John Cornyn’s Earmark Hypocrisy

WDCPix/<a href="http://www.wdcpix.com/cgi-bin/ImageFolio4/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=U.S._SENATE&image=JCornyn.jpg&img=0&search=john%20cornyn&cat=all&tt=&bool=and">Lauren Victoria Burke</a>

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On Wednesday afternoon, as House and Senate Democrats were trying to handle the end-of-session passage of an $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) sent out a blistering email fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which he heads. In the note, Cornyn decried the 6,600 earmarks totaling $8 billion contained in the bill:

Will you help send a message to Senate Democrats? Go here and tell them that you will not stand for business as usual in Washington. They should not pass this bill and to stop spending money our country doesn’t have.

Cornyn failed to mention that last year he numbered among Congress’ top earmarkers—supporting dozens of earmark requests that added up to $228 million.

As for the current bill, Cornyn has had a tough time explaining his own contradictory actions. On Fox News, host Bill Hemmer hammered Cornyn for requesting $16 million worth of earmarks in the very bill he was denouncing Democrats for. “Can you defend that?” Hemmer presseed. Cornyn said that he supported the Senate GOP’s two-year moratorium on earmarks and would vote against this spending bill. But with the Democrats in the majority, the bill could well pass without Cornyn’s vote. Under that circumstance, he would be able to both claim credit for the earmarks and for voting against the Democratic bill.

At a Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday, Cornyn ran into similar trouble. After both he and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) slammed the bill, reporters grilled them on why the measure contained earmarks they’d requested. “I support those projects, but I don’t support this bill,” Thune said. When one reporter said to Cornyn, “It appears like you’re saying one thing and doing another,” the senator replied, “Not at all.” As a GOP staffer tried to end the press conference, another reporter asked Cornyn if he would acknowledge “that it was wrong to put the earmarks in in the first place.” Cornyn responded, “You’ve asked the question about five times and I’ve tried to answer it to the best of my ability.” Then Cornyn left the room.

So one of the primo earmarkers on the Hill won’t say whether he should have shoved earmarks into the current (or previous) spending bill. But he shows no hesitation in blasting Democrats for passing a measure containing his earmarks. In that NRSC email, he exclaims, “Democrats have a lot of explaining to do to taxpayers.” So, too, does Cornyn.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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