Cornyn: GOP Congress Would Take Aim at Health Care, Financial Reform Bills

BY David Chalian  September 30, 2010 at 8:24 AM EDT

The Morning Line

If in 33 days American voters put Republicans back in power on Capitol Hill, the head of the Senate Republican campaign arm predicts his party will “pretty quickly” introduce bills to repeal two of President Obama’s major legislative accomplishments from the first half of his term: health care reform and financial regulatory reform.

But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, went on to caution that with the president still wielding veto power, no significant repeal legislation is likely to become law.

“The fact of the matter, though, is that President Obama will remain president of the United States and he could veto any legislation we were able to pass. Even if we controlled the House, unless we controlled the Senate and got 60 votes, we wouldn’t be able to pass any corresponding legislation in the Senate,” Cornyn said Wednesday in an interview with the PBS NewsHour.

“So I think, we need to keep expectations, again, fairly modest as far as what we can do over the next two years,” Cornyn added.

“I think it is a chance to work together with the president if he wants to work with us like President Clinton did following the 1994 election to pass things like welfare reform on a bipartisan basis. But, I think, if the president doesn’t reach across the aisle and actually try to do things on a bipartisan basis, the likelihood is that not a whole lot of legislating will be done.”

Cornyn suggested that congressional oversight of federal agencies may be where a Republican majority flexes its muscles, rather than in legislation that is likely to go nowhere with a Democratic president at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen runaway federal government agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, like CMS that deals with Medicare, and things like the Department of Labor. We’ve seen some of these agencies kind of run amok and I think that’s where we will need to do significant oversight and rein them in,” Cornyn said.

As for getting to the majority in the Senate, Cornyn concedes that his job got a bit tougher when Tea Party-backed Christine O’Donnell ousted Rep. Mike Castle in the Republican primary two weeks ago in Delaware.

“I would say Delaware is a state where our job is more challenging. But I have to tell you, in this political environment, I don’t know how big the wave is going to be and how many people it will sweep in. I wouldn’t put anybody including Christine O’Donnell out of the game. I just think Mike Castle would have been a lead-pipe cinch.”

Several hours after our interview with Cornyn, Castle announced that he has decided not to seek a write-in candidacy despite many supporters urging him to do so.

“While I would have been honored to represent Delaware in the U.S. Senate, I do not believe that seeking office in this manner is in the best interest of all Delawareans. Therefore, it’s time for Jane and me to begin thinking about the next chapter of our lives,” Castle said in a statement late Wednesday night.

“When you do something like that, it really, I think people sorta say, ‘Well, you lost the race and now you can’t quite accept the outcome,’” Cornyn said.

Democrats also feared a Castle candidacy, which might have significantly diminished Chris Coons’ chances of winning the seat formerly held by Vice President Joe Biden.

Cornyn predicts that Republicans will not lose any of the competitive seats they currently hold. He also called the latest polling in California and Washington state showing vulnerable Democratic incumbents shoring up support an “aberration.”

“I think it’s a temporary phenomenon or aberration because if you look at how much television is being purchased by either side there had been a disparity in favor of the Democrats in Washington and California. Now that’s sort of leveling off and I think you’ll see those races get back much more competitive and I hope our candidates win,” Cornyn said.

Ever since becoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn has sought to set expectations about a GOP takeover of the Senate as a two-cycle process. He says he hasn’t decided if he will seek reelection among his colleagues to stay on at the campaign committee. He will make that determination after November 2. But with only nine Republican-held seats to defend and 23 Democratic seats up in 2012, he called it “tempting” to stay for another cycle.

HOME SWEET HOME

After spending the last few days on the road, President Obama has a full day scheduled Thursday in Washington. Mixed in with the usual daily briefings and staff meetings is an afternoon sit-down with Democratic congressional leaders, who after completing their legislative business overnight, are set to leave town with plans not to return until after November’s elections.

According to the White House, the list of expected attendees at the 12:45 p.m. EDT meeting includes: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Conference Chuck Schumer, Secretary of the Democratic Conference Patty Murray, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Majority Whip James Clyburn and Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chris Van Hollen.

Later in the evening the president will attend two fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee. The first stop is a dinner at a private residence in Washington. He’ll end the night with a Gen44 event at DAR Constitutional Hall.

Make sure to watch Thursday’s PBS NewsHour for Judy Woodruff’s interview with Speaker Pelosi.

A WRITING CHANCE?

Two new polls released Wednesday gave Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in candidacy a fighting chance this November.

A Time/CNN/Opinion Research survey showed attorney Joe Miller narrowly leading Murkowski 38 percent to 36 percent among like voters. Miller, a Tea Party favorite backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, defeated Murkowski in the Republican primary contest last month.

The poll puts support for Democratic nominee Scott McAdams at 22 percent.

CNN polling director Keating Holland said it appears Alaska Democrats “may be planning to do some strategic voting.” Holland notes: “Nearly four in ten Democratic likely voters say they plan to write in Murkowski’s name. That’s an indication that a lot of Democrats are more interested in defeating Miller than they are in electing a member of their own party.”

The other poll, released by Alaska-based Craciun Research, has support for Murkowski’s write-in bid at 41 percent, an 11-point advantage over Miller. McAdams again lags behind in third with 19 percent.

The Craciun team also highlights that support for Murkowski is pulling from Democratic voters: “The momentum McAdams gained after Republican Joe Miller won the primary appears to be shifting in Murkowski’s direction. Murkowski’s retained position on the Senate Energy and Resources Committee and McAdams inexperience are no doubt pushing Democrats across party lines.”

For more political news, visit our politics page.