Will immigration reveal that John Cornyn is too good at shape-shifting?
Over the years, Americans have gotten to know a few different politicians residing inside the sober, vanilla body known as John Cornyn. There was Main Street Cornyn, whose Chamber of Commerce politics made him a reliable ally to business during his Texas Supreme Court years. Then there was George W. Cornyn, who became state attorney general with Karl Rove’s help and then returned the favor with faithful water-carrying once he followed the fourty-third president to Washington.
When Barack Obama nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, I assume that he knew what he was getting into. The debate over Hagel’s nomination won’t be about whether he is qualified to run the Pentagon and to negotiate budgets with Congress, but about Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran. Initially, some of Hagel’s critics charged that he was an anti-Semite. But these charges rightfully met with derision.
Once again there was a vote on the Senate Republican compromise payroll-tax cut. Once again a majority of Republicans and all but two members of the Republican leadership failed to support the "Republican bill." Twenty-five Republican senators voted against the bill, 22 Republican senators voted for it, and the only members of the Senate leadership who cast ayes were Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and John Barrasso of West Virginia, vice-chairman of the Senate Republican conference.
While all of Washington fastened its gaze on Chris Christie, the most important issue of the week—maybe of the year—was playing out on the floor of the Senate.
For the past generation, if you wanted to understand the legal philosophy of the leading Republican presidential contenders, the best person to look to was Antonin Scalia. And, on the surface, that would appear to be true again this year. After all, the current Republican front-runner, Rick Perry, has plenty in common with Scalia—namely, a professed aversion to judges who legislate from the bench or broadly interpret the Constitution. But, once you read Perry’s manifesto, Fed Up!
John Cornyn suggests it may already be too late for a debt ceiling deal, and floats a six- and eight-month extension. This seems deeply worrisome. An extension is going to expose everybody in Congress who votes for it and make them more reluctant to support the next debt ceiling vote. And it will locate the next debt ceiling vote during the peak of the GOP presidential primary, when candidates will start staking out anti-extension views and forcing the rest of the party to follow suit.
One of the many pathologies of the American health care system is that is creates enormous waste, in part by encouraging the most expensive rather than the most effective medical interventions. Every dollar of waste is somebody's profit, and the beneficiaries of that profit cultivate political influence to protect it. In order to circumvent this problem, the Affordable Care Act created in Independent Payment Advisory Board, a pane,l insulated from political pressure, that can recommend cuts in waste. Naturally, many members of Congress don't like this and want to repeal the board.
John Cornyn, as a way of diffusing opposition to Paul Ryan's Medicare voucherization plan, says that it's the same thing as Obamacare. Now, that's wrong in a lot of ways -- most notably, Ryan's plan holds the value of its vouchers well below the cost of medical care -- but it is true in certain ways. One implication of this, as Ezra Klein notes, is that, if Ryan's plan is even close to viable, then the Affordable Care Act will work far better than its designers expect: That said, the implications of Cornyn’s comments are interesting.
John Cornyn threatens Republican Senators who oppose the earmark bans with right-wing primary challengers. Kevin Drum notes: John Cornyn is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Can you even imagine his Democratic counterpart saying something like that? Any Democratic counterpart? And no, alternate universes don't count. It's very easy to fall into the trap of assuming the other party is well-organized and clever while your party is disorganized and weak. But even while maintaining a healthy suspicion of that instinct, it seems to me that Drum is right.
Washington—It's rare to see a dry run for an election campaign. But over the next month, Australia will provide a testing ground for some of the core themes in this November's American elections. Last weekend, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who took office in June after the fall of her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, called an election for Aug. 21—they do things fast down there—in which her Labor Party will be using a central argument that Democrats hope to invoke against the Republicans. Gillard's statement opening the campaign left no ambiguity about Labor's message.