Cornyn to PJM: Time for 'Arguments Within the Family... Has Passed' If Conservatives Want to Win Senate

WASHINGTON -- The Senate's minority whip is confident about Republicans being the majority in the 114th Congress -- if conservatives can set aside differences and work to combat the massive influx of donor cash that has Democratic campaigns ahead in the money race.

Only in the majority, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) stresses, can conservatives make headway on tamping down overregulation, repealing and replacing Obamacare, securing the "chaotic" border, getting Keystone XL moving, and bringing civilized debate back to the upper chamber.

And only by realizing the gravity of the battle for November, he argues, can Republicans relegate Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to minority leader in January.

"Everybody should recognize that we're always stronger when we're together than when we're divided," Cornyn told PJM, noting that the intra-party clashes in the primary cycle over conservative credentials were "healthy." The two-term senator easily beat back a challenge from Tea Party Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) in March, and is polling in strong double-digits against Democratic opponent David Alameel in his quest for a third term.

"We've been through a six-year experiment in big government," Cornyn said. "We can't let divisions between conservatives cause us to forfeit elections to big government."

In the midterms "everything is at stake," he added, and "arguments within the family" should be laid to rest to get the party past the finish line. "The appropriate time for it has passed, at least until after the general election," the senator said, noting that once the GOP gets the majority the party can then have "robust discussion about what our priorities should be."

Cornyn said Reid's priorities in the two-week period between the summer recess and the current campaign recess were "merely for show."

Reid tried yet failed to advance a bill to nullify the Supreme Court's Citizens United campaign finance ruling -- a bill he knew wouldn't pass. Cornyn called this "merely an attempt to try to galvanize his base of voters."

"He also needed to change the subject as the president's popularity ratings continue in a southward direction," the GOP whip added. Faced with a slate of more than 380 bills that have passed the House, many with bipartisan support, Reid "refuses to bring them up because he doesn't want to expose his vulnerable Democrats."

How the lame-duck session will be depends on how the election goes, Cornyn said. If Democrats hang on, a scenario he would "hate to even think about," he expects Reid to jam through as much legislation as possible before the end of the year. If the GOP retakes the majority, "I think trying to jam forward as many nominees as he could would probably be high on their agenda."

Last November, Reid triggered the nuclear option to push nominees through on a simple majority cloture vote.

Cornyn called the timing of Attorney General Eric Holder's resignation, announced last week, "very strange." Holder has agreed to stay at the helm of the Justice Department until President Obama names a replacement and that person is confirmed.

"Under the normal course of things there wouldn't be enough time to get a new attorney general confirmed," he said, noting that a nominee would have to undergo extensive background checks and congressional hearings before Senate floor debate. "Based on the track record, I wouldn't put anything past Sen. Reid."

Lots of other things can influence the timing of the attorney general nomination, he added, including the mounting bipartisan call for a new authorization for military force for strikes in Syria and Iraq.

Cornyn is one of those proponents of a new AUMF, along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who argued in a New York Times op-ed that "the involvement of Congress is not a dry constitutional principle."

"This is an abdication of Congress' role in the Constitution to engage on the subject of war," Cornyn said, adding that an "interesting coalition" including many Democrats should be enough bipartisan pressure for a new authorization.

"The irony is the president said the war in Iraq is over," then relies on that AUMF along with the 9/11 one to justify current strikes.