Fiscal conservatives influential in the Republican Party are saying that Texas Sen. John Cornyn and other GOP Senate leaders are abandoning key party principles by backing a budget deal that would increase government spending in the next year.
But political analysts say it makes little political sense for Cornyn, a senator seeking reelection in a state that almost elected current-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke to the Senate last year, to be in the midst of a budget battle and potentially unpopular government shutdown.
“We’re hearing rumblings from some conservative groups about what seems to be an abandonment of fiscal responsibility as a plank of Republican politics,” said Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project, a nonpartisan Texas polling and political research group.
But despite the criticism from conservative groups, Henson said Cornyn’s voting for the budget bill isn’t likely to hurt him.
Cornyn said he supported the $2.7 trillion budget deal, which also suspends the debt ceiling for two years, which came to Congress after Trump administration officials managed to reach an agreement on the bill with Democratic House leaders. Cornyn said in a floor speech Wednesday that the deal isn’t perfect, but he still supports it because it provides for more military spending.
“Anything that’s negotiated means both sides have to give up a little bit in order to find common ground,” Cornyn said. “And, as I indicated, I certainly wish it was more aggressive. I wish it did something to deal with our entitlement programs as we continue to face growing deficits.”
Cornyn joins Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leadership in backing the bill. But not all Senate Republicans are on board, as conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, condemned the bill.
“Instead of finally dealing with our nearly $1 trillion deficit and $22 trillion debt, this deal just kicks the can down the road again,” Cruz said.
Conservative political groups that heavily promote lowering government spending have been quick to criticize Cornyn and other Republicans.
“For those who are running in 2020, Cornyn included, if they want to get out there on the campaign trail and talk in favor of small government and talk about fiscal responsibility, this vote will haunt them forever,” said Sarah Anderson, the federal affairs manager at FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group.
Noah Weinrich, a spokesperson for Heritage Action, another conservative policy group, declined to specifically comment on Cornyn, but referred to a statement from the group which urged members to vote against the budget bill.
Henson, though, thought Cornyn need not worry. “This is not a battle (Cornyn) is going to fight in this electoral environment,” Henson said, adding that Cornyn will take any Democratic challenger very seriously in 2020 after Cruz was almost unseated in 2018.