John Cornyn III (born February 2, 1952) is an American politician and attorney serving as the senior United States Senator for Texas since 2002. He was the Republican Senate Majority Whip for the 114th and 115th Congresses. Cornyn also previously served as Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 2007 to 2011.
|United States Senator|
|Assumed office |
December 2, 2002
Serving with Ted Cruz
|Preceded by||Phil Gramm|
|Chair of the Senate Narcotics Caucus|
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Chuck Grassley|
|Senate Majority Whip|
January 3, 2015 – January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Dick Durbin|
|Succeeded by||John Thune|
|Senate Minority Whip|
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Jon Kyl|
|Succeeded by||Dick Durbin|
|49th Attorney General of Texas|
January 13, 1999 – December 1, 2002
|Governor||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Dan Morales|
|Succeeded by||Greg Abbott|
|Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court|
January 2, 1991 – October 18, 1997
|Preceded by||Franklin Spears|
|Succeeded by||Deborah Hankinson|
|Judge of the Texas 37th Judicial District Court|
January 1, 1985 – January 1, 1991
|Preceded by||Richard Woods|
|Succeeded by||Ann-Marie Aaron|
John Cornyn III
February 2, 1952
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Education||Trinity University (BA)|
St. Mary's University, Texas (JD)
University of Virginia (LLM)
Born in Houston, Cornyn is a graduate of Trinity University and St. Mary's University School of Law, and received an LL.M. degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He was a judge on Texas' 37th District Court from 1985 to 1991. He was elected an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court, where he served from 1991 to 1997. In 1998 Cornyn was elected Attorney General of Texas, serving one term until winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2002. He was reelected to a second term in 2008 and to a third term in 2014. He is running for a fourth term in 2020.
Early life, education, and legal careerEdit
Cornyn was born in Houston, the son of Atholene Gale Cornyn (née Danley) and John Cornyn II, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He attended the American School in Japan after his family moved to Tokyo in 1968, and graduated from it in 1969. In 1973 he graduated from Trinity University, where he majored in journalism and was a member of Chi Delta Tau. Cornyn earned a Juris Doctor from St. Mary's University School of Law in 1977 and an LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1995. He was named the St. Mary's Distinguished Law School Graduate in 1994 and a Trinity University Distinguished Alumnus in 2001.
In 1998 Cornyn ran for Texas Attorney General. In the March Republican primary Railroad Commissioner Barry Williamson received 38% of the vote and Cornyn, then a state Supreme Court Justice, 32%. In the April runoff election, Cornyn defeated Williamson, 58% to 42%. In the general election Cornyn defeated former attorney general (1983–1991) and U.S. Representative Jim Mattox with 54% of the vote. He was the first Republican elected Attorney General of Texas since Reconstruction and was sworn in by Governor George W. Bush.
Cornyn created the Texas Internet Bureau to investigate illegal internet practices. He fought government waste and corruption by investigating fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims.
Cornyn was criticized for failing to investigate in a timely manner the false drug convictions of numerous African-Americans in Tulia, Texas. On September 6, 2002, the Austin Chronicle reported that Cornyn had announced that his office would investigate the 1999 drug bust, where the accused represented 16% of the town's black population.
United States SenateEdit
In the 2002 Republican primary, Cornyn was promoted by the Texas Republican Party. He easily defeated the five other candidates without debating them. Cornyn defeated his closest Republican challenger, self-financed Dallas-based international physician Bruce Rusty Lang, in the election by a ten-to-one margin. In the general election Cornyn defeated Democratic nominee Ron Kirk in a campaign that cost each candidate over $9 million. Cornyn's predecessor, Phil Gramm, resigned early, effective November 30, 2002, so that Senator-Elect Cornyn could take office early, and move into Gramm's office suite in order to begin organizing his staff.
Texas has not elected a Democrat in a statewide election since 1994, and according to Rasmussen polling, in October 2008 Cornyn had an approval rating of 50%. Christian activist Larry Kilgore of Mansfield challenged Cornyn in the Republican primary, but Cornyn easily defeated him. Texas Representative Rick Noriega won the March 4 Democratic primary against Gene Kelly, Ray McMurrey, and Rhett Smith. Yvonne Adams Schick was the Libertarian Party's nominee, and the Green Party of Texas sought ballot access for its candidate, David B. Collins. The same Rasmussen poll showed Cornyn leading Noriega 47% to 43%, suggesting that the race might prove unexpectedly competitive, but most polls showed a much wider margin, and Cornyn was reelected.
Cornyn was reelected in 2014, and according to the Dallas Morning News, "never broke a sweat." He won the March Republican primary with 59% of the vote against Houston-area congressman Steve Stockman. In the general election he raised $14 million, outspending Democratic nominee David Alameel by nearly 3-1.
