Keynote Address: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) [2017 Annual Texas Chapters Conference]
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Keynote Address: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) [2017 Annual Texas Chapters Conference]


Good afternoon. The remarkable thing about our keynote speaker
is what an understatement it would be to introduce him as simply the senior senator from the
great state of Texas. Our conference today focuses on federalism,
executive power, and separation of powers. And Senator Cornyn is a one-man tour through
all branches of representative government, state and federal entrusted by the people
and his peers again and again and again to wield that responsibility with restraint,
judgment, discretion, and integrity. At 32, he ran for and won an open state district
judge seat in San Antonio, and in the mid-1980s, it was unheard of for a Republican to win
that bench. Six years later, Senator Cornyn was elected
to the Texas Supreme Court, and in 1990, it was almost unheard of for a Republican to
win a statewide seat. And we should never forget that it is John
Cornyn and the men and women that swept into office with him in those years are the reason
that conservative government in Texas is first, a model to the rest of the country, and second,
something that we almost take for granted here almost 30 years later. In 1996, Senator Cornyn was elected Attorney
General of Texas, and that win was not just unheard of, he was the first Republican to
win that office since reconstruction. John Cornyn was first elected to the United
States Senate in 2002 and has twice been reelected, most recently in 2014. I believe he has literally never lost an election
for any campaign, uh, for office- [laughter]
-either primary or general. He now serves on the Senate Committees of
Intelligence, Finance, and Judiciary, and let’s recall just one legislative victory
this year. As a member of the Judiciary Committee in
the week before the key vote, when it seemed clear that Democrats would try to filibuster
the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, John Cornyn resolutely
stated, “This is their last gasp from trying to prevent him from being confirmed, but they
won’t. And Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed this week
one way or another.” And so it came to pass. Senator Cornyn now serves as the Majority
Whip in the Senate, the second highest ranking position in the Senate Republican Conference,
and he would tell you, I think, that he likes sunshine and transparency on legislative process
and on government programs. Shockingly, he also likes to actually read
bills and consider them before they’re voted out of committee or off the Senate floor. And his efforts to get Obamacare put back
in the bottle have been a heroic 24/7 effort recently and in the recent past and over the
past many years. Senators who sit on the sidelines make that
task nearly impossible, but to the contrary, he has always been the man at the forefront,
whatever the issue, the one helping to lead the fight to plan it strategically and to
work for it relentlessly. John Cornyn’s is life of public service, his
father was a B17 pilot in World War II, who made his career in the air force. Senator Cornyn was born here in Houston, largely
raised in San Antonio where he also went to college. He has been married to his wonderful wife,
Sandy, for s- 37 years, and they have two amazing daughters. And so it’s with understatement that I return
to where I began, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the senior senator from the great
state of Texas, John Cornyn. [applause]
Thanks, Charles. Thanks very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, Charles, thank you for that, um, very
kind introduction, and as I always say, it’s great to be introduced to by a friend. [laughter]
Charles is, um, the kind of lawyer that exemplifies what I consider to be the best attributes
of members of the bar. Somebody who believes in serving his clients
diligently, somebody who believes that educating the public about the, the role of the law
in our lives and in our constitutional government is important, and I know he’s an adjunct at
U of H, and somebody who works, uh, with, uh, Senator Cruz and I on our Federal Judicial
Evaluation Committee to make sure that we select the best and the brightest judicial
nominees to the White House and work to get them confirmed. In fact, um, when I was Attorney General,
I was looking for the next solicitor general of the, uh, of the state of Texas, and I turned
to Charles and asked him if he would be interested in the job. Uh, I take some comfort that, uh, he declined,
uh, for a higher purpose, uh, because of family but, um, that gives you an idea of what I
think about Charles Eskridge, uh, he’s a outstanding human being and a great lawyer. Thank you, Charles. Well, with the Republican in the White House
and so many judicial vacancies in Texas, you can imagine how hard Senator Cruz and I and
our Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee have been working trying to help the White
House vet nominees for the federal courts. Senator Cruz and I decided to, um, make the,
uh, Judicial Evaluation Committee a bipartisan committee or at least keep it after President
Obama was in office, and I think that’s lent credibility to the process because we are
literally looking for the best people. Uh, not necessarily people with an agenda,
in fact, frankly, I’m not too interested in judges who’ve already decided what the outcome
