John Cornyn

John Cornyn
United States Senator
from Texas
Assumed office
December 1, 2002[1]
Serving with Kay Bailey Hutchison
Preceded by Phil Gramm
49th Attorney General of Texas
In office
January 13, 1999 – December 1, 2002
Governor George W. Bush (1999-2000)

Rick Perry (2000-2002)

Preceded by Dan Morales
Succeeded by Greg Abbott
Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court
In office
January 2, 1991 – October 18, 1997
Governor Ann Richards (1991-1995)

George W. Bush (1995-1997)

Preceded by Franklin S. Spears
Succeeded by Deborah Hankinson
Personal details
Born February 2, 1952 (1952-02-02) (age 59)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sandy Cornyn; 2 children
Residence Austin, Texas, U.S.
Alma mater Trinity University (B.A.)
St. Mary's University (J.D.)
University of Virginia (LL.M.)
Occupation Attorney
Religion Church of Christ
Website Senator John Cornyn

John Cornyn, III (born February 2, 1952) is the junior United States Senator for Texas, serving since 2003. He is a member of the Republican Party. He was elected Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 111th U.S. Congress.[2]


Early life, education, and legal career

Cornyn was born in Houston to John Cornyn, II and Atholene Gale Cornyn (née Danley).[3] He graduated from Trinity University in 1973, where he majored in journalism and was a member of Chi Delta Tau.[4][5] He earned a J.D. from St. Mary's University School of Law in 1977 and an LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1995.[6][7]

He served in San Antonio for six years as a district judge before being elected as a Republican in 1990 to the Texas Supreme Court, on which he served for seven years.

Attorney General

1998 election

In 1998, Cornyn decided to run to become Texas Attorney General. In the March primary, Barry Williamson, Railroad Commissioner, placed first with 38% of the vote, but failed to get the 50% threshold necessary to win the Republican nomination. Cornyn, then-State Supreme Court Justice, got second place with 32% and Tom Pauken, former Chairman of the Texas Republican party, got third place with 30%.[8] In the April run-off election, Cornyn defeated Williamson 58% to 42%.[9] In the general election, Cornyn defeated Jim Mattox, former U.S. Congressman and Attorney General (1983-1991), with 54% of the vote.[10] Cornyn became only the second Republicans to have held the position.


His office organized a consumer fraud division to target improper business practices. He fought energy companies accused of underpaying royalties and environmental violations. He enforced child-support laws, such as penalizing deadbeat dads. He also created the Texas Internet Bureau to investigate illegal internet practices. He has fought against government waste and corruption with his investigation of fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims.[11]

In 2005, Cornyn's name was mentioned among possibilities to replace Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O'Connor or William Rehnquist.[12]

U.S. Senate



In the 2002 U.S. Senate Primary in Texas, Cornyn was the candidate promoted and supported by the Texas Republican Party in the Primary election. He easily defeated the five other candidates in the Republican Primary while disdaining the opportunity to debate the other candidates. Cornyn defeated his closest Republican challenger, Bruce Rusty Lang, a self-financed Dallas based international physician, in the Republican Primary election by a ten to one electoral margin. In the 2002 General election Candidate Cornyn defeated Democrat Ron Kirk in a campaign which cost each candidate over $18,000,000.[citation needed]


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%.[13] Texas House of Representatives member/Afghanistan War veteran Rick Noriega secured his place as Cornyn's Democratic challenger in the March 4 primary, beating out opponents Gene Kelly, Ray McMurrey, and Rhett Smith. The same Rasmussen poll showed Cornyn leading Noriega 47% to 43%, suggesting that this race might have proved to be unexpectedly competitive. However, most polls showed a much wider margin. Christian activist Larry Kilgore of Mansfield, was a Republican challenger for the March 2008 primary election, but Cornyn easily won the Republican primary.[14]

Yvonne Adams Schick was the Libertarian Party's nominee.[15] In addition, the Green Party of Texas sought ballot access for its candidate David B. Collins.[16]


In 2004, Cornyn co-founded and became the co-chairman of the U.S. Senate India Caucus.[17] Cornyn was selected by his colleagues in December 2006 to be a member of the five-person Republican Senate leadership team as Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.[18]