In 2004 Cornyn co-founded and became the co-chairman of the U.S. Senate India Caucus. In December 2006 he was selected by his colleagues to join the five-person Republican Senate leadership team as Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.
In 2005 Cornyn gained notice by connecting the Supreme Court's reluctance to hear arguments for sustaining Terri Schiavo's life with the recent murders of Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother as well as the courtroom murder of Judge Rowland Barnes. Cornyn said: "I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and building up to the point where some people engage in violence". His statement and a similar one by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay were widely denounced, including by The New York Times. Cornyn later said that the statement was taken out of context and for that reason he regretted the statement.
On May 18, 2007, Cornyn was involved in an altercation with the late Senator John McCain. During a meeting on immigration, McCain and Cornyn had a shouting match when Cornyn started questioning the number of judicial appeals that illegal immigrants could receive. McCain yelled an insult at Cornyn and said "I know more about this than anyone else in the room." Previously, Cornyn told McCain, "Wait a second here. I've been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You're out of line."
Jim Jubak of MSN Money described Cornyn as one of "Big Oil's ten favorite members of Congress", as he has received more money from the oil and gas industry than all but six other members of Congress.
On the day of Obama's inauguration, it was reported that Cornyn would prevent Hillary Clinton from being confirmed as secretary of state by unanimous floor vote that day. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman reported to the Associated Press that a roll call vote for the Clinton confirmation would be held instead on the following day, January 21, 2009, and that it was expected Clinton would "receive overwhelming bipartisan support". The vote was 94–2 in her favor, with only Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and David Vitter (R-LA) voting in opposition.
As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn was a strong supporter of Norm Coleman's various court challenges to the 2008 election certification of the Minnesota U.S. Senate race. Cornyn advocated for Coleman to bring the case before the federal court, and said the trial and appeals could take years to complete. Cornyn threatened that Republicans would wage a "World War III" if Senate Democrats had attempted to seat Democratic candidate Al Franken before the appeals were complete. Coleman conceded after the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Franken had won the election.
On March 18, 2020, Cornyn blamed the COVID-19 pandemic on cultural practices in China and mistakenly blamed China for MERS and swine flu epidemics. His comments were criticized by some Democrats and the National Council of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the time, the consensus among researchers was that coronavirus had originated at a wet market in Wuhan, China.
Senate Majority WhipEdit
In February 2013 Cornyn became one of the sponsors of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act to expedite open access to taxpayer-funded research.
After the death of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Cornyn said that anyone Obama nominated to replace him would have a difficult confirmation process and feel like a piñata. He also said that no serious candidate would accept a nomination knowing that they would not be confirmed. When Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, Cornyn said that even if the president has the constitutional authority to nominate someone, the Senate has full authority on how to proceed. Cornyn also said that the voice of the people should play a role and that the vacancy should be filled by the winner of the upcoming presidential election, so no hearings on Garland should be held. The Senate did not vote on Garland's nomination, which expired after the November election of President Donald Trump. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the seat, and Gorsuch was confirmed.
On June 8, 2017, Cornyn questioned James Comey on Hillary Clinton's emails at a committee hearing whose announced topic was the Russian interference in the 2016 election and Comey's dismissal as FBI director.
In September 2018, during the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, Cornyn accused the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee of devolving into mob rule by breaking the rules of decorum when asking for postponement or adjournment of the hearing to obtain or review documents from Kavanaugh's time working for the George W. Bush administration. Cornyn said that it was hard to believe the Democrats' claim that they could not properly assess Kavanaugh without the documents because it seemed that their minds were already made up.
- United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
- Committee on Finance
- Committee on the Judiciary
Political scientists John Sides and Daniel J. Hopkins characterized Cornyn as "very conservative" in 2015. In 2013 National Journal ranked Cornyn the 14th-most conservative United States Senator. The Dallas Morning News considered him a reliable ally of President George W. Bush on most issues.
Civil rights and law enforcementEdit
In the 2004 debate surrounding the Federal Marriage Amendment, Cornyn released an advance copy of a speech he was to give at The Heritage Foundation. In the speech, he wrote, "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right... Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife". According to his office, he removed the reference to the box turtle in the actual speech, but The Washington Post ran the quote, as did The Daily Show.
Cornyn sponsored a bill to allow law enforcement to force anyone arrested or detained by federal authorities to provide samples of their DNA, which would be recorded in a central database. He voted to recommend a constitutional ban on flag desecration and for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. He also voted for the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act and extending its wiretap provision.
In a February 24, 2019 tweet, Cornyn mocked dictatorship, centralized power and democratic socialism by quoting Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini as saying "We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become."
Foreign policy and national securityEdit
Cornyn was one of 22 senators to vote against the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 that expands the educational benefits for soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead he co-sponsored S. 2938, which gives benefits that are dependent on length of service.
