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Cornyn at TribFest: GOP Must Lead and Not Throw Tantrums

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said on Saturday that he lamented his party’s contribution to what he said was a dysfunctional government, and he criticized the Obama administration's handling of the current crisis over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn during a 2014 Texas Tribune Festival interview.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said on Saturday that he lamented his party’s contribution to what he said was a dysfunctional government and said shutdowns are the wrong way to do business in D.C.

Speaking at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Cornyn remained highly critical of President Obama and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. But he said he didn’t support Republican efforts to defund the president’s health care overhaul, which led to a brief but costly shutdown last year. Asked by an audience member if he was specifically talking about U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, he would only say, "Among others.”

“It didn’t turn out so well. What people want is for the government to function and not to throw temper tantrums and say we’re not going to play ball,” he said.

Cornyn added that if the Republican Party hopes to maintain the success it’s had in the U.S. House, retake the majority of the U.S. Senate and field a successful candidate for the White House, the party cannot rest on its laurels and assume dissatisfaction with Democrats is enough.

“If the [Republican Party] doesn’t demonstrate that we can effectively govern, it will be much harder for any Republican in 2016,” he said of the potentially packed field of candidates vying for the GOP nod. Cruz and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have been mentioned as potential candidates, but Cornyn declined to weigh in on the rumors or endorse any candidate.

“My experience with endorsements from public officials is they don’t count for anything, they don’t produce a single vote,” he said. 

The state’s senior senator also stressed that Republicans needed to do a job of reaching out to minorities, who he said share many of the same values as conservatives. He called Texas the perfect staging ground for such an outreach movement.

“Texas is ground zero in my view,” he said. “The demographics are pretty clear. Not only is Texas 38 percent Hispanic, but we have a large Vietnamese population and many others.”

On the current crisis over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, Cornyn blasted the Obama administration, specifically U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, for not instilling enough confidence in America’s efforts to rid the world of the terrorist group.

“Secretary Kerry refusing to call a military effort to oust the group a 'war' is “completely disingenuous,” he said. “That is a war, and we ought to call it that. There is no substitute for American leadership on matters like this.”

Cornyn, who faces long-shot Democrat David Alameel in November's general election, said he will be in Texas on Election Day. The Senate minority whip will be closely eyeing races considered toss-up contests in states like Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana.

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