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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn says he will run for the Senate’s GOP leadership role should Minority Leader Mitch McConnell choose to step down.
“And as long as [McConnell] wants to be a leader, I will continue to support him because I think he’s been extraordinarily effective, but should he decide to step down and no longer serve as a leader, I’ve made it no secret that I would like to succeed him," said Cornyn, who has served as Republican whip for six terms. Texas’ senior senator delivered his comments in a panel at The Texas Tribune Festival on Tuesday.
McConnell, who has been the GOP’s leader since 2006, has faced frequent questions about his intent to step down from the role. In May, the 79-year old shut down speculation about his retirement in an interview with a local news station, saying he’s still “in the height of my career.”
Should he ever be elected by the Republican caucus, Cornyn would be the first member of Congress from Texas to serve as a party leader in the Senate since former President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson served as the Democratic minority leader from 1953-55 and majority leader from 1955-61.
“I’ve worked in the Senate for three terms. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve developed good relationships, I think not just with Republicans but with Democrats as well. I think that’s based on mutual trust in a place where trust is in short supply,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn also predicted Republicans would take back the majority in the House in the fall 2022 midterm elections, but he was less sure about the Senate.
“Historically, in the first midterm, the party out of power sees a big shift in the House, particularly some 25 or more seats. Together with reapportionment following the census and redistricting process, which is underway right now, I expect the Republicans to be in the majority,” Cornyn said.
He added that although the Senate has a good chance of flipping in the midterms, a slew of recent retirements will pose the biggest challenge for Republicans this cycle.
“One thing I learned from my experience as chairman of the [National Republican] Senatorial Committee years ago is it matters who wins the primary, because if we nominate people who can’t get elected in November, it’s all for naught,” Cornyn said. “My hope and prayer and all of my efforts are going to be to encourage people to run and get nominated as Republicans, so we can have a chance to regain the majority in November.”
In the TribFest panel, Cornyn also expressed disappointment in President Joe Biden’s administration's performance during his first year in office, harshly criticizing his handling of the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and management of the immigration and border crisis.
The senator described the president’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal as an international embarrassment for the U.S. and noted that the Biden administration seemed “completely flummoxed” by immigration and border security issues.
Texas state leaders have slammed the Biden administration’s immigration policies for months as migrant apprehensions at the Texas-Mexico border continue to rise.
“President Biden’s honeymoon is over, and with the debacles like we see at the border and we see the withdrawal from Afghanistan, I think people are correctly questioning the competence of this administration to actually execute the laws,” Cornyn said.
Still, the senior senator emphasized his desire to work with the White House to find bipartisan solutions to these broad issues.
“I’m willing to work with virtually anybody who has a common cause and is willing to work with me to solve the problems we can solve, recognizing that there’s going to be a big gulf between us on many other issues,” Cornyn said.
The all-virtual 2021 Texas Tribune Festival is happening now through Sept. 25. Join as big names from politics, public policy and the media share what’s next for Texas and beyond. Explore live and on-demand programming, including dozens of free events, at tribfest.org.
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