In December 2010 Cornyn was one of 26 senators who voted against the ratification of New Start, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads and 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years and providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.
In August 2012, following news reports that a Russian Akula-class nuclear-powered submarine operated in the Gulf of Mexico purportedly undetected for over a month, Cornyn demanded details of this deployment from Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert.
In 2013 Cornyn said that, despite the sequester, the Pentagon would actually see its budget increase.
In April 2018 Cornyn was one of eight Republican senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and acting Secretary of State John Sullivan expressing "deep concern" over a report by the United Nations exposing "North Korean sanctions evasion involving Russia and China" and asserting that the findings "demonstrate an elaborate and alarming military-venture between rogue, tyrannical states to avoid United States and international sanctions and inflict terror and death upon thousands of innocent people" while calling it "imperative that the United States provides a swift and appropriate response to the continued use of chemical weapons used by President Assad and his forces, and works to address the shortcomings in sanctions enforcement."
Cornyn supported U.S. involvement in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. In December 2018 he said that the U.S. should stand with Saudi Arabia despite the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, saying: "Saudi Arabia is fighting a proxy war against Iran in Yemen, and an overreaction, in my view, would mean that we cancel arms sales and simply abandon our ally."
In a Washington Post op-ed, Cornyn highlighted concerns raised by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said that widespread adoption of Huawei technology could increase vulnerability to cyberattacks and endanger NATO troops engaged on 5G-equipped battlefields.
Cornyn warned Trump about anticipated negative effects of restructuring tariffs on Mexican exports, saying, "We’re holding a gun to our own heads by doing this." In January 2018 Cornyn was one of 36 Republican senators to sign a letter to Trump requesting that he preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement by modernizing it for the 21st-century economy. Cornyn urged Trump to restart trade talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership, which Trump called "a disaster."
As Majority Whip, Cornyn filed a resolution welcoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to address a joint meeting of Congress in March 2015, a resolution co-sponsored only by Republicans. Vice President Joe Biden and numerous Senate and House Democrats said they would not attend the address. Cornyn supported the Senate resolution expressing objection to the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which called Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories a flagrant violation of international law.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Cornyn argued against letting Chinese technology giant Huawei install and operate a 5G network in the U.S., writing that Huawei does not function "independently of its government. This would allow the Chinese government to export all the worst excesses of its cutting-edge police state to free soil."
In August 2018 Cornyn and 16 other lawmakers urged the Trump administration to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority in western China's Xinjiang region. They wrote: "The detention of as many as a million or more Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in "political reeducation” centers or camps requires a tough, targeted, and global response."
In June 2020, amid reports that Russia had paid the Taliban bounties to kill American soldiers and that Trump had been briefed on the subject months earlier, Cornyn defended an assertion by Trump that he had never been briefed on the subject. Cornyn said, "I think the president can’t single-handedly remember everything, I’m sure, that he’s briefed on."
Cornyn voted to ban intact dilation and extraction (a surgical procedure that anti-abortion activists call "partial-birth abortion") except in cases where the mother's life was in danger, and for a criminal penalty for harming a fetus while committing another crime. He also voted in favor of notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. He voted against expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. He voted to prevent contributions to organizations that provide abortion as a component of family planning, and to prevent funding of organizations that support coercive abortion.
Cornyn voted to confirm Samuel Alito as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and John Roberts for Chief Justice of the United States. In September 2005, during Roberts's Supreme Court hearings, Cornyn's staff passed out bingo cards to reporters. He asked them to stamp their card every time a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee used terms such as "far right" or "extremist".
In February 2019, Cornyn was one of 11 senators to sign a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urging them "to work with all federal, state and local regulators, as well as the hundreds of independent power producers and electricity distributors nation-wide to ensure our systems are protected" and affirming that they were "ready and willing to provide any assistance you need to secure our critical electricity infrastructure."
Cornyn voted to permanently repeal the estate tax and to raise the estate tax exemption to $5 million. He voted in favor of $350 billion in tax cuts over 11 years and supports making the George W. Bush tax cuts permanent. He opposes extending the 2011 payroll tax holiday.
Cornyn voted against a measure recognizing that climate change is manmade. He was one of 22 senators to sign a letter to Trump urging him to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. In May 2019, Cornyn said it was important that the United States take measures to combat climate change, but condemned the Green New Deal as proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In April 2020, he claimed that climate scientists' models of the effects of climate change do not use the "scientific method."
In 2005 Cornyn voted against including oil and gas smokestacks in mercury regulations. He voted against factoring global warming into federal project planning, and against banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also voted against removing oil and gas exploration subsidies. During his tenure in the Senate, Cornyn has scored 0% on the League of Conservation Voters' environmental scorecard, a system of ranking politicians according to their voting record on environmental legislation.