of contested cases will be before they hear the, hear the case. But, um, so thank you and, uh, the, to the
Federal Society for the great work you all have done with people like Judge Gorsuch starting
at the top of the food chain, of the judicial food chain, all the way down to the, uh, the
federal district bench and certainly at the circuit court level as well. Uh, Fed Soc is a, is the go-to organization,
uh, for our side of the aisle, my side of the aisle when it comes to judicial nominees
because of the, of the diligence that you’ve demonstrated in identifying good people and
your fidelity, uh, to the principles of the Constitution and the separation of powers. So, I want to start by re- rewinding the clock
a little bit back to the 1980s. Think loud music, bell-bottoms, and big hair. [laughter]
That’s back when the, uh, Federalist Society was started back in 1982. I was practicing law in San Antonio, Texas,
defending doctors in, um, medical malpractice cases, by and large, in an office that wasn’t
very far from the Alamo. It was early in my law career, of course,
and like some of you here today, like all of us as young professionals, uh, I’d wondered
what the future, what my future would hold. With time, things started to become clear
and career opportunities presented themselves and my path became clear as I say. But as I grew up professionally, I noticed
that the Federalist Society did as well. And look at where you are now. It’s flattering enough that Fed Soc has been
recognized for years by some of the conservative patron saints like, uh, Ronald Reagan, jurists
like Clarence Thomas, just to name, just to name one. And, of course, many, many, many others. And it’s also recognized as a gold standard
as I indicated earlier when it comes to vetting federal judicial nominees. What’s so remarkable, though, is that because
of your refreshing approach to differences, even liberals sometimes sing your praises. That’s because Fed Soc never shies away from
a good honest debate, something that left avoids at all cost. And the left is worried, believe me. Listen to Mark Lilla, liberal political philosopher,
what he said about the Federalist Society as recently as last month. He said, “This one organization has revolutionized
the way that law is taught and interpreted in this country, and therefore, how we are
governed.” Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a big deal. Through your meetings and conferences and
your debates and your influence, you are shaping the way that our country is governed. That deserves a pat on the back, you are definitely
ruffling feathers. [laughter]
And it’s official. The left is afraid. Very, very afraid. [laughter]
But how we are governed is a big deal as I say. I’ve always believed that one of the, that
on the big, important questions in our country, who decides is the most important question
of all. It matters a lot, whether it’s the individual,
it’s the elected representatives of the people, or it’s life-tenured politically unaccountable
federal judges. And I’m pleased to say that due in part to
your efforts, our side has been winning the fight, arguing for a, an approach to, um,
judicial decision-making that has that fidelity, the constitution, and is consistent with the
founding principles. And we saw in the last presidential election
one of the most incredible upsets in US history where the choice over who would be the next
person to nominate vacancies to the Supreme Court of the United States I’m convinced drove
many people to the polls. Well, now with the presidency and executive
power, specifically, as the theme of today’s conference, and we’ll talk a little bit more
about the last election in a minute. But right now, and I w- I want to pause and
mention the anniversary of a major executive action, uh, that we celebrated yesterday. Well, you history buffs out there probably
already know this, but it’s the Emancipation Proclamation. So, uh, 155 years ago yesterday, President
Lincoln signed the original version that every grade schooler has heard about or at least
I hope they’ve heard about. It freed the slaves of the Confederacy. Lincoln, of course, justified the emancipation
proclamation as a fit and necessary war measure. The Constitution, of course, made him commander
in chief, and it is constitutionally significant that the proclamation was confined to the
states actually in rebellion. And, of course, later, it became permanent
with the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. Well, you’re wondering why I brought this
up, that was a long time ago. Um, but we still have presidents, and we still
have disagreements about the scope of executive power. American presidents like Lincoln still sometimes
take a bold, take bold and unprecedented actions, exercising the full measure of their authority
under the Constitution. Sometimes they have to, other times they do
it because they want to. But either way, Lincoln actually helps put
us in this, puts this question in larger greater context. I’ve been fortunate enough to serve the state
of Texas in Washington during three presidential administrations. I’ve known three presidents personally, and
I’ve worked with them all or done my best to do so. And, in case anyone’s wondering, I wish I
could blame my white hair on my service in Washington, but actually, I had that back
when Charles said I ran for judge at the ripe old age of 32. [laughter]
I actually waited until the day I turned 32 to file because I figured that gave me more
gravitas. [laughter]
