John Cornyn III (born February 2, 1952) is an American politician and lawyer serving as the senior United States Senator from Texas since 2002. He is the current Senate Majority Whip for the 115th Congress. Cornyn previously served as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 2007 to 2011.
Born in Houston, Cornyn is a graduate from Trinity University and St. Mary's University School of Law, receiving his LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law. Cornyn was a Judge on Texas' 37th District Court from 1985 to 1991, until he was elected an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court, where he served 1991 to 1997. In 1998, Cornyn was elected Attorney General of Texas, serving one term until winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2002. He was re-elected to a second term in 2008 and to a third term in 2014.
|Senate Majority Whip|
Assumed office |
January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Dick Durbin|
|Senate Minority Whip|
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Jon Kyl|
|Succeeded by||Dick Durbin|
|United States Senator|
Assumed office |
December 2, 2002
Serving with Ted Cruz
|Preceded by||Phil Gramm|
|49th Attorney General of Texas|
January 13, 1999 – December 1, 2002
George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Dan Morales|
|Succeeded by||Greg Abbott|
|Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court|
January 2, 1991 – October 18, 1997
|Preceded by||Franklin Spears|
|Succeeded by||Deborah Hankinson|
|Judge of the Texas 37th Judicial District Court|
January 1, 1985 – January 1, 1991
|Preceded by||Richard Woods|
|Succeeded by||Ann-Marie Aaron|
February 2, 1952|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Trinity University (BA)|
St. Mary's University, Texas (JD)
University of Virginia (LLM)
Cornyn was born in Houston, the son of Atholene Gale Cornyn (née Danley) and John Cornyn II, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. While growing up, he attended the American School in Japan after his family moved to Tokyo in 1968, and graduated from there in 1969. He graduated from Trinity University in 1973, where he majored in journalism and was a member of Chi Delta Tau. 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. He was named the St. Mary's Distinguished Law School Graduate in 1994 and a Trinity University Distinguished Alumnus in 2001.
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 a state Supreme Court Justice, got second place with 32%. In the April run-off election, Cornyn defeated Williamson 58% to 42%. In the general election, Cornyn defeated Jim Mattox, former attorney general (1983–1991) and U.S. Congressman, with 54% of the vote. Cornyn became only the second Republican to hold the position.
However, Cornyn was criticized for failing to investigate in a timely manner the notorious false drug convictions of numerous African-Americans in Tulia, Texas. An Austin Chronicle article on September 6, 2002, noted, "After months of criticism from civil rights groups and state and national media, state attorney general and U.S. Senate candidate John Cornyn announced that his office will finally investigate the notorious 1999 drug bust in the Panhandle town of Tulia. In most cases, the testimony of a single narcotics agent led to the arrests of 46 people—43 of whom were black. The accused represented 16% of the town's black population; 14 still languish in prisons scattered around Texas".
In the 2002 U.S. Senate Primary in Texas, Cornyn was the candidate promoted and supported by the Texas Republican Party. 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, Cornyn defeated Democrat Ron Kirk in a campaign that cost each candidate over $18 million. Cornyn's predecessor, Phil Gramm, resigned early, effective November 30, 2002, so that Senator-Elect Cornyn could take office early, and move into Gramm's office suite in order to begin organizing his staff. Cornyn did not, however, gain seniority, owing to a 1980 Rules Committee policy that no longer gave seniority to senators who entered Congress early for the purpose of gaining advantageous office space.
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%. 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.
Cornyn succeeded in his reelection in 2014. He is now Senate Majority Whip. He won the Republican primary with 59% of the vote.
In 2004, Cornyn co-founded and became the co-chairman of the U.S. Senate India Caucus. 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.
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.
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 the courtroom murder of Judge Rowland Barnes. Cornyn said: "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". His statement and a similar one by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay were widely denounced, including by The New York Times. Cornyn later said that he regretted the statement.
In 2005, the 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.
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.
On the day of Obama's inauguration, it was reported that Cornyn would prevent Hillary 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". The vote was 94–2 in her favor, with only Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and David Vitter (R-LA) voting in opposition.
As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn was a strong supporter of Norm Coleman's various court challenges to the election certification. Cornyn advocated for Coleman to bring the case before the federal court, and had said the trial and appeals could take years to complete. Cornyn had threatened that Republicans would wage a "World War III" if the Senate Democrats had attempted to seat Democratic candidate Al Franken before the appeals were complete. Coleman conceded after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of Democratic candidate Al Franken. On November 14, 2012, Cornyn was elected Senate minority whip by his peers.
In February 2013, Cornyn became one of the sponsors of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act to expedite open access to taxpayer-funded research.
On June 8, 2017, Cornyn questioned James Comey on Hillary's Clinton's emails at a committee hearing whose announced topic was the Russian interference in the 2016 election and Comey's dismissal as FBI director.
Cornyn was ranked by National Journal as the fourteenth-most conservative United States Senator in their 2013 rankings. He was considered by The Dallas Morning News to be a reliable ally of former President George W. Bush on most issues.
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... Now 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". According to his office, he removed the reference to the box turtle in the actual speech, but The Washington Post ran the quote, as did The Daily Show.
Cornyn sponsored a bill that would allow law enforcement to force anyone arrested or detained by federal authorities to provide samples of their DNA, which would be recorded in a central database. 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.