Cornyn opposes the Affordable Care Act. He voted against it in 2009, and played a leading role in the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. He voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Cornyn said that Senator Ted Cruz's 2013 efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act by threatening to default on the U.S. government's debt obligations were "unachievable", adding, "the shutdown did not help our cause. What did help our cause was the president's implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which has overwhelmed everything else. I don't hear anyone thinking that another government shutdown is the way to achieve our goals." Cornyn joined other Republican leaders to block Cruz's procedural move to reject an increase in the debt ceiling.
In April 2013 Cornyn was one of 46 senators to vote against a bill that would have expanded background checks for all buyers. He voted with 40 Republicans and 5 Democrats to stop the bill.
In January 2014 Cornyn introduced the "Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act". The bill would provide interstate reciprocity for persons with concealed weapons permits. Cornyn described the bill as "It's like a driver's license. It doesn't trump state laws. Say you have a carry permit in Texas; then you use it in another state that has a concealed-carry law." He was rated "A" by the National Rifle Association (NRA) as of 2003 and 2014; as of 2018[update] his NRA rating was "A+". Cornyn has continued to support Concealed Carry Reciprocity as of 2018, with the Republican-held House of Representatives passing a bill in late 2017 with this language attached to gun control measures from the Senate's Fix NICS bill.
While serving on the Texas Supreme Court in the 1990s, Cornyn ruled with the majority to overturn a lower court ruling, State v. Morales, that had found Texas's anti-sodomy laws to be unconstitutional. During oral arguments, he questioned the merits of the case, asking how gay individuals were harmed by the anti-sodomy laws if those laws were not enforced. According to Yale Law School professor William Eskridge, Cornyn "engineered the Morales majority" that saved the sodomy law. When running for the Senate in 2002, Cornyn defended the law. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Texas's sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas.
After the Supreme Court decision to overturn sodomy laws, Cornyn condemned the "startling display of judicial activism that so threatens our fundamental institutions and our values". He said he worried that the Supreme Court would next overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited recognition of same-sex marriage at the federal level, and subsequently played a leading role in trying to introduce a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage. Cornyn argued that recognition of same-sex marriage harmed those who were in heterosexual marriages. He claimed that children raised by gay couples are "at higher risk of a host of social ills," such as crime, drug use and dropping out of school, arguing that same-sex would put "more and more children at risk through a radical social experiment." Cornyn opposed adoption of children by gay couples.
In 2012, when President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, Cornyn criticized Obama and accused him of trying to "divide the country."
Removal of Confederate statuesEdit
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||1,470,669||76.04%|
|Republican||John Anthony Castro||86,916||4.49%|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)|
|People Over Politics Party||Cedric Jefferson|
|Human Rights Party||James Brumley|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||781,259||59.43%|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||2,843,995||61.60%|
|Green||Emily Marie Sanchez||54,075||1.17%|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||997,216||81.48%|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||4,337,469||54.8%|
|Libertarian||Yvonne Adams Schick||185,241||2.3%|
|Republican||Bruce Rusty Lang||46,907||8%|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||2,686,518||52%|
Cornyn and his wife, Sandy Hansen, have two daughters.
In August 2014 Cornyn was named "Mr. South Texas" for the 118th Washington's Birthday Celebration in Laredo in February 2015. WBCA president Veronica Castillon said that Cornyn "loves Laredo, and it shows through his attention and actions".
Cornyn receives pensions from three separate state and local governments in addition to his Senate salary.
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The June [sic] 12 Politics column quoted Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) discussing gay marriage in a recent speech to the Heritage Foundation. The written text released by Cornyn's office contained the quote, but his office says the senator did not include it in his delivered remarks.
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Of the submarine activity, Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "It's a confounding situation arising from a lack of leadership in our dealings with Moscow. While the president is touting our supposed 'reset' in relations with Russia, Vladimir Putin is actively working against American interests, whether it's in Syria or here in our own backyard.
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"The submarine patrol, taken together with the air incursions, seems to represent a more aggressive and destabilizing Russian military stance that could pose risks to our national security," Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) stated in an Aug. 17 letter to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.; "Reports of Russian sub in gulf downplayed". UPI. August 19, 2012. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
Russia declined to confirm or deny a media report that one of its submarines spent a month in the Gulf of Mexico without the knowledge of the United States.; and "Russian submarine sailed incognito along the coast of the U.S." Pravda. August 21, 2012. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Sunday sent the letter to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert requesting more information on the purported incident.
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- Senator John Cornyn official U.S. Senate website
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- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Collected news and commentary at The Texas Tribune
- "Office of the Secretary of State". Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2007.