But the story I want to tell you is not about the three men who I have served with, um,
they in the White House while I’ve been in the Senate. It’s instead to talk about each, how each
one of them have used executive power. And in telling that story, I want to explain
why I think that not all robust conceptions for executive power are alike. Far from it. Any discussion of executive power, of course,
is also a discussion about legislative power. You can’t have one without the other. Article I is Congress, my colleagues and I
and the House and the Senate, our job’s to make the law, that’s pretty basic. Article II is the president. And as we all know from the Youngstown case
that we read in law school, the president’s power to see the laws are faithfully executed
refutes the idea he is to be a lawmaker. And I quote, “Well, we take these as truisms,
but the founders actually designed a system where powers differed depending on the context.” Take the presidency of George W. Bush. The first part of my story. Well, I came to the Senate in 2002, um, almost
a year after 9/11. That Tuesday morning that we all remember. That memory will never quite go away. During my first term in the Senate, President
Bush interpreted his authority quite broadly in order to protect our country. The thread, of course, was different from
that, that, uh, President Lincoln was addressing. We had global terrorist networks and the possibility
of follow-on attacks that created a very, quite a sense of extreme urgency. And because of what has aptly been called
a failure of imagination, most of America was simply unaware of the malevolent threat
which operated in the shadows and was capable inf- of inflicting massive harm without armies
and without guns. Now the Constitution gives the president substantial
power over foreign affairs, as we all know, national security and defense because he’s
the commander in chief. The framer knew that these responsibilities
required, and I quote, “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch”. Congress, in contrast, is not designed to
act like that, trust me. [laughter]
Well, eventually, the courts and Congress pushed back some on President Bush’s authority
and demanded that he seek congressional approval for some of the surveillance and detention
and interrogation authority that he assumed in this, during a time of emergency. Crisis measures were acceptable for a time,
but even as Lincoln, um, after a while, the, uh, congressional branch, uh, decided to have
its say. By the time President Bush ended his second
term, he finally had buy-in from the other branch but had to scale back some of those
measures and put others on a bigger consensus footing. So when he finally passed the baton onto his
successor, our national security was, I believe, stronger, and the separation of powers had
been reaffirmed, which brings us to act two. That’s the presidency of Barack Obama. And the story takes a little different twist. As you know, President Obama actually kept
and sometimes expanded many of the national security programs of the Bush administration,
notwithstanding his railing against them during his campaign. Actually, I’m glad he did. But his own broad conception of executive
power went beyond to that, that of the role of commander in chief. He carried it into the domestic arena, too,
which the Constitution leaves primarily to Congress and to the states. Frustrated and disdainful of a Republican
Conf- Congress, and impatient with the consensus building required of legislation, President
Obama repeatedly took matters into his own hands. 2009, the Department of Justice quit enforcing
certain federal drug laws, in 2011, the Department of Justice refused to defend the Defense of
Marriage Act, a law passed by Congress overwhelmingly and signed it a law by President Bill Clinton. And 2012, the, the Obama Administration announced
it would not enforce provisions of federal immigration law against a class of roughly
one million individuals illegally present in the United States. Now, we don’t have the time and you, you don’t
have the patience, I assure you- [laughter]
-to talk about all of these, but let me talk about the last one, which has come to be known
as DACA. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. I want to talk about that just a minute. Well, recall, Article I is clear that Congress,
not the president, has the authority to fashion immigration laws. In fact, President Obama repeatedly by one
count in excess of 20 times publicly said he didn’t have the power to do what he did. In his own words, he said, “I’m president,
not king.” But nevertheless, he went on to do it anyway. President Obama didn’t just use prosecutorial
discretion to avoid enforcing immigration laws on a case-by-case basis. DACA actually gave roughly 800,000 illegal
immigrants a form of lawful presence providing them work permits and other government benefits,
so the president wasn’t just failing to enforce the law by specifying, specifying such a large
class and purporting to grant them affirmative relief, he was effectively rewriting the law. Now, I want to be clear, I am not criticizing
the policy goal behind DACA. I’m not impugning the character of those who
benefited from it, but I am most definitely criticizing the way it was executed and questioning
the legality. I think President Obama’s DACA decision was
vastly different from what other presidents have done. It was altogether new, it was unilateral policymaking
by determined inaction. But what’s so bad with doing nothing? Well, when you’re president, it can be pretty