Cornyn was one of only 22 Senators to vote against the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 that expands the educational benefits for soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he co-sponsored SB 2938, which gives benefits that are dependent on length of service.
In August 2012, following news reports that a Russian Akula-class nuclear-powered submarine operated in the Gulf of Mexico purportedly undetected for over a month, Cornyn demanded details of this deployment from Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations.
In 2013 Cornyn said that, despite the sequester, the Pentagon would actually see its budget increase.
He voted to ban intact dilation and extraction (a procedure also known as "partial-birth abortion") 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. He voted to prevent contributions to organizations that provide abortion as a component of family planning, and to prevent funding of organizations that support coercive abortion.
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. 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".
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".
Cornyn 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 the George W. Bush tax cuts permanent. However, he stands opposed to extending the 2011 payroll tax holiday.
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 also voted against removing oil and gas exploration subsidies. 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.
Cornyn opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Cornyn stated that Senator Cruz's efforts to defund Obamacare by threatening to default on the U.S. Government's debt obligations were "unachievable", saying "the shutdown did not help our cause. What did help our cause was the president's implementation of Obamacare, which has overwhelmed everything else. I don't hear anyone thinking that another government shutdown is the way to achieve our goals." Cornyn joined other Republican leaders to block fellow Texas Senator Ted Cruz's procedural move to reject an increase in the debt ceiling.
In April 2013, Senator Cornyn was one of 46 senators to vote against the passing of a bill which would have expanded background checks for all buyers. Cornyn voted with 40 Republicans and 5 Democrats to stop the passage of the bill.
In January 2014, Senator Cornyn introduced the "Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act". The bill would provide interstate reciprocity for persons with concealed weapons permits. Cornyn described the bill as "It's like a driver's license. It doesn't trump state laws. Say you have a carry permit in Texas; then you use it in another state that has a concealed-carry law." He was rated "A" by the National Rifle Association (NRA) as of 2003 and 2014; as of 2018 his NRA rating was "A+". Cornyn has continued to support Concealed Carry Reciprocity as of the year of 2018, with the Republican-held House of Representatives passing a bill in late 2017 with this language attached to gun control measures from the Senate's Fix NICS bill.
Senator John Cornyn has long been opposed to anyone profiting from memorabilia tied to convicted murderers, and had made three attempts thus far to pass acts against this. He introduced his first "Stop the Sale of Murderabilia to Protect the Dignity of Crime Victims Act" in 2007, which died in committee. He then revived it three years later with cosponsor Amy Klobuchar. The 2010 version of the "Murderabilia" bill met the same fate as the first.
In 2013, inspired by a Nidal Hasan letter put up for sale by artist Kelly Hutchison, Cornyn decided to continue working on his bill. The listing claimed that all proceeds would be donated to charity, and the letter was reported to have sold anywhere from $2000 USD to $500,000 USD by various news sources.
|Green||Emily Marie Sanchez||54,587||1|
|United States Senate Republican primary election in Texas, 2014|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||781,259||59|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||4,326,639||55|
|Libertarian||Yvonne Adams Schick||184,729||2|
|Texas U.S. Senate Republican Primary Election 2008|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||997,216||81|
|Texas U.S. Senate Republican Primary Election 2002|
|Republican||Bruce Rusty Lang||46,907||8|
|Texas Attorney General Election 1998|
|Texas Attorney General Republican Primary Runoff Election 1998|
|Texas Attorney General Republican Primary Election 1998|
|Texas Associate Justice Supreme Court Election 1996|
|Republican||John Cornyn (incumbent)||2,686,518||52|
Cornyn and his wife, Sandy Hansen, have two daughters.
In August 2014, Cornyn was named "Mr. South Texas" for the 118th Washington's Birthday Celebration in Laredo in February 2015. WBCA president Veronica Castillon said that Cornyn "loves Laredo, and it shows through his attention and actions ..."
Cornyn receives pensions from three separate state and local governments in addition to his Senate salary.
The June [sic] 12 Politics column quoted Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) discussing gay marriage in a recent speech to the Heritage Foundation. The written text released by Cornyn's office contained the quote, but his office says the senator did not include it in his delivered remarks.
Of the submarine activity, Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "It's a confounding situation arising from a lack of leadership in our dealings with Moscow. While the president is touting our supposed 'reset' in relations with Russia, Vladimir Putin is actively working against American interests, whether it's in Syria or here in our own backyard."; Gertz, Bill (August 21, 2012). "Torpedo Run". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
"The submarine patrol, taken together with the air incursions, seems to represent a more aggressive and destabilizing Russian military stance that could pose risks to our national security," Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) stated in an Aug. 17 letter to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.; "Reports of Russian sub in gulf downplayed". UPI. August 19, 2012. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
Russia declined to confirm or deny a media report that one of its submarines spent a month in the Gulf of Mexico without the knowledge of the United States.; and "Russian submarine sailed incognito along the coast of the U.S." Pravda. August 21, 2012. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Sunday sent the letter to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert requesting more information on the purported incident.
| Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court
| Attorney General of Texas
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Texas
2002, 2008, 2014
Kay Bailey Hutchison
| Vice Chair of the Senate Republican Conference
| Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
| Senate Republican Whip
| U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Texas
Served alongside: Kay Hutchison, Ted Cruz
| Ranking Member of the Senate Ethics Committee
| Senate Minority Whip
| Senate Majority Whip
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority