Sen. John Cornyn

Texas leaders encourage Obama to follow state business model

Texas’ top Republican officials are weighing in this morning on President Obama’s visit to Central Texas. Their message: President Obama should take a hard look at the Texas economy and use it as a model for the rest of the nation.

President Obama is in Central Texas today to kick off his “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour.” The president will deliver remarks at Manor New Tech High School and Applied Materials. There is also speculation that he will make another private stop in Downtown Austin.

In an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman, Gov. Rick Perry took the opportunity to tout Texas’ economy and job creation and took some jabs at the president’s policies.

“The secret to our success is actually pretty simple, and I’ve shared the message around the country and around the world,” Perry said. “We keep our taxes low, our regulations reasonable and effective; we’ve implemented lawsuit abuse reforms and cultivated a world-class workforce. Are these decisions always easy? No, but like every American family, we make the tough choices and balance our budget. Hardworking taxpayers should expect no less than a limited and accountable government.”

Senators Ted Cruz and Attorney General Greg Abbott weigh in, after the jump.

More >

Capital Tonight : Appraising the Devastation

Lawmakers visit Accident Site

U.S. senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz visited West today to see the devastation.

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples joined Karina Kling to discuss the scene he witnessed passing through West shortly after the explosion. Staples also discussed the setback to agriculture the explosion is likely to have on food production.

Senate District 22

(R) Sen. Brian Birdwell joined Karina Kling from West, Texas. Birdwell discussed the damage he witnessed in West and how the local leadership is handling the situation.

Reporter Roundtable

Scott Braddock with the Quorum Report, Christy Hoppe from the Dallas Morning News and Jay Root with The Texas Tribune joined Karina Kling to discuss the events in politics this week.


Capital Tonight: Revisiting vouchers, CPRIT and more

School Vouchers

Republicans and Democrats sparred once again over school vouchers Tuesday — including whether or not a newly proposed law counted as a voucher at all.

A bill filed by Sen. Dan Patrick would partially pay for private school tuition through scholarships funded by tax-exempt donations. The bill has the support of Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., but Sen. Wendy Davis expressed skepticism.

Another hearing Tuesday looked into oversight of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas. CPRIT has been under fire since last year, with questions of grant-rigging and even a criminal investigation. Trust, transparency and accountability were at the top of the committee’s list Tuesday.

Equal Under the Law

A bill extending the Romeo and Juliet provision passed out of a Senate committee Tuesday. It would extend the Romeo and Juliet defense to same-sex couples over the age of 14.

Earlier in the day, 600 women visited the Capitol hoping to turn it blue for the day. Blue Ribbon Lobby Day organizers are pushing lawmakers to say yes to Medicaid expansion, restoring public education cuts and returning Planned Parenthood to the Women’s Health Program.

Capital Commentators

Harold Cook and Ted Delisi sat down with Paul Brown to discuss the day’s political news, including school choice bills, CPRIT and new border security legislation filed by Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Michael McCaul.

Cornyn, McCaul introduce border control legislation

U.S Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Michael McCaul are calling for tougher border control measures before new immigration reform legislation is enacted. The two Texas lawmakers introduced the bill, known as the Border Security Results Act, Tuesday.

Sen. Cornyn says the bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to “create new metrics to define progress based off the number of apprehensions relative to the total number of illegal crossings.”

“Since 2010, the Administration has failed to provide a metric for determining border security, yet they continue to claim that the border is secure,” Cornyn said. “By requiring the Administration to come up with a clear measurement of security, as well as a timeline for development and implementation, we can ensure that our national security policy is based on real results, and not baseless claims.”

The legislation also calls on the DHS to develop a new strategy within four months of the bill’s passage and to gain operational control of the border two years after that.

Rep. McCaul, who is the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, says the federal government needs to change its patrol tactics. “For too long, we have approached border security backwards – by throwing resources at the problem, to plug the holes on our borders without a comprehensive plan to tactically distribute those resources,” he said. “Until Congress mandates the creation of a national strategy, the Administration will continue to say the border is secure while America’s back door remains wide open.”

Texas’ senators remember Margaret Thatcher

Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are remembering former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher today.

Thatcher died of a stroke today in her London home. She was the youngest woman to serve in the British Parliament and the only woman to serve as prime minister. Thatcher was 87.

Sen. Cornyn released this statement on her death:

“Formidable in every respect, Margaret Thatcher was a steadfast defender of liberty, a fierce advocate of freedom, and a great friend to the United States.  She never hesitated to remind Americans of our own obligations to the cause of freedom and the need for political courage to do what is right in the face of overwhelming adversity.  Today, Americans and all freedom-loving people around the world mourn her passing.  We will remember Lady Thatcher not only as the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but as a transformative figure who revitalized her country and stared down tyranny.  She was a loving mother, a devoted wife, and a supporter of liberty.  May she rest in peace, and may we honor her memory through an unwavering commitment to freedom and individualism.”