bad. It means the president shirking his very duties. It avoids critical checks and balances. As you’d grathe- gather from, uh, Federalist
51, James Madison would, would have been appalled as would the drafters of our Constitution
be, uh, be because the Constitution says the president should take care that the laws will
be faithfully executed. Because if there’s no problem with DACA, what’s
to stop a president from saying, “Well, let’s not enforce our election laws and so that
non-citizens can vote”? Or what’s to stop a president saying, “That
darn tax code is giving people migraines, so let’s not enforce our tax code against
Fortune 500 companies and or corporate CEOs”? Well, all of that’s bad enough. But I believe it’s, there’s no coincidence
that all of this has occurred during a time when Americans’ respect for our core institutions
have been on the de- on the decline. I would argue that actions like DACA, which
is the clearest example of a president disregarding his duty, is part of the reason why. It fosters distrust and undermines public
confidence in how our Constitution is supposed to work. Process matters and is not partisan. You got to play inside the lines even when
doing so means sometimes you lose the game or sometimes you have to ride the bench until
it’s your turn. Going through the legislative process is hard. I promise you, it’s hard. [laughter]
But if you persevere, what you get by consensus is bipartisan buy-in, which is critical in
a republic such as ours. Make no mistake about it, what we’re really
talking about is the legitimacy of our institutions, i- including the institution of the presidency. What we’re talking about is whether maintaining
the system as a whole takes priority over short-term agendas. Well, that brings me to the final act in this
story, which is the Trump presidency. Of course, we’re only eight months in, and
it’s too early to tell what the president’s legacy will be regarding executive power. But if you’re willing to look, there are a
couple of signs of hope, both for the presidency and for our nation. On DACA, for example, the president has rightly
returned the debate and the authority over the program where it belongs and that is the
Congress. A second good sign is what happened here in
the wake of, uh, Hurricane Harvey just a few weeks ago, which has devastated large portions
of this great city. The executive branch’s response to the most
catastrophic rain event in US history was swift, and it was circumscribed by the law
and it respected other institutions and other levels of government as well. But the executive course was one and only
one part of a bigger picture because Congress has our role to play as well. After working with members of the executive
branch, Senator Cruz and I, along with the entire Texas delegation, we were able to secure
a down payment to help Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey, a 15 and a quarter billion
dollars. Now, I’m a fiscal conservative, and numbers
like that scare me to death. But when you look at the size of the, of the
violence and the devastation brought by Hurricane Harvey, as I tell my friends in Washington,
I say, “Texas doesn’t want to be treated any better than anybody else under similar circumstances,
but we will not tolerate being treated worse.” So we have a role to play, but there is a
role also played by police officers, firefighters, our National Guard, and other military personnel,
the s- state government led by Governor Abbott, who I thought did an extraordinary job. And the men and women who work in that emergency
operation center in Austin, Texas, led by Chief Nim Kidd, a remarkable leader. But as you’ve heard as well and seen with
your own eyes, you saw the Cajun Navy, you saw neighbors helping neighbors and, and just
an extraordinary sort of way, which I like to think, um, demonstrates the best of what,
uh, it means to be a Texan. After the, uh, terrible explosion in west
Texas couple of years ago, I had a commissioner of a, of the court, county court, uh, come
to, I ran into him, um, and he said, “You know,” he said, “T- being a Texan doesn’t
just describe where you’re from, being a Texan describes who your family is.” And I always remember that at times like this,
and I think we demonstrated that again in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. We all waded into the muck and pulled each
other up hand by hand. Well, for a few days, we saw what Lincoln
might have called the better angels of our nature. People of all stripes, including our chief
executive, lending a hand. Well, that’s not to say that, uh, it’s been
easy for folks here in Houston or across the state that are still recovering, but I do
think Hurricane Harvey represents just one lesson of how our democracy is supposed to
work and how the different branches of government from state, federal, and local as well as
within the federal government can work together for the benefit of our people. Well, it’s also important to remember as my
story demonstrates that executive power is human, it’s imperfect, and like all forms
of power, it can be used for good or ill. Well, the response to the hurricane shows
that it is only when the executive works in tandem with the rest of the government and
we the people, it’s only then that we are strong enough to take on anything and confront
any challenge, even the fury of Mother Nature herself. For our democracy to work, it needs citizens
who believe in it and a government that believes in them. And an executive that even during difficult
