Amid Partisan Rancor, Texas' Cornyn Quietly Tops Senate in Bills Passed Into Law

WASHINGTON — As partisan polarization proliferates in the nation’s capital, Sen. John Cornyn appears to have found a way to break through the noise.The senior Texas Republican marshalled eight bills into law over the past two years, more than any other member of the Senate.He did so despite a slowdown in overall senate productivity and despite filing fewer bills than dozens of his fellow lawmakers. The Senate passed just 29 percent of House bills sent to the chamber, according to a report by Quorum Analytics, the lowest percentage in 25 years.Cornyn’s haul included bills that increase transparency in federal agencies, use public-private partnerships to boost border security infrastructure, crack down on human trafficking and expand funding for active shooter training for first responders, among others.Though Cornyn’s position as the second most powerful senator gives him a leg up, congressional records show that previous majority whips have rarely translated their high-ranking positions into personal legislative success. At least as far back as 1973, no majority whip has sponsored the most bills that became law in a session.“Being the second ranking person helps a lot, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to getting things done if you don’t have the trust of both Republicans and Democrats,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who worked with Cornyn on a border security enhancement bill.Though Cornyn’s bills are more substantive than post-office namings — the oft-mocked legislation that lets members pad their stats — none of them are sweeping, comprehensive overhauls of existing law. But to hear the Texas senator tell it, that’s the result of a deliberate legislative philosophy developed over his 14 years in the Capitol.“I’ve come to realize that Congress doesn’t do comprehensive bills very well,” Cornyn said, explaining that so many controversial provisions end up getting tacked on to such bills that everyone can find a reason to oppose them. “So what I’ve done is to move more to a step-by-step approach.”Bipartisan outreach Cornyn’s allies in Washington highlight his openness to working with anyone, no matter their partisan leanings, as a central factor in his productivity.When an unusually large batch of new Texas Democrats arrived in Congress in 2013, Cornyn invited the whole group of them to lunch, according to Cuellar. Cornyn then went down the line and asked each of them what their three most important policy issues were, looking to see if there were any areas where he might be able to work with them.“There are people that are more interested in just throwing bombs and not very interested in getting the job done,” Cuellar said. “I might disagree on policy issues, but he is not the type that breaks down and tears down relationships, because he understands that today we might disagree, but tomorrow there might be another thing that we work on together.”Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, describes Cornyn as “the Tim Duncan of the Senate” because of his willingness to assist other members in getting legislation through and then to go out of his way to make sure those other members receive credit.“He’s really focused on helping others and making others better,” Hurd said.  Continue reading...

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