 Here’s in Sen. Cruz’s statement:

“Today the world mourns the loss of an extraordinary leader, the great Margaret Thatcher.

Utterly fearless, she never once went wobbly. Rejecting the failures of socialism, she won the argument for liberty, and her name is synonymous with the policies that restored peace, prosperity, growth, and stability at a time when it seemed like the United Kingdom had none.

It was truly a Providential blessing that she served alongside President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II — together the three of them stood unshakable, defended humanity, and won the Cold War without firing a shot. Her magnificent intellect and unwavering work ethic helped her become Britain’s first and only female prime minister — an ascent that wasn’t a matter of breaking through the glass ceiling, but simply refusing to acknowledge its existence.”

The world will forever be in her debt; Lady Thatcher was one of kind. Long live the memory of our dearly departed Iron Lady.

Former President George H.W. Bush was president during Thatcher’s final two years as British prime minister. He released a statement from his home in Houston calling Thatcher “one of the 20th centruy’s fiercest advocates of freedom and free markets.”

Cornyn demands more detainee release hearings

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is demanding more hearings related to the release of thousands of detainees from Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. As a member of the Senate Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security Subcommittee, Cornyn wants Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) to call for a hearing.

In a letter, Cornyn said “At least 700 of these detainees were directly released into Texas. We also know that at least 30 percent of these released detainees had criminal records — potentially including aggravated assault, financial crimes, theft, larceny, drug offenses, drunk-driving, and domestic violence.” Sen. Cornyn says Texans have a right to know what kind of criminals were released into the community and he wants the people behind the decision held responsible.

Last week, the detainee release was the subject of a Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. ICE Director John Morton stressed no dangerous criminals were released. He also denied that the sequester prompted the decision. Rather, it was fear that they would not be able to live within their budget before government funding expired at the end of March.

Sen. Cornyn’s full letter to subcommittee chairman Sen. Schumer is below:

Chairman Charles Schumer

U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Chairman Schumer:

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, I am writing to request that the Subcommittee conduct full oversight of the recent United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency decision to release 2,228 persons from immigration detention, hundreds into Texas, for no legitimate reason. These actions, made at the direction of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership, call into question the Department’s commitment to its core national security missions and raise serious concerns about the judgment of high-level DHS officials. As the Subcommittee with oversight responsibility for the Department of Homeland Security, I believe that it is our duty to hold hearings on this matter in the next month.

Though multiple members of Congress and state governors have requested detailed information about these DHS actions, we have yet to receive a response from the Department. What we do know is that at least 700 of these detainees were directly released into Texas. We also know that at least 30 percent of these released detainees had criminal records—potentially including aggravated assault, financial crimes, theft, larceny, drug offenses, drunk-driving, and domestic violence. At least 8-10 of the criminals released by DHS were classified as “Level one offenders”—the most dangerous group of criminals detained by ICE. This is unacceptable.

I am also very troubled that senior DHS officials, including ICE Director John Morton, have attempted to downplay the seriousness of releasing more than 600 criminals from their custody and into the general population. Though some have suggested that these released criminals were not dangerous offenders, the victims of assault, drug crimes, theft, drunk driving, and domestic violence would strongly disagree. Texans and the rest of America have a right to know exactly what kinds of criminals were released into their communities by DHS and to see that the persons who made these decisions are held fully accountable. I look forward to working with you to find a mutually agreeable date and time for an oversight hearing.


Updated: Hagel confirmation moves forward without Texas senators’ support

Updated to add statement from Sen. Ted Cruz

Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary is moving forward. Several Republicans reversed their positions in a test vote today, clearing the way for confirmation.

The former Republican Senator has faced a rocky road so far, with the GOP forcing a filibuster and extending the debate earlier this month. Republicans have been highly critical of President Obama’s choice, accusing Hagel of being unfit to lead the U.S. military.

Despite today’s vote, dozens of Republicans still stand opposed. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were among 15 republicans who signed a letter requesting that President Obama withdraw Hagel’s name from consideration.

Sen. John Cornyn released this statement, following today’s test vote:

“There is simply no way to sugarcoat it: Senator Hagel’s performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was remarkably inept, and we should not be installing a Defense Secretary who is obviously not qualified for the job, and who holds dangerously misguided views on some of the most important issues facing national security policy for our country.” ~Sen. John Cornyn

Here is Sen. Ted Cruz’s statement:

“Chuck Hagel will be confirmed because Senate Democrats stood united behind President Obama’s nomination of the most controversial Secretary of Defense in modern times. No one has ever been confirmed to the position with more than 11 “no” votes, until today when a record number of senators voted against his nomination. A great many of us have been concerned about Hagel’s longstanding record of antagonism towards Israel and unwillingness to stand vigorously against Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons. I hope those concerns are proven wrong. I fervently hope that this confirmation does not embolden Iran to accelerate their nuclear weapons development; I fervently hope that this confirmation does not undermine our vital alliance with Israel. Chuck Hagel can prove his critics wrong by standing by his confirmation commitments. He has an enormous task ahead of him, and running the Defense Department will require principled leadership on the world’s stage. I wish Secretary Hagel success in his new role and am committed to working with him to keep America safe and strong.” ~Sen. Ted Cruz


With a Democratic majority in the Senate, Hagel is expected to easily pass a final confirmation vote. That is expected later today.