time has respect for each of our proper roles. With that, let me say my door’s always open
to you, thank you, again, for the honor of speaking this afternoon and may God continue
to bless this great republic and bless the great state of Texas. Thank you. [applause]
Senator Cornyn has, uh, would like to, uh, take some questions from the audience. I know that we have a couple of handheld mics
that are available to pass around. We may have our first question already identified. [laughter]
And otherwise, if you can get the attention of those who have the mic, we will proceed
from there. Senator, here. Okay. Uh, uh, thank you, Senator. I’m Kathy Glass from Houston, Texas. Um, as you consider future, uh, appointees
to the Supreme Court, I hope you will keep in mind Justice Scalia’s dissent in the Obergefell
case when he said, and I paraphrase, “It matters little to me how government defines marriage. It, but it is of paramount importance for
me to know who rules me. And this decision says I’m ruled by five out
of nine unelected lawyers.” And then he basically went on to say that
the state should nullify the decision, although, he didn’t use that word. [laughs]
Uh, I ask you to consider this as the premiere characteristic we want to see in our judges
and justices that is, that know that this country was never meant to be ruled by judiciary. And this humility and understanding of our
Constitution is what I want to see first and foremost above experience or a, a friendship
or anything else. Thank you. Well, thank you very much. I, Justice Scalia was, uh, such an extraordinary
giant and somebody who I admired greatly. I even got a chance to go bird hunting with
one or two times, and he’s a lot of fun, uh, in that setting as well. You know, he, uh, famously said, and I’m paraphrasing
here that when people finally realize that there’s a group of men and women, um, who
they can’t vote for sitting on the bench, uh, there at the Supreme Court, uh, in Washington,
DC, who are substituent their value judgments for those of their elected representative,
they may well conclude that their own value judgments are superior to those, uh, the value
judgements of those unelected judges. I’m paraphrasing, but I’m confident that’s
the gist of what he, what he said. Uh, that is what I, when I think about the
Federalist Society, that’s what I think about, uh, first is, uh, your fidelity to that principle,
which, of course, as you can tell from my remarks, I, I agree with wholeheartedly. In the back of the room. Thank you for joining us, Senator. Um, I live in Virginia and I work in DC. Uh, I live in Virginia and I work in DC and
as someone who travels into DC every day, one thing I really appreciate is that you
introduced the National Reciprocity Act. Um, so I wanted to ask, do you, do you see
that passing this term? Um, I read the other day that Paul Ryan said
he thinks it might not be time, uh, do you think that is the case, how he feels? Can we expect to see that before the midterms? Um, and is Chuck Grassley going to change
the blue set, blue slip policy and allow us to get some circuit court nominees confirmed? I’ll answer the gun question first. That’s easier. Uh [laughs]
[laughter] No, I’m, I’m kidding. [laughter]
Um, uh, you know, look. I think, um, I think… I have a license to carry, I was just talking
to Judge Elrod about it and there are, uh, folks at the table and, you know… I think, uh, we don’t have to be afraid of
people who are lawfully, um, using firearms and who, uh, use them responsibly. And, to me, the idea of a, a driver’s license
is very analogous. If you’ve got a license to carry from your
state, then I think you ought to be able to use it in any other state who also recognizes
a license to carry. And truthfully, all 50 states have some form
of that. Some people might say, “Well, guns are different. It’s a dangerous instrumentality.” Well, it’s no more dangerous than a car, and,
uh, we allow people to drive all over the, all over the country. So, uh, on blue slips, I think Chairman Grassley’s
been very careful about that because, obviously, anything you do establishes a precedent for
everything else in the future. And I’ve been in the Senate in the majority,
I’ve been in the Senate in the minority. I much prefer the majority, by the way. Um…
[laughter] But, um, I think the, the principle of consultation
between the White House and the Senate is really important. I don’t believe that the blue slip was ever
intended to give a, a Senator a veto, particularly over a circuit court nominee, um, that the
president is determined to nominate. And so I think, uh, what, uh, Senator Franken
is getting ready to find out is that by abusing the privilege of the blue slip that encourages
that consultation, he’s going to see, uh, that abuse rewarded with, uh, the nomination
going forward despite his objection. He’ll be able to debate and argue and vote
against the nomination, but he won’t be able to, uh, stop it. So the blue slip will continue to be re- used,
but, again, not with a, not, not abused in my view. Um, hello. Uh, I have spoken to many people over the
past several months about the DACA program, and one of the things, unfortunately, that
I picked up on is that very few people know the actual on the ground facts of how our
immigration actually works. Um-
It’s comf- complicated. It i- it is. It, it very much is. And my question for you is that, uh, do you
think some of the, the heat and anger of the DACA debate or similar debates would be lessened
if we actually had an adequately, uh, funded an officially, efficiently administered, uh,
