the face of the gun safety deal is a risk worth taking for the fourth-term Republican after a shooter killed 19 children and two teachers in his state. Cornyn said in an interview on Monday that he feels “confident in what we’ve done,” even as he prepares for a week of intraparty squabbling likely centering on his own central role in clinching the agreement.
“I’m committed to getting a result here. And I understand that some people are unwilling to listen,” Cornyn said of his chilly reception back home. “I was there to explain my position and why I believed it would not jeopardize Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. And some people didn’t want to hear about it.” Cornyn is no stranger to tough Texas politics — as Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) put it, “booing top elected officials is somewhat of a tradition” at state GOP conventions.
He’s in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership circle and in contention to eventually succeed McConnell. Now Cornyn’s deal-making on guns will reshape his reputation among Republicans and within the Senate, with no clear answer to how his work will play with his voters or his colleagues.
It may take months for the political fallout to settle after Cornyn and Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) finalized their 80-page gun safety bill on Monday evening. Cornyn brought formidable GOP credentials to their four-person talks: A former state Supreme Court justice, state attorney general and two-time party campaign committee chair, he also spent six years as party whip. Former President Donald Trump even tried to make Cornyn the FBI director…
It’s not the first time Cornyn’s picked a high-profile battle with his party’s right wing. He faced vocal GOP criticism in 2013 for not joining Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) failed bid to defund Obamacare, which ended in a shutdown. He later handily dispatched a primary challenge from former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), who photoshopped Cornyn’s head onto a picture with then-President Barack Obama to build a “Cornyn loves Obamacare” website.
And Cornyn was booed in the early days of the tea party movement back home — meaning Friday’s jeers weren’t exactly new to his ears. Brady observed that the harsh reception Cornyn got “tends to happen pretty regularly.”
Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) put it even more dryly: “The conservative base isn’t John Cornyn’s constituency, per se.” Asked how Cornyn’s work is landing in the Texas delegation, he replied: “You know how it is with the other chamber, with the powdered wigs and the British accents over in the Senate. Typically what they’re doing doesn’t come up.”
Sunshine State of Mind
Florida isn’t holding on to a version of itself from long ago. It’s alive and it’s now. It’s not just having a “moment.” Nightclubs have moments. People are uprooting their entire lives and making a brand-new start of it. In Florida.
While newcomers like me, especially from places like New York, may hold the state up to comparison, native Floridians don’t feel nearly as competitive.
But while I’m comparing: there is a state pride in Florida that I haven’t seen in New York in a long time. “FloGrown” decals on the backs of cars are standard, even in my bluer new south Florida home. I’m from here and you new arrivals better recognize that. Those who got here before the pandemic freedom rush are particularly proud. They discovered the cool band when they were still rocking the local bars. They’re the early adopters, the ones who were right all along.
With that Florida pride comes anxiety. The other state with a long history of strong pride is, of course, Texas. Texans have long known they’ve had a good thing going, a good thing in danger of being destroyed at any moment by the influx of people from a state that used to be prideful too. Like New York, California is holding on to a heyday long since passed, and Texans are meeting the people who’ve figured this out.
Florida has internalized the lesson of Texas. You can’t build something worthwhile and then surrender it to people who, although they are escaping a place that has begun to collapse, show no evidence of understanding why that collapse is happening. People move for all kinds of reasons, like weather or taxes. Not all of them realize the role they, and their votes, may have played in creating the chaos in their rearview mirrors. So far, the influx of people to Florida is indeed “voting right.” For the first time ever, registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in Florida, by over 100,000.
It’s impossible to highlight Florida’s renaissance without mentioning its governor. Ron DeSantis’s election was a twist of fate for the state. In 2018, he beat Democrat Andrew Gillum by a little over 32,000 votes, or 0.4 percent, and in an election Gillum was predicted to win. Two years later Gillum was found by police in a Miami hotel with two men, one an overdosing male prostitute. Pictures of Gillum naked and passed out in his own vomit soon emerged. Florida dodged quite a bullet.
