Some Texas Republicans oppose Cornyn as potential Senate minority leader



(The Center Square) – Some Texans already have expressed opposition to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn potentially being the next U.S. Senate minority leader after he co-authored a bill to restrict gun rights.

After U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced he was stepping down as U.S. Senate minority leader at the end of the year, the senior senator from Texas said he wants the job.

Cornyn first praised McConnell’s leadership, saying he “made an indelible mark on this institution and the Republican Party. For more than 17 years, he has been the steady hand at the helm, guiding us through some of the most consequential debates and decisions in recent history.” McConnell also “protected the Senate’s essential role under the Constitution. He cares deeply about the rules and traditions of this body – ones that have worked in the past and will continue to work so long as we let them,” he said.

McConnell’s announcement came after the Senate failed to pass a Democratic border bill negotiated by Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, and after concerns were raised about his health. House Republicans said they won’t consider the Senate bill after the Senate ignored a bill the House passed that would implement border security measures. The Senate instead tried to expand authority to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas even after the House impeached him. The Senate bill also would have codified existing Mayorkas policies that Republicans deem illegal into law, and further mass migration.

Cornyn, who partnered with U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, to propose a 2021 border bill that went nowhere, also said, “the Senate is broken” and he learned from experience “what works in the Senate and what does not.” He also said he was confident Senate Republicans “can restore our institution to the essential role it serves in our constitutional republic” and under his leadership, “We will restore the important role of Senate committees and reestablish the regular appropriations process, rather than lurch from one crisis to another.”

Cornyn first said he wanted the job at a 2021 Texas Tribune event saying after McConnell steps down, “I’ve made it no secret that I would like to succeed him. If there’s an opportunity to do that, I would like to do that.”

One year later, Cornyn drew ire among Republicans, conservatives and Texans for ushering through a “gun control” bill in the Senate, arguing it “will save lives while placing no new restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.”

Texas’ junior Republican senator, Ted Cruz, who introduced a different bill, said at the time that Cornyn’s bill “won’t stop violent crime or make schools safer, but will restrict law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

After President Joe Biden signed Cornyn’s bill into law, Cornyn was booed and jeered at a June 2022 Republican Party of Texas convention while giving remarks. Chanting “no Red Flag” and “don’t take away our Second Amendment rights,” Republican delegates also called him a traitor, The Center Square reported. They also unanimously approved a resolution condemning his bill.

Later, in a press call, Cornyn called Texas Republicans jeering him, including many who helped get him elected, “a mob.” Gun rights groups then demanded he apologize.

Now, one gun rights group is among the first to oppose Cornyn leading Senate Republicans.

“The Senate deserves a conservative pro-gun leader, and John Cornyn is not that person,” Gun Owners of America said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Every time a gun issue comes up, he’s right there with a compromise. And that’s not leadership. That’s just capitulation to gun control. Americans deserve someone who will refuse to compromise with their God-given Second Amendment rights. And unfortunately, John Cornyn is always, always, always cutting deals with our Second Amendment.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also criticized Cornyn saying, “It will be difficult for Sen. Cornyn to be an effective leader since he is anti-Trump, anti-gun, and will be focused on his highly competitive primary campaign in 2026. Republicans deserve better in their next leader and Texans deserve another conservative Senator.”

Cornyn replied, “Hard to run from prison, Ken,” referring to ongoing legal challenges Paxton faces and rumors that he’s running for Senate. Paxton, who was reelected to office in November 2022, was the first attorney general in Texas history to be impeached. Sixty House Republicans overwhelmingly joined Democrats to impeach him last May.

The Texas Senate acquitted Paxton after holding a trial last September. Since then, Paxton has endorsed and campaigned for dozens of state House Republicans challenging incumbents who voted to impeach him in the March 5 primary.

The terms of McConnell, 82, and Cornyn, 72, end in January 2027.

McConnell is expected to step down as Senate minority leader in November and retire in January 2027. It’s unclear if Cornyn expects to run for a fifth term. He was first elected in 2002 after serving as Texas attorney general and a Texas Supreme Court associate justice.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the current Republican whip, is considered a front-runner. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has also been mentioned to fill the role, according to news reports.

The last Texas senator to lead his party in the U.S. Senate was Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson served as the U.S. Senate Democratic majority leader from 1955 until Jan. 20, 1961, when he was sworn in as vice president along with President John F. Kennedy.

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