im- immigration apparatus? Well, I bear the scars of, uh, of the immigration
debate over m- last 15 years. And we’ve had a lot of them, and they, they
evoke a lot of passion and a lot of emotion, and we haven’t gotten anything done. So, I think the p- by the president, um, s-
sending this back to Congress, uh, I think he’s done us a favor. I think he’s done the nation a favor and forcing
us to deal with the sympathetic cohort of, uh, illegal immigration in the country. I bear no ill will, uh, to children who came
with their parents when they were of tender years, they’re certainly not culpable, I think
no court would convict them, uh, of any, any offense. And so the question is are we gonna keep them
non-productive independent because they’re not going anywhere, or are we going to give
them a chance to, to, to rise and to get an education and be productive? And I would much prefer the latter, uh, than
the former. But I do think it’s important to, to, uh,
have a negotiation which gets something very real and significant in terms of enforcing
the law as it exists and securing the border, and I just happen to have a bill, uh, that
does all that. [laughter]
Uh, and so, um, we’re working with the, uh, well, we, we’re talking now in the Judiciary
Committee and with the various combatants and with the White House to try to figure
out if there’s a deal to be had. I think the deal is sort of they’re staring
us in the face, uh, once people are willing to acknowledge it. My own view on immigration is people are so
irate at the lawlessness involved in our immigration system, illegal immigration system that it
hasn’t allowed us to have a civil discussion about what sort of immigration policy makes
the most sense for the United States? Some of my colleagues, Senator Perdue and
Senator, uh, Cotton have a, um, a proposal they call The RAISE Act which actually would
move to more of a merit-based system that is what attributes does the immigrant have
which would actually benefit con- the, our country as opposed to just family relationships,
which is the bulk of immigration as you know today. So the United States nat- naturalizes about
a, a million people a year. We are far and away the most generous country
on earth when it comes to legal immigration. But I think people have a right to be outraged
about the unwillingness to enforce our immigration laws, and if don’t like ’em, then we need
to change them. But I think, uh, that’s the sort of debate
which I think President Trump is, um, I’m, I’m happy that he’s initiated with the discussion
about, uh, DACA. Hi, Senator. Thank you for being here, uh… yeah. Uh, so at the beginning of this Congress,
Speaker Ryan indicated that one of the top priorities would be reasserting Article I
powers, just particularly with respect to delegation to administrative agencies. I’m wondering if you could discuss any kind
of legislation we can expect coming down the pipeline, uh, towards that end. Well, during the first few months of the,
uh, Trump Administration, we’ve gone through a number of Congressional Re- Review Act,
um, proceedings. This is something that within a certain time
period after regulations have been issued, Congress can basically vote to disapprove
of those and we’ve done that on a targeted case-by-case basis. I’m hopeful with the, uh, with the new agency
heads and the cabinet members, I was talking to Marcella about, uh, her, her new job and
working at the EPA, and with these new agency heads, hopefully, they can go back and do
review of, um, some of the existing regulations and propose changes that make sense. Um, so I think that’s a very important part
of it. You know, now with the Wh- having the White
House and having majorities in both houses, I think we’re in much m- m- m- stronger position
to do something about this, particularly with the cabinet that the president’s nominated
than we were when President Obama was president, obvious, ’cause he was, he was extraordinarily
resistant. And I think some of the g- some of the excitement
that you’ve seen in the economy, certainly with the stock market, um, a- a- and elsewhere,
people have more confidence that Congress is gonna become more rational when it comes
to regulation and I hope taxation which is what we’re gonna be taking up here between
October 1st, roughly, and, and Thanksgiving, trying to reform our, our tax code. Um, there’s a number of other pieces of legislation. I know Rand Paul has, has been, uh, proposing,
um, I can’t remember the name of it off the top of my head, but there’s a, there’s a lot,
there’s a lot going on in these space. But certainly, uh, trying to figure ways to
deal with that fourth estate, uh, of government, which is largely unaccountable and, um, you
know, I, I’d love to see the, uh, I’d love to see the Supreme Court revisit the Chevron,
um, uh, uh, test to rule. Um, Judge Gorsuch’s got a few questions about
that. I can certainly understand why, uh, why judges
would want to defer to, uh, expert agencies when it comes to matters within their purview
or perhaps even the facts underlying their decision. But the idea of judges deferring to administrative
agencies on their own legal authority strikes me as an abdication, and I think those are
decisions for judges to make and not for bureaucrats. [applause]
Questions? Well, I have a, I have a question… Yeah. …if that’s all right. It’s a technical question, Senator Cornyn. Oh. Um, what did your wife say when you wanted
to leave the Texas Supreme Court to run for Attorney General? [laughter]
Have you lost your ever-lovin’ mind? No.
