Friday, September 27, 2013

Senator Cornyn Explains His Cloture Vote

As the Senate opened Friday, I think that body's chaplain summed it up well in this day's prayer:

Capturing the sense of uncertainty gripping Capitol Hill, Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black called on lawmakers Friday during his opening prayer to “keep us from shackling ourselves with the chains of dysfunction,” adding later: “Lord, deliver us from governing by crisis, empowering us to be responsible stewards of your bounty.”

Friday morning Senator John Cornyn sent out a statement on his support for the House-passed Continuing Resolution that defunds Obamacare and called on Democrats to join him:

"Mr. President, this is a moment of truth. We need to be absolutely clear about what we’re voting on here. “A yes vote will be a vote to fund Obamacare because it will take out of the underlying continuing resolution the House position that Republicans have universally supported to defund Obamacare. “But I would ask my colleagues, before they vote yes on this important amendment, do you really want to be responsible for killing more jobs? Do you really want to be responsible for more people losing their health insurance and their own doctors? Do you really want to be responsible for making full-time work part-time work? “If not, then vote no. This is a second chance, and in life you don't get many second chances. I hope our colleagues will take advantage of the opportunity.” 

The cloture vote was held and the vote was 79-19 in the U.S. Senate.  Senator Cornyn voted with 22 other Republicans and all of the Democrats for cloture.  He spoke of his reasoning process in a conference with conservative bloggers, including me, Friday afternoon.

All 54 members of the Democratic caucus voted to end debate on the bill. They were joined by 23 Republicans. The 19 Republican senators who voted no were Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Dean Heller (Nev.), James M. Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Rob Portman (Ohio), James E. Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and David Vitter (La.).
Next, on a strict party line vote , the U.S. Senate voted to strip out the Obamacare defunding effort in the House bill before them.  This was all very predictable to political strategists.  Maybe not so much for those who aren't political scientists.  Let me tell you what Senator Cornyn said.

If you have been paying attention to politics in recent days, you know that it is all about Republican efforts to defund Obamacare as the implementation date of October 1 quickly approaches.  Senator Cornyn has come under considerable friendly fire from the folks preferring the more dramatic style of Senator Ted Cruz and his 21 hour talkathon over Senator Cornyn's more judicial temperament.

Let me stop here and have a moment of FULL DISCLOSURE:  I proudly tell you, dear reader, that I was a blogger for John Cornyn before conservative blogging for candidates was cool.  He and his campaign team brought on a budding conservative blogging community long before most candidates did.  I was a part of that effort in his first Senate campaign and have continued to be a supporter.  This is also true of Ted Cruz.  I will also proudly tell you that I was a blogger for the Cruz campaign.  All of this was voluntary and I have never been a paid staffer for either man.  So, I want it to be clear I support them both. This is not an either/or proposition for me.

Meanwhile, back in social media, the folks who label themselves grassroots or far right conservatives or "true conservatives" or Tea Party have their hair on fire over this.  The popular parlor game is to conjure up names of potential primary challengers in Senator Cornyn's upcoming re-election.  He's feeling the pushback and is responding.

Senator Cornyn voted 'yes' Friday because he said he couldn't justify a 'no' vote on the House bill, which he strongly supports.  He said it is a reasonable disagreement between those pursuing short term strategy versus those pursuing long term strategy.  Senator Cruz's modified filibuster was for short term effect and voting for the House bill even though that then brought the vote to strip it of the Obamacare defunding was long term strategy.

Republicans remain unified on fighting Obamacare but there is a split when it comes to strategy.  That point is painfully clear.  Senator Cornyn came to the U.S. Senate from the Supreme Court of Texas and possesses a judicial temperament.  Senator Cruz pursues a more passionate approach to politics. His experience is as a trial lawyer. Both are needed in politics and,frankly, I think it is to the benefit of the State of Texas to have one from both columns.  Do not for a minute equate either personality with a lesser form of conservatism.  Senator Cornyn reminded those on the conference call that National Journal lists him as the second most conservative U.S. Senator.  "My record is very clear", he said, as he acknowledged that his style is "not as dramatic or as much of a rallying call" as that of Senator Cruz.

Now the Democratic senators in Red States are on record as a yes vote to both implement Obamacare and fund it, though they can no longer claim ignorance of the rejection of the program by a majority of Americans.  The government will remain open for business, avoiding a shutdown hoped for by Democrats.  They would love nothing more than running for re-election in 2014 on the back of a GOP government shutdown.  They have little else to run on.

"This fight is far from over", Cornyn said.  There is a difference in tactics within the Republican "family" but Democrats are now on record and a government shutdown would be a job killer plus Obamacare would still be funded from other sources of funding.  To be clear - a government shutdown would not defund Obamacare.  It continues until reforms are made and it is repealed.

Cornyn said that the distraction of a government shutdown would negate the headlines pointing to the really lousy recent months President Obama has experienced.  Plus, the 2.4% of government spending involved within the sequester is leverage against Democrats as the next battle is over raising the debt ceiling.  Cornyn will push for reforms to Social Security and other programs as that deadline approaches. He will push for a one year delay in the individual mandate within Obamacare and he is encouraged that some Democrats are beginning to voice concerns over the vastly unpopular program.

The strategy is to get more Republicans elected in 2014 to take back control of the Senate and have more sway over Obama's last two years in office.  "I know some of it is frustration", Cornyn said of the furor expressed by his critics in our party and that a lot of it is frustration with "this lawless administration."  The perception, though, that Senator Cornyn is not really fighting against Obamacare or that he is less of a conservative than others who vote as Republicans, is simply not accurate.

A unified Republican "family" will win elections.  There are legitimate differences in strategies and that is ok.  Actually, it is healthy within a political party.  The same end result and a vision of it is all that matters.  


Kevin Whited said...

** The strategy is to get more Republicans elected in 2014 to take back control of the Senate and have more sway over Obama's last two years in office. **

That's pretty optimistic.

A more cynical view is that the GOP will gain a bare majority in the Senate, and the Dems will simply insist on 60 votes to modify/end Obamacare. The GOP won't have those votes, but will have plenty more excuses why they can't do something the grassroots wants.

I guess we'll see which vision is more accurate!

Karen Townsend said...

I fight the cynic in me, too. In the meantime, I'll just hope for the best! We'll know soon enough. :)