Cornyn has received various awards and recognitions, including the 2005 Border Texan of the Year Award; the National Child Support Enforcement Association's Children's Champion Award; the American Farm Bureau Federation's Friend of Farm Bureau Award; the Texas Association of Business's (TAB) Fighter for Free Enterprise Award; the National Federation of Independent Business's (NFIB) Guardian of Small Business Award; the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders's (CONLAMIC) Latino Leadership Award; and the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce's (TAMACC) International Leadership Legislative Award; among others.[citation needed]

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 that of Judge Rowland Barnes. "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."[19] His statement and a similar one by House Majority Leader Tom Delay were widely denounced, including The New York Times.[20] Cornyn later said that he regretted the statement.[21]

In 2005, Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, presented Cornyn and Senator Patrick Leahy with its first ever Bi-Partisan Leadership Award in honor of their cooperation on issues of government oversight and transparency, including their co-sponsorship of the OPEN Government Act of 2005, which prevented burying exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act in legislation.[22]

Cornyn has been described by Jim Jubak of MSN Money 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.[23]

On the day of Obama's inauguration, it was reported that Cornyn would prevent Hillary Rodham Clinton from being confirmed as secretary of state by a unanimous floor vote that day. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman reported to the Associated Press that a roll call vote would be held instead on the following day, January 21, 2009, for the Clinton confirmation, and that it was expected Clinton would "receive overwhelming bipartisan support".[24] The vote was 94-2 in her favor, with only Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and David Vitter (R-LA) voting in opposition.[25]

Cornyn also took the lead on resisting the nomination of Eric Holder for Attorney General, attempting to set up hypothetical questions which would have supported the use of torture. During the nomination hearings, Holder rejected the premise of that line of questioning and declined to endorse waterboarding as a legitimate law enforcement or national security tool.[26]

As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn was a strong supporter of Norm Coleman's various court challenges to the election certification.[27] Cornyn advocated for Coleman to bring the case before the federal court, and had said the trial and appeals could take years to complete.[28] Cornyn had threatened that Republicans would wage a "World War III" if the Senate Democrats had attempted to seat Franken before the appeals were complete.[29] Coleman conceded after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of Franken.

Committee assignments

Political positions

Cornyn was ranked by National Journal as the seventeenth-most conservative United States Senator in their 2008 rankings.[30] He was considered by the Dallas Morning News to be a reliable ally of former President George W. Bush on most issues.[31]

Civil rights and law enforcement

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... [N]ow 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." He removed the reference to the box turtle in the actual speech, but the Washington Post ran the quote, as did The Daily Show.[32][33]

Cornyn sponsored a bill that would allow law enforcement to force anyone arrested or detained to provide samples of their DNA, which would be recorded in a central database.[34] 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. He is rated "A" by the National Rifle Association.[35] Cornyn said on December 20, 2005: "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead" in a speech supporting reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act.[36]

Defense and homeland security

In 2005, Cornyn voted against additional funding for up-armored vehicles to protect troops in Afghanistan & Iraq. Cornyn voted against removing troops from Iraq by July 2007, and he later voted against removing them by March 2008. He voted against implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report and restoring $565 million for states' and ports' first responders. He also voted against restricting businesses with ties to terrorism. He voted against preserving habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees. Cornyn was one of only 22 Senators to vote against the Post-9/11 GI Bill that expands the educational benefits for soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.[37] Instead he co-sponsored SB 2938, which gives benefits that are dependent on length of service.[citation needed]

Social policy

He voted to ban partial-birth abortions 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.[35] He voted to prevent contributions to organizations that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning, and to prevent funding of organizations that support coercive abortion.[38]

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.[35] In September 2005, during the Supreme Court hearings for Roberts, 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".[39]

On July 24, 2009 Cornyn announced his intention to vote against President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, citing his opinion that she might rule "from a liberal, activist perspective".[40]

Fiscal policy

Cornyn is a cosponsor of the Fair Tax Act of 2007.[41] He voted to permanently repeal the estate tax and for raising the estate tax exemption to $5 million. He voted in favor of $350 billion in tax cuts over 11 years, and supports making President Bush's tax cuts permanent.[35] He voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008,Troubled Asset Relief Program TARP, but against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.

