U.S. Sen. John Cornyn criticized the inefficiency of Congress at his Texas Tribune Festival keynote interview Saturday.
Cornyn, who is also the Senate's minority whip, is running for his third term in the Senate. At the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on Saturday, he noted that although President Barack Obama’s approval rating is at a low 17 percent, Congress’ approval rating is much lower.
“I agree that Congress is dysfunctional, but largely it’s the Senate,” Cornyn said. “We’ve been largely relegated to showboats and anticipation of the election and not addressing the problems of our country.”
While critical of the 2013 government shutdown, Cornyn said Sen. Harry Reid, who is also the Senate's majority leader, spurs on the dysfunctional relationship in Congress.
“There is an important difference between what people say and what people do,” Cornyn said. “President Obama has always talked about people working together, but we haven’t see a lot of it. Can we fix this? Yes, we can.”
Congress does not stay in session nearly as much as it needs to, Cornyn said. Congress has not passed a budget since 2009, and, according to Cornyn, there is no excuse for that. He suggested a five-day work week for Congress and said the recess they are taking before elections is unnecessary.
“We just adjourned Thursday night for 45 days now,” Cornyn said. “There no reason why Congress should be out of session. We should be there working. But only Senator Reid has the authority to decide when we should be in session.”
Cornyn also spoke about turmoil in the Middle East and said Obama needs to formulate a plan to deal with ISIS.
“I do believe that it was a mistake for President Obama to not negotiate bilateral security that would have left a small residual footprint for American and NATO troops in Iraq after the successful end of most of what we were fighting over there,” Cornyn said. “You have this radically barbaric Islamist group that is a real serious threat. What we keep waiting for is for the president to come up with a plan. He is the commander in chief. It is his responsibility.”
Cornyn said he does not agree with Obama’s current plan to arm and equip Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State group.
“What we need is a much broader and wholesomer debate,” Cornyn said. “Senate is the only body able to declare a war. Secretary Kerry refusing to use that word is disingenuous. When America engages in a fight with a group like ISIS, that is a war.”
Cornyn said Obama needs to gain bipartisan support for his war on the Islamic State group.
“Only by doing that will he get the support of the American people,” Cornyn said. “He seems to go it alone, which means he will be alone and responsible for the outcome.”
Government freshman Madison Albrecht said she came to listen to Cornyn to hear his plans for the future and his stance on different issues.
“I thought he was very good at explaining his viewpoint on various issues and how he felt about the problems in the Senate,” Albrecht said. “I think there are clearly many problems with Congress, and he was able to address concerns.”
Cornyn said once the Senate has been restored to its role as a functioning body, approval rates will go up along with satisfaction rates.
“Whether you’re in the majority or in the minority, it’s a pretty miserable experience,” Cornyn said. “Not only for the voters but also for the people who work there.”