Cornyn says Trump gives GOP Congress last chance to turn U.S. around

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was not a big Donald Trump booster. The Texan, in his political and personal temperament, is very much the president-elect’s opposite. But amid the appearance of some disarray in the incoming Trump administration’s transition to power, Cornyn, freshly re-elected Wednesday to be the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, spoke sanguinely of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform America thanks to the iconoclastic billionaire populist.

“We see this election on Nov. 8 as an historic opportunity to make real progress on behalf of the American people,” Cornyn said at a news conference with the Republican Senate leadership after the Texan was returned by his party to his post as the Senate majority whip.

In a subsequent conference call with Texas reporters, Cornyn said that, while he awaits the details on how Trump will “drain the swamp” in Washington, Trump has already profoundly altered the psychic and political landscape in the nation’s capital.

“Frankly his campaign has been like a neutron bomb here in Washington, D.C.,” Cornyn said. “The buildings are still standing, but there are a lot of casualties here in the political class who believed and thought that they knew better than the American people what was good for them. So there is no doubt in my mind that this is going to shake up things in Washington, and I believe that was necessary and one reason why Mr. Trump was so successful.”

GET THE DAY’S LATEST NEWS: Click here to sign up for our Afternoon Updates email

Cornyn noted that “only 14 times since after World War II has a single party controlled both houses and the White House. Out of those 14 times, Republicans have only done it three times. So this is an historic opportunity for us to be able to propose and debate and actually see and realize the solutions that we’ve been arguing for for a long time but which have been shut out or even ignored by the Obama administration.”

And, Cornyn said, the Trump victory and the political terrain will make it hard for Democrats to go the obstructionist route.

“A lot of Democrats have seen the disaster to their party in the last eight years since President Obama was elected, losing so many state legislatures and governorships and seeing their diminished numbers in the Senate go from 60 in 2009 down to 48 today,” Cornyn said. “This has not been a good path for them politically, so I think it is going to induce people to try to find ways to build consensus and move this country forward.”

In 2018, Democrats will have to defend 25 Senate seats, and Republicans only eight, and Cornyn said, “there are 10 states where Donald Trump won by 55 percent or more, where a Democratic senator will be running for re-election.”

“I think the dynamics of that will have a very big impact on our ability to get things done in the Senate,” Cornyn said.

Bumpy transition?

Of headlines suggesting that the Trump transition was having its bumps and stumbles, Cornyn said, “My impression is the Trump team was not totally prepared for the transition and they are scrambling” after “a surprising election.”

Cornyn praised the choice of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff.

“I know him very well,” Cornyn said. “He’s a very steady and wise hand.”

Of the controversial choice of Stephen Bannon, who went from chairing Breitbart News to chairing the Trump campaign and now is Trump’s choice as his chief strategist in the White House, Cornyn said, “I have never met him,” and left it at that.

He said he had no inside information on speculation that fellow Texan, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who met with Trump on Tuesday, was being considered for attorney general. Cruz offered no clues Wednesday.

Trump agenda

Cornyn highlighted points of both agreement and disagreement with Trump.

Cornyn said he expected that as soon as Trump takes office the Senate will act swiftly on judicial nominees, including whomever Trump picks to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court.

He predicted Congress would use the Congressional Review Act to undo recent Obama administration rule-making.

Cornyn foresees agreement on tax reform.

And, first and foremost, “I also expect us to repeal Obamacare and to begin a transition to replace that flawed health care bill.” He said the replacement legislation could include popular measures Trump likes, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans into early adulthood, and to maintain the prohibition on insurance companies’ denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

Cornyn said one clear difference he has with Trump, and an important one to Texas, is trade.

“I’m very much pro-free trade,” Cornyn said, noting that Texas economy depended on trade agreements, including NAFTA.

He said he was also not sure about Trump’s enthusiasm for term limits.

In his experience, he said, “elections are very effective means of imposing term limits.”

Of Trump’s blustery public persona, Cornyn said, “My experience in private settings is he is a very reasonable, intelligent guy. He doesn’t have a lot of governing experience and that’s one reason he was elected, because people wanted an outsider.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Richard Overton, nation’s oldest vet, to show off home renovations
Richard Overton, nation’s oldest vet, to show off home renovations

Austinite Richard Overton, the nation’s oldest living World War II veteran, is allowing media to tour his renovated home Thursday morning. Overton, who turned 111 in May, was a recipient of the Meals on Wheels Central Texas’ Home Repair Program, which is a partnership with the Home Depot Foundation and provides veterans home repairs at...
School bus collides with vehicle in Northwest Austin; no injuries reported
School bus collides with vehicle in Northwest Austin; no injuries reported

A Round Rock ISD school bus collided with another vehicle in Northwest Austin early Thursday, but none on board was injured, authorities said.  The wreck took place shortly after 7:30 a.m. along the 11800 block of Jollyville Road, near the intersection with Pavilion Boulevard and was quickly cleared.
Texas high school cheer sign goes viral 
Texas high school cheer sign goes viral 

You know when you love your school so much, you claim to bleed its colors? That’s less impressive if your school’s color is already red... The Bridge City High School cheer squad drew national attention after encountering this exact dilemma. A sign promoting the squad’s spirit went viral after comedian Daniel Tosh shared it to the ...
FORECAST: Gulf humidity to return, bringing chance for evening showers
FORECAST: Gulf humidity to return, bringing chance for evening showers

Thursday forecast for Austin: After a cool start, heat and humidity will return to Austin on Thursday, bringing a small chance for late showers and storms through Saturday, fueled by moist air flowing from the Gulf of Mexico.  However, the weather pattern promises to be short-lived when a cold front is expected to arrive Saturday night, bringing...
What are you most curious about: Drug cartels, traffic lights or weirdos?
What are you most curious about: Drug cartels, traffic lights or weirdos?

It’s time to vote! We’ve sifted through hundreds of reader questions submitted to our Austin Answered project to pick the finalists for this voting round, and now we want to know which question you’d like for one of our reporters to answer. What are you most curious about? Got your own question? Hit us up at
More Stories