The Politics of John Cornyn's 'No' Vote on Kerry
Of the three senators to vote on Tuesday against President Obama's nomination of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to be the next secretary of state, two are up for re-election in 2014: Sen. John Cornyn, the GOP minority whip from Texas, and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. The other is Cornyn's fellow Texan, the newly-elected Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
It's easy to figure out why Inhofe would oppose Kerry, as the two of them are staunch advocates on polar opposites on climate change policy. (Inhofe said as much in a statement explaining his vote). Inhofe also is not in significant danger of a primary challenge or losing the general election if he runs again.
Cornyn, however, does have reason to look over his shoulder, as home state conservatives are vowing to contest his re-election. And voting against Kerry certainly won't hurt Cornyn in Texas.
"Sen. Kerry has a long history of liberal positions that are not consistent with a majority of Texans. After reviewing the nomination hearing, Sen. Cornyn could not support Sen. Kerry's nomination," said Cornyn spokesperson Megan Mitchell in a statement reported by the Dallas Morning News.
During Obama's first term in office, Cornyn was not a default "no" vote against the president's nominees. However, he was slightly more likely to oppose Obama's biggest name appointments than support him.
Among the high-profile nominees put forth by Obama during his first term, Cornyn voted in favor of confirming Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State), Timothy Geithner (Treasury Secretary), Ronald Kirk (U.S. Trade Representative), David Petreaus twice (Army General and CIA director), Robert Mueller (FBI director), Leon Panetta (Secretary of Defense) and Donald Verrilli (Solicitor General).
Two names that would potentially cause problems in a GOP primary for Cornyn are Geithner, who advocated for the stimulus, auto bailout and raising the debt ceiling, and Verrilli, who successfully argued for the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law in front of the Supreme Court last year.
Cornyn voted against confirming Eric Holder (Attorney General), William Lynn (Defense deputy secretary), Hilda Solis (Labor secretary) Elena Kagen twice (Solicitor General and Supreme Court justice), Kathleen Sebelius (Health and Human Services secretary), Sonia Sotomayor (Supreme Court justice), Ben Bernanke (Federal Reserve Chairman), Richard Cordray (Consumer Financial Protection director) and John Bryson (Commerce secretary).
Meanwhile, Cornyn has also said that he "cannot support" former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to replace Panetta as Defense secretary.