Biden Administration

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 10, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, in recent years, our Democratic colleagues have taken their Washington-knows-best approach to governing to new and, frankly, frightening levels.

Our colleagues have tried to give the IRS unprecedented authority and manpower to snoop into the finances of virtually every American, not just what you make but how you spend your money.

They have attempted to control what type of childcare families can access, saying that if it is faith-based, that it is not going to qualify for the extravagant subsidies they have proposed, and are driving up the costs for average, hard-working Texas families.

When it comes to our Democratic colleagues and their Washington- knows-best attitude, they have tried to force every person in this country into a one-size-fits-all healthcare system that, yes, government controls. They have argued that the President of the United States has the power to force all Americans, including those in the private sector, to get a vaccine regardless of whether they have naturally occurring antibodies as a result of having gotten COVID-19.

Now, they are mounting a Federal takeover of America's State-run elections. That is what we will be talking about a lot this week.

As I said, this is consistent with this attitude that Washington knows best, not parents, not teachers, not business owners, not the workers, not even Governors, mayors, sheriffs, city councils, or local election officials. No. Washington knows best, is their attitude.

To state the obvious, that is not how the United States of America was designed under our Constitution. During the time of the founding, there was a lot of discussion of whether to have a national government or whether to have a Federal Government with the States as sovereign entities, subject only to national laws when the Federal Government preempted them with things like the Voting Rights Act, section 5. In fact, our very form of government was designed with checks and balances and dispersed authority primarily to protect the individual freedom of ``we the people.''

Our Founders had the wisdom to devise a system of government comprised of three separate branches--coequal--to ensure that no single person or single institution became too powerful because, again, they viewed it as, the more powerful that single entity or single institution became, the less accountable they would be to the people and the less freedom we would have to conduct our own lives as we see fit.

But, as we know, it is not just distributed laterally among the various branches; it is distributed vertically as well. The Constitution makes clear that the States retain all authority not delegated to the Federal Government. That is the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Of course, the power given to the States is sometimes set forth explicitly. For example, the Constitution gives the States the authority to set the time, place, and manner of elections. That is in the Constitution itself. Others are reserved under the Tenth Amendment.

Now, make no mistake, the Federal Government has very, very important responsibilities. When it comes to our national defense, when it comes to regulating interstate commerce, international diplomacy, setting taxes, managing our national debt and deficits, the Federal Government should and must take the lead. But this is simply not a monarchy. It is not an authoritarian form of government that we see in other parts of the world. Our government is not top-down; it is bottom-up when it comes to the distribution of powers. The Federal Government was not designed to authorize anyone, including the President of the United States, the authority to hand down sweeping mandates for the people of this country.

Thomas Jefferson famously said, ``The government closest to the people serves the people best,'' and that is how he described the benefits of this bottom-up form of government rather than top-down, Washington-knows-best form of government that our Democratic colleagues seem to embrace almost across the board. For everything from healthcare to elections, our colleagues across the aisle have attempted to make prescriptive decisions against every State, city, and community across the country. By ``prescriptive decisions,'' I mean to tie the hands or to say ``jump'' and expect the States and local governments to ask ``how high?''

But we are already beginning to see cracks in this strategy. When it has become clear that Washington doesn't really know best, the Democrats have another idea: Blame somebody else. Just look at the Federal Government's response to the pandemic of COVID-19. President Biden ran on a promise of a strong pandemic response by the Federal Government. He promised to make free testing widely available. He pledged to stop the misinformation that has led to widespread confusion about the virus, and he has vowed that public health decisions would be made by public health professionals and would not be based on political considerations.

Looking back, it is clear the American people were sold snake oil. As folks across the country can attest, free testing may exist, but you can't find an appointment to get one of those tests. Rapid tests are in short supply, and even then, the cost is too high for many families.

The information coming from the Centers for Disease Control is providing the American people with more questions than answers. In the words of one New York Times columnist, ``The highest-ranking public health officials are making statements that seem more aimed at covering up or making excuses for ongoing failures rather than leveling with the public.''

The administration has sided with political allies instead of the science. Last February, the CDC released a report that said schools are not breeding grounds for COVID-19, and as long as precautions are taken, schools can reopen safely. That was last February. But the science was at odds with the demands of teachers unions, so the administration refused to encourage State and local leaders to reopen their schools.

So how is the President reacting in light of these broken promises and a failed pandemic response?

In a debate in October 2020, then-Candidate Biden talked about the previous administration's pandemic response and the fact that more than 220,000 Americans had died. That was in October of 2020. He said anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain President of the United States.

Well, today, we have lost more than 830,000 of our fellow Americans to this virus. That is nearly three times as many deaths as there were under the previous President's watch, but President Biden isn't stepping down. In fact, now he claims the Federal Government isn't even responsible. Just a couple of weeks ago, President Biden pushed responsibility on to the States, saying there is no Federal solution; this gets solved at the State level. This is enough to give you whiplash--the radically changing, diametrically opposed positions of this administration and the President of the United States.