Cornyn, Cruz call on Obama to withdraw Hagel nomination

Senate Republicans are pressuring the White House to change its pick for Defense Secretary. In a letter to President Obama, Sen. Miniorty Whip John Cornyn points to the lack of bipartisan support for Hagel’s nomination and calls Hagel’s record “erratic.” 

Hagel, a former Republican Senator, has faced an uphill climb toward confirmation in the Senate, even among his former party-mates, who blocked an up-or-down confirmation vote last week.

Sen. Ted Cruz added his signature to Sen. Cornyn’s letter. In a statement, Cruz said, “Given Senator Hagel’s disturbing record on foreign policy and poor confirmation hearing performance, he lacks the trust and confidence needed to serve as Defense Secretary at such a critical time.”


Texas GOP lawmakers respond to State of the Union

Texas republicans were quick to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Here’s a collection of some of their email statements. 

Sen. Ted Cruz:

President Obama only knows how to grow government, not the economy.

Under President Obama, the economy is entering its fifth year of substandard annual growth – 0.8% on average — compared to an average of 3.3% for the last 70 years.

If the President’s big-government policies were enacted, they would make it harder for the 23 million people out of work to find a job, harder for young people coming out of school to find their first job, and harder for Hispanics and African Americans struggling to achieve the American dream.

There is potential for real bipartisan cooperation in Congress to get the economy growing and help people get back to work, but expanding government spending, debt, taxes, and control of the economy will only make the problem worse.

Sen. John Cornyn

“Each year the President has promised, pledged, and pivoted, but American families continue to confront persistently high unemployment, rising health care costs, and the prospect of losing more of their hard-earned paychecks to tax increases.

“If we want to grow the nation’s economy and create jobs, Washington needs to embrace the Texas model. I will continue to push this President to adopt our proven formula of limited government, low taxes, and sensible regulations – because America can, and should, do much better.”

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst:

At a time in our nation’s history when Americans should be coming together to heal our more perfect Union, President Barack Obama is once again delivering a State of the Union speech that panders to the liberal elite, while creating more division among Americans.

President Obama says he wants to attract more jobs to America, get Americans the skills that they need, and ensure everyone has a chance of success. Mr. President, actions speak louder than words.

President Obama is proposing an answer to America’s economic crisis.  Well, I can answer that in one word, five letters: Texas.  If only he’d listen.

I have worked with conservative leaders to build the best business climate in the world right here in the Lone Star State. What exactly does that mean? It means cutting taxes 51 times in the last decade. It means cutting the state budget by billions of dollars. It means stopping all liberal attempts at imposing a state income tax. It means having the lightest regulatory hand in the country.  It means getting government out of your lives.  And It means not caving in to unions who care more about lining their coffers than in helping to produce jobs.

And what has that commitment to fiscally conservative policies meant for Texas?  According to the Texas Comptroller, Texas’ GDP for 2013 will grow 3.4%, compared to 1.7% for the rest of America.  Our economy is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the country.  We’ve been rated the #1 state to do business. We’re the nation’s top exporting state – and have been for 10 years running. We are ranked 48th out of 50 states in per capita state spending.  And we’ve created more jobs than any other state in the nation by leaps and bounds. To put that into perspective, for the last three years we’ve created more jobs than all other 49 states combined.

If President Obama would pay attention to the Texas Miracle, our nation wouldn’t be falling behind China today. While many Americans continue to lose hope because they cannot find a job, President Obama continues to plunge our nation further and further into debt.

For centuries, Americans have given their lives, toiled with their hands, spent years learning – all in the hopes that they would provide a better life for their children and grandchildren. It is the foundation of the American Dream — the Dream that President Obama is making more difficult to achieve with each passing day.

In Texas, we fight for the American Dream daily, and I will not relent in this battle. Texas is a place of big dreams and quiet miracles. It’s a place where every day, anybody from any background can scale heights as improbable as they are breathtaking.

And maybe that’s why Washington just won’t pay attention.


Cornyn calls for hearings on gun law enforcement

Sen. John Cornyn is hoping to use his spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee to push for stronger enforcement of federal gun laws. At a committee meeting today, Sen. Cornyn called for a hearding on the Department of Justice’s handling of enforcement. Afterward, we got a chance to ask Cornyn which specific laws he thought weren’t being enforced. One thing he mentioned was a state-level obligation to submit mental health data to a larger database.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from some of these terrible tragedies, it’s that we need to get a better handle on people with mental health conditions who may end up committing these heinous acts of violence, and submitting this information by the state to the federal government so it can be included in background checks as an important part of that.”

You can see his full response by clicking on the video link below.