|Cornyn from his days on the|
Texas Supreme Court
Last night, Texas Senator John Cornyn held a conference call with conservative bloggers and journalists. As we enter Day 2 of the government shutdown, his comments from just a few hours ago are becoming even more relevant as the day goes on. Thought I'd share some of my notes from the call with you.
Anyway, Cornyn started the call expressing his frustration at the shutdown but mainly at the Democrats' refusal to negotiate: "I think it's now clear that the President and Harry Reid were determined to shut down the government from the beginning, no matter what."
Obama originally had a meeting scheduled with Senate Republicans before the shutdown, but cancelled it at Reid's advice. On four separate occasions, the House has passed bills that would have avoided the shutdown, but Reid has tabled all of them. Wouldn't allow a vote or even a discussion on them. Obama "has decided that it's OK to negotiate with the President of Iran [but not] Congressional Republicans."
Cornyn was most annoyed about the most recent House bill Reid killed, which addressed the exemption from Obamacare for Congress and their staffers, and delayed Obamacare implementation for a year: "How can you argue...that you and your staff should be exempt [from Obamacare]? How do you go back to your district and tell your people that?"
Cornyn then turned to what he referred to as the "lawless delay" of Obamacare's employer mandate. Cornyn, who previously served on the Texas Supreme Court and as Texas Attorney General, strongly objects to the president usurping the powers that belong to Congress to delay provisions of a law that are proving inconvenient for him. Cornyn said that a major problem is that Obama simply refuses to acknowledge the defects in Obamacare, and instead has chosen to provide protections to his chosen groups, unlawfully. In contrast, the Republicans "want to protect all Americans" from the pain caused by Obamacare.
One bright spot is that they did manage to protect military pay yesterday. Cornyn said that the Senate Republicans were prepared to go to the floor to fight for it, and he was very glad that the issue got settled.
The Washington Examiner's Byron York asked Cornyn about Senator Mike Lee's proposal to pass some targeted bills and "leave Obamacare for another day." [See York's article here.] Cornyn replied that they seemed to be "at an impasse" and that the Democrats were "taking a very hard line."
Noting that the debt ceiling vote deadline was October 17, Cornyn discussed the possibility that the shutdown debate would get tangled up in that: "What I hope does not happen is that we give up additional leverage in the upcoming budget debate...it would be a mistake to give any of that up, unless we get something significant like entitlement reform."
Cornyn said several times that he was opposed to entangling the continuing resolution negotiations with the debt ceiling vote, and was highly concerned that doing so would greatly complicate everything. Since Republicans and Democrats are not agreeing on any of the major issues, combining these negotiations could lead the Democrats to walk back some continuing resolution compromises to which they had previously agreed.
"We're in the minority and we can't control what Harry Reid brings up...but we shouldn't make it harder for our Republican colleagues in the House to unify" around negotiation points. "We need to talk to [House Republicans]...make sure we don't get in each other's way."
He remains cautiously optimistic that a solution can be found to cover crucial government functions, discussing the idea of "rifle shot" continuing resolutions instead of omnibus bills. He has been frequently discussing with other Republican Senators going to the floor for these issues (one example: reopening the memorials).
Cornyn was concerned after hearing from Breitbart's Brandon Darby that border control agents and FBI special agents told him (Darby) that they are being asked to leave posts unguarded, work shorter shifts, told they cannot use their vehicles, phones and other technology. The information from the White House had been the opposite, that these type of national security and border control issues were absolutely "essential" and would not be affected by the shutdown. Cornyn promised to look into it.
Cornyn discussed the misinformation going around about what the shutdown actually does. Noted that he has information on his website (see here for information for how Texans can get answers to their questions about the shutdown). He commented that he shared many others' skepticism that all of the shutdown measures were necessary. Noted that Obama had deployed a similar strategy with the sequester, shutting down White House tours to the public while still allowing access for elites and donors, threatening to reduce air traffic control functions, etc.
Cornyn was especially skeptical of many of the most visible effects of the shutdown, calling the attempts to barricade WWII veterans in their 80s and 90s, many in wheelchairs, from visiting the WWII Memorial "ridiculous."
I asked about the reports we'd been hearing that the government seemed to be taking steps during this "shutdown" that were actually requiring more employees and expense: the barricading of the WWII Memorial, closing some entrances to the House and Senate office buildings but having more guards at the entrances that were open, etc. Cornyn said that they were looking into all these issues. "The federal government takes a strange approach to these cuts...A business [that had to make cuts]...would try to minimize the pain to their customers...but the government is trying to maximize the pain to their customers, the American people."
So now after another day of the shutdown, here's where we are:
- Yet another chaotic scene at the WWII Memorial where even more police and barricades (appropriately dubbed #barrycades on Twitter) were sent to block the veterans' access (but fortunately did not actually do so)
- Late yesterday, House Democrats killed a bill that would have allowed funding specifically to protect Veterans Administration funding and keep the memorials open (it was a special bill, so even though the Democrats are in the minority, they had the power to block it).
- The Navy-Air Force football game may be cancelled, even though it doesn't actually need any appropriations.
John Cornyn is right. Obama's entire shutdown strategy is to "maximize the pain" of the American people.
You can follow Senator Cornyn on Twitter at @JohnCornyn and his campaign at @TeamCornyn, and check out his grassroots effort to Keep Texas Red at KeepItRed.com.
Follow me on Twitter at @rumpfshaker