[laughter] [laughs]
I can’t, I can’t remember, but, but she has said, and, uh, Charles noted that I’ve been
married 37, coming up on 38 years that she said, “When I married you, you were a lawyer
practicing in San Antonio, Texas. I thought I was gonna have a very normal existence. [laughter]
“I wasn’t gonna move and be separated from my family and friends,” and she got, uh, just
the opposite. [laughter]
And I was, I was a little worried when she said this early on in our marriage that, you
know, she might be seeking some sort of an annulment based-
[laughter] -based on a misrepresentation on my part. [laughter]
But she has been a extraordinary trooper, and I would not be, uh, privileged to do what
I’m doing today if, if it weren’t for her. Thanks for asking. We have a question here at the front. Yes. Yeah, uh, Gene Meyer. Uh, I wan- I want to talk on the blue slip
thing for a second. What, uh, uh, uh, i- i- uh, does this work,
work in your view as a process of, of, of, of negotiation where you basically say, and,
and I saw it with the, with the Oregon nomination, um, some, some democratic legislators wrote
the Senator saying, Democrats are saying, “Look, we’re gonna lose the seat altogether
if you don’t cut it out.” They didn’t phrase it that way. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. But, um, uh, but is, i- it d- it does seem
as though, you know, that, that, uh, the way in which this is negotiated is probably gonna
be key- Mm.
-not only to getting people through but also to not giving up three-quarters of the store
in the process. Yeah. Um, has, has, has there been a lot of discussion
of leadership on that? Yeah, we’re not, we’re not, uh, uh, uh, we’re
not gonna let, um, pe- senators veto the president’s choices when it comes to nominees, uh, especially
the circuit courts. Now, uh, district courts are treated, uh,
historically, they’ve been treated a little bit differently, but, uh, as I indicated earlier,
I think that consultation is helpful and useful and certainly when there’s a Democratic president
and I’m in the minority, I’m gonna want to be consulted as well. Uh, I think advice and consent includes that
sort of consultation. Um, but I do think it’s going to be handled
on a case-by-case basis rather, uh, across the board, as I indicated. Uh, Senator Franken has decided to pick this
fight, uh, he will lose it, um, but I don’t think, uh, I think it’s just a warning to
others that this is a sensitive matter where the, um, there, uh, there needs to be some,
um, cooperation. You’ve seen that, uh, a willingness to use
the, uh, so-called nuclear option when it comes to, um, supermajorities, uh, having
to get cloture in order to confirm judges with 51 votes. Now let’s return, there was a status quo,
uh, before 2000 when nobody dreamed we’d use the filibuster to stop a judge’s, uh, or president’s
judicial nominees. So I think that’s, I, I don’t, uh, lose any
sleep over that. But I do think it’s important to try to prever-
preserve as much collegiality as we can in the Senate because there are only a hundred
of us. And what we do today will come back and haunt
us, uh, in a year or two from now if we’re not careful. So we just need to be thoughtful about it. And I think handling this on a case-by-case
basis, uh, makes sense right now. Yes, sir. Senator, um, building off your last, uh, response
a little bit, um, media likes to play up a lot of bipartisan divide, perhaps more than
there are actually is in the real world where you work. Um, you spent, uh, many, many years working
on both sides of the aisle to, to get good work done. Thank you. I just want to know if you had advice, um,
to carry over from your world to the rest of us in terms of what we could do to decrease
the bipartisan divide to lessen the ires so we can get the good work done. Well, thank you. Thank you for that. I’m, I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been,
uh, we’ve, we’ve tried to work in a civil, uh, fashion with our colleagues with whom
I agree, with whom I agree, uh, on very little, uh, from a policy standpoint. [laughs] Um I still remember the story of
Mike Enzi, who was the, uh, s- conservative senator from Wyoming, still is, and Teddy
Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, they were the chair and ranking member of the Senate
HELP, uh, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee when I came to the Senate. And I said, “How did you guys work together
so productively? You guys are polar opposites when it comes
to ideology.” And Mike would, told me, he said, “Well, it’s
just, it’s simple. See, uh, 80/20 rule. Uh, we try to find the 80% we can agree on
and then f- leave the 20% for a fight another day.” But I, I honestly think, um, my, uh, my law
practice and my work, uh, both in the district courts and Supreme Court have served me well
in terms of preparing me for my current job because, uh, what did, uh, Shakespeare said,
“Be as advocates in the court, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.” Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a personal
disagreement, and not, not every disagreement is about a matter of principle. I believe on matters of principle, we should
ste- be steadfast and not waver. But a lot of things we do and disagree about
are not, and I think we ought to look for ways to do, to, uh, uh, to try to figure out