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 voted against reducing oil usage by 40%, rather than by 5%. He also voted against removing oil and gas exploration subsidies.[35] 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.[42]

Cornyn opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[43] and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[44]

Electoral history

Texas U.S. Senate Election 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican John Cornyn (incumbent) 4,326,639 54.80
Democratic Rick Noriega 3,383,890 42.86
Libertarian Yvonne Adams Schick 184,729 2.34
Texas U.S. Senate Election 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican John Cornyn 2,480,991 54.7
Democratic Ron Kirk 1,946,681 43.3
Libertarian Scott Jameson 35,538 0.78
Green Roy Williams 25,051 0.55

Personal life

Cornyn and his wife, Sandy Hansen, have two daughters. Cornyn gained national attention when he released a video referring to himself as "Big Bad John". The video was featured on comedy shows such as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show.

In 1999, Cornyn, as state attorney general, awarded "Lawman of the Year" to free-lance, discredited undercover officer Tom Coleman, for his work in Tulia, Texas.[45][46] This work resulted in the "Tulia 46" scandal.



  1. ^ 2003 Congressional Record, Vol. 149, Page S1
  2. ^ website
  3. ^ "Rootsweb Senatorial Genealogies". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  4. ^ "U.S. Senator To Address Trinity University Undergraduates". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Alumni Association Foundation - Chi Delta Tau". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Senator John Cornyn to Speak at Opening of Center for Terrorism Law as St. Mary's University School of Law". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Alumni in the News, 2002". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Possible Nominees to the Supreme Court". The Washington Post. July 1, 2005. 
  13. ^ Rasmussen Reports on Texas
  14. ^ "Noriega avoids runoff in Senate bid; Cornyn wins easily", Dallas Morning News
  15. ^ Libertarian Party of Texas website
  16. ^
  17. ^ "India Caucus formed in US Senate". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  18. ^ "Senate Republican Conference: About the SRC". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  19. ^ Toobin, Jeffrey. The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, pg. 248. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-51640-2
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Good Government Award Home Page - Project On Government Oversight Website, retrieved July 1, 2010
  23. ^ "Big Oil's 10 favorite members of Congress". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  24. ^ article on Hillary Clinton confirmation as Secretary of State
  25. ^ CNN broadcast, The Situation Room, January 21, 2009
  26. ^ "Cornyn's Absurd Hypothetical For Holder: What If Waterboarding Were Your Only Interrogation Option?", January 15, 2009, including transcript and video.
  27. ^ Raju, Manu (2009-03-17). "GOP eyes Bush v. Gore for Coleman". Politico. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  28. ^ Hasen, Richard (2009-03-18). "Franken's Monster Will Bush v. Gore bite Democrats in Coleman v. Franken?". Slate. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  29. ^ Raju, Manu (March 30, 2009). "In Minnesota, it's still November". Politico. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  30. ^ "National Journal: 2008 Vote Ratings". 
  31. ^ "Bush rallies immigration bill's GOP foes", Dallas Morning News June 13, 2006
  32. ^ Romano, Lois (July 12, 2004). "In Oklahoma, GOP Race Not a Given". The Washington Post. 
  33. ^ "The Boys in the Ban". Retrieved November 14, 2007. 
  34. ^ Washington Post Article, 9/23/05
  35. ^ a b c d e "John Cornyn on the Issues". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  36. ^ "The GOP's 'Give Me Death' Defense on Domestic Spying". 
  37. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 110th Congress - 2nd Session". Retrieved May 23, 2008. 
  38. ^ "Votes by John Cornyn". Congress votes database. Washington Post. Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  39. ^ Milbank, Dana (September 16, 2005). "Final Day of Nomination Hearings: Yawn.". The Washington Post. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ "S. 1025: Fair Tax Act of 2007 (". Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  42. ^ "LCV_2006_Scorecard_final.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  43. ^
  44. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  45. ^ "The Color of Justice by Nate Blakeslee -, Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  46. ^ "Tulia Travesty Covered Up By Texas Prosecutors and Courts". Retrieved 2008-01-05.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Dan Morales
Attorney General of Texas
January 13, 1999–December 1, 2002
Succeeded by
Greg Abbott
United States Senate
Preceded by
Phil Gramm
United States Senator (Class 2) from Texas
Served alongside: Kay Bailey Hutchison
Party political offices
Preceded by
Kay Bailey Hutchinson
Vice-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference
Succeeded by
John Thune
Preceded by
John Ensign
Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
2009 – present
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Lamar Alexander
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Mark Pryor

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