Once a swing state, Florida seems to be moving comfortably into the red column. The only Democrat holding statewide office is goofy Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, and she’s widely expected to lose the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Charlie Crist, who previously served as governor as a Republican.
DeSantis’s decision to traverse a different path during the pandemic has made him a star. It wasn’t just that he zigged when everyone else zagged, reopening after only a very short and quite relaxed lockdown; it’s that he took seriously the responsibility to his state to not blindly follow information that made no sense. He prioritized normalcy, especially for kids, and this was a major contributing factor for so many making the move.
With other states finally following Florida’s Covid lead, you might think that the pandemic immigration boom would have slowed. But according to reporting in the New York Post, “21,546 New Yorkers swapped their driver’s licenses for the Sunshine State version during the first four months of this year — a 12 percent increase from the same period in 2021.” The Florida story is about more than the pandemic.
Why Biden Keeps Lying About Energy
If Biden and his aides are going to keep demanding that Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies censor “misinformation,” those companies should start by censoring Biden’s claim that he has issued sufficient oil and gas licenses. He hasn’t. If he had, he wouldn’t be going to Saudi Arabia next month to beg them to produce more oil.
While Facebook and Twitter are at it, they should censor Biden for lying about why he killed the Alaska oil and gas lease. He claimed it was due to “lack of industry interest.” But that’s simply not true, as Alaska’s senior Senator pointed out.
“Citing a 'lack of industry interest' is nothing more than fantasy from an administration that shuns U.S. energy production,” responded Sen. Lisa Murkowski. "I can say with full certainty, based on conversations as recently as last night, that Alaska's industry does have interest in lease sales in Cook Inlet. To claim otherwise is simply false, not to mention stunningly short-sighted.”
Shortly before Biden spoke today, the CEO of Chevron published an open letter to the president. “We need clarity and consistency on policy matters ranging from leases and permits on federal lands,” wrote Michael K. Wirth, “to the ability to permit and build critical infrastructure, to the proper role of regulation that considers both costs and benefits.”Just now Biden said: “We need more refining capacity” and “This idea they don’t have oil to drill & to bring up is simply not true.” In fact, Biden killed a refinery on May 14 and killed a 1M acre oil & gas lease in Alaska in May 12.
I have now caught Biden and his administration officials in three flagrant lies about refinery capacity, oil drilling, and investor attitudes. In his attack on oil and gas companies, Biden falsely alleged that they were restricting refinery operations when they are, in reality, at 94% of the capacity and maintenance is being delayed. And yesterday, I discovered that Biden’s Director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese, had misrepresented a survey of oil and gas executives while speaking to Fox News.
Deese correctly noted that the survey by the Dallas Federal Reserve had found that 94% of energy executives blamed factors other than government regulations for their unwillingness to invest in expanded production. But he failed to note that, in the words of Barron’s, the business publication, "the executives laid into Biden for getting in the industry’s way."
The broader lie is that the US government, powerful banks, and major corporations, including Google, Amazon, and Facebook, have redirected investments away from oil and gas and toward renewables, including ethanol. Indeed, much of the loss of refinery capacity is because several refineries are being retrofitted to process biofuels rather than petroleum.
Rather than confront the energy crisis head on, Biden and his administration have apparently decided to a) demand censorship of their critics, b) scapegoat the only people who can end the energy crisis, and c) lie about their own role in creating the crisis. It is a transparently counterproductive strategy, one which is antagonizing the energy industry, worsening investor confidence, and alienating voters.
Items of Interest
“The word love was required to cover such a range of emotions that it almost meant nothing at all. Since the love we distill for each beloved conforms to such a specific, rarefied recipe, with varying soupcons of resentment, pity, or lust, and sometimes even pinches of dislike, you really needed as many different words for the feeling as there were people whom you cared for in your life.”
— Lionel Shriver