how to get along. As a practical matter, um, uh, uh, as Al Franken
said, I don’t normally quote Al Franken, but he was down at-
[laughter] -he was down at the Texas Tribune Fest in
Austin yesterday. And he noted that you can’t actually get things
done in Washington, uh, unless it’s on a bipartisan basis. So people who try are gonna be enormously
frustrated, and you have to just figure out a way to deal with the system as it was designed. And yes it was designed to make it hard. It was a part of the design. Um, people value their liberty and realize
that if you, uh, make it too easy for the legislature or the government to, uh, deprive
you of your liberty, uh, in the absence of a consensus building process, then it would
be, uh, it would be very, very dangerous indeed. Thank you very much. Oh. Was that, you got another one? We have one, [inaudible] well, one more question? Okay, let’s do it. I got all the time in the world. One question and, and we will cut it. [laughter]
I just wanted to be respectful of your time. Senator Cornyn, my name’s Doctor John Fraser,
I’m a pediatrician, who’s had the privilege of taking care of sick and injured Texas children
for three decades. My question is why can’t the Congress fix
the mess in healthcare? Uh, I can tell you I’ve gone from a, a time
where I could see children quickly and just do documentation that was meant for me and
other physicians, now, I used to take five minutes to see someone, it takes me 15 minutes
or more to close a chart so that third-party intervenors can get paid and collect big data
on mass populations. And, uh, that’s not taking care of my, my
patients, and I’m- Yeah. -I’m, I’m really concerned that it’s not being
addressed. Well, doctor, um, as I’ve indicated in my
remarks, I cut my teeth defending physicians in malpractice lawsuits, and, uh, uh, so I
had a chance to work in and around the medical professional lot. And, and what you just said I’ve heard repeated
so many times, and I know it’s an enormous frustration. And in many ways, government’s made your job
much harder and not easier. And one of the way government’s made it harder
is to try to nationalize and, um, our, our healthcare system. It’s, uh, very big and important part of our
economy, about a sixth of our economy. But what we saw with the Affordable Care Act
is a national experiment. And I believe the experiment has by and large
failed, certainly failed to deliver on the promises the president himself made when he
sold it. Like, uh, if you like your doctor, you can
keep your doctor, if you like your plan, you can have your plan and so forth. None of that proved to be true. And in the process, what we’ve seen is a system
that, uh, has increased premiums in the individual and small group market by a 105% since 2013
alone. The projection for next year’s another double-digit,
20%, 30% increases. And I know that the government, uh, being,
uh, so involved in, uh, in healthcare has not made the practice of medicine any easier. And physicians, in my experience, just want
to be able to treat their patients, and the, the rest is just, uh, part of the price you
pay, uh, for being able to do that. Uh, unfortunately our, the healthcare debates
have become extraordinarily polarized, one of the reasons was that, uh, I remember the
Christmas Eve in 2009, 7:00 in the morning, when The Affordable Care Act was passed with
60, uh, Democratic votes in the Senate and passed by Nancy Pelosi and the House and,
of course, later signed by President Obama. That created an environment where the whole
debate became so toxic and we became so far removed from the facts and people became more
engaged in a proxy war on who you supported and who you opposed. Um, I thought that was kind of surprising
and shocking, but when I talked to pollsters and people who do focus groups, they said,
“Well, if people are supporters of President Obama, then they’re gonna defend Obamacare
to the death. If they opposed the president and his policies,
then they’re gonna be critics, and you’re not gonna be able to change their mind either.” So, to me, that started us down this unfortunate
path that we continue to be on today. Uh, as you know, we are considering taking
up some legislation by Senator Graham, Senator Cassidy that would largely return a lot of
the money and authority back to the states because I think the states are more trusted,
uh, state and local government, certainly than the federal government. And if you believe in federalism, as we all
do, then you believe that, uh, uh, that as much of that authority that be devolved to
the states, uh, would be good on almost in any aspect of government. Um, government closest to the people is always
gonna be more responsive to the people, whether you’re a city councilman or whether you’re
a legislator or whether you’re the governor. So, I hear you, and I, I wish us luck. Uh, but, uh, this is gonna be a, this is gonna
be a battle, ongoing battle for quite some time until we finally get to a point where
either both sides are exhausted or we just finally realize that what we’ve been doing
is not working for the benefit of the American people and we need to come up with a different
approach. Okay? Thanks, Charles. Thank you very much, Senator. Thank you. Thank you. [applause]
Please help me thank, Senator Cornyn. [applause]

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