As it turns out, our colleagues only want Big Government when Big Government is consistent with their political objectives. If the promise of a strong Federal response to a deadly pandemic can help them win an election, well, they are all for it, but when they fail to plan and execute a strong response, they are quick to pass the responsibility and the blame on to someone else.

Well, our Federal form of government isn't a system that can be gamed to benefit politicians when it is convenient and skirt responsibility when things go awry, but, unfortunately, that looks like where we are today, and the Democrats clearly view the calculus as leaning in their favor when it comes to their election takeover bills that we will be voting on this week.

Our colleagues have made repeated attempts to overhaul our Nation's elections and give the Federal Government unprecedented power to manage America's elections.

There was a Pew poll taken on November 20, 2020, asking people whether they found, in the election, it was easy or hard to vote, and 94 percent of the respondents said they found it either extremely easy or easy to vote--94 percent in the last election of November 2020.

In Texas, we had 11.3 million people vote--66 percent of registered voters--which was a consistent percentage across the country. There were historic turnouts in the election. Yet our Democratic colleagues want to fix a system that is not broken because it allows everyone, of every political stripe, of every race, of every ethnicity, and of every background, an equal opportunity to cast a ballot.

In Texas, you can vote for up to 2 weeks before election day itself, in person--2 weeks. The Justice Department has sued Texas, saying that it somehow discriminates against people getting access to the ballot. That is a lawsuit that the Justice Department will lose because the facts simply do not demonstrate it.

Again, 94 percent of the people in this Pew poll of November 20, 2020, after the last election, said they found it either extremely easy or easy to cast their ballot. So our Democratic colleagues are simply flying into a headwind when it comes to their argument that, somehow, it is not easy to cast your ballot.

But there are some places where it is easier to vote than in others. For example, it is easier to vote in Georgia and in Texas under current law than it has been in the President's State of Delaware, which, until this year, did not allow any early voting in person. You don't hear the majority leader and you don't hear Democratic colleagues talking about States like Delaware, which offered, until this year, zero opportunity for early voting in person; whereas Texas and Georgia, even after the election reforms they passed, still offer 2 weeks of early in-person voting.

So our Democratic colleagues' explanation has changed over time. They argue that Washington knows best and that all of the State-run elections should be subsumed into a Federal system of elections. At one point, they said it was a matter of election security. Then they said: Well, no; it is really about voter confidence. Then they said, which is, I think, their current position, that only a national system can remove obstacles that prevent people from voting.

Well, when I said this was a solution in search of a problem, I was referring to that November 20, 2020, poll wherein 94 percent of the respondents said they found it easy to vote or very easy to vote. Clearly, again, our Democratic colleagues are looking for a problem or have offered a solution in search of a problem.

Among the proposals they have made, this is not about just making it easier to vote and harder to cheat; they are saying that this is somehow in response to the horrific attacks that occurred on the Capitol on January 6 of last year. They just keep throwing the spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. For example, among the many proposed changes that they have offered, they say they want to turn the bipartisan Federal Election Commission into a Democratic-controlled, partisan commission, and then they want to seize the authority given under the Constitution for the States to draw their own congressional lines, instead handing all power to an unelected and unaccountable redistricting commission.

They have also tried to mandate ballot harvesting on the States--a practice that allows paid campaign staff and political operatives to collect mail-in ballots, to perhaps go by the local nursing home and collect ballots from folks in the nursing home and to turn them in. This has been shown to be a recipe for mischief and election fraud. Yet they want to institutionalize it, and they want to say that the States cannot prohibit it.

These proposals would do more to protect our Democratic colleagues' jobs than to safeguard American voting rights.

What really concerns me and, I imagine, the American people as they learn more and more about what is in these bills is how much damage the Democratic Party is willing to do in order to secure a partisan victory. Not only are our colleagues trying to seize the authority given under the Constitution to the States to manage their own elections, they are willing to take a wrecking ball to the U.S. Senate itself and particularly the Senate rules. Somehow, protecting the foundation of our democracy has turned into ignoring the Constitution and blowing up this institution.

I need to clarify that not all 50 Senate Democrats are on board with this plan. Thank goodness, two of our colleagues have been clear in their outright opposition to eliminating or weakening the filibuster-- the requirement that legislation, before it passes, must have bipartisan support rather than purely partisan bills like our Democratic colleagues want to pass without any support on the Republican side.

While there are two of our Senate colleagues from West Virginia and Arizona who have been public about their opposition to blowing up the Senate and to breaking Senate rules in order to accomplish a partisan objective, I imagine there are others unnamed who share the same concerns privately.

I hope our friends on the other side of the aisle will remain steadfast in their commitment to our Constitution and the norms and rules of this institution. If our colleagues are willing to go this far in the pursuit of raw political power, I would hate to think about how they would use it if they were to succeed.