John Cornyn, R-Texas, leaves Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office in the Capitol on Oct. 8, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

John Cornyn’s rhetoric on health care takes a ridiculous turn


Two years ago this week, as Senate Republicans scrambled to tear down the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a regressive alternative, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) helped lead the charge. As it turned out, that was unfortunate: not only did the GOP crusade fail, but Cornyn was caught making a series of claims that were plainly false.

Alas, the Texas Republican’s rhetoric on the issue has not improved.

In May, for example, Cornyn insisted, “[T]here is no threat to coverage for pre-existing conditions.” The reality is the exact opposite: Republicans filed a legal challenge to the ACA, which succeeded at the district court, and which may yet tear down the entire reform law – including existing protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Yesterday, the GOP senator – who is, incidentally, up for re-election year – took another bite at the same apple.

“Again and again, Democrats have refused to join Republicans in guaranteeing coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

Some political posturing is just part of the system. It can’t be avoided, and it’s not worth getting worked up about.

But Cornyn’s rhetoric on health care is increasingly bonkers.

The facts surrounding the debate are unambiguous and uncontested:

1. Protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions already exist. They’re an integral part of the Affordable Care Act.

2. Cornyn opposed the ACA before it passed, and he’s spent years fighting against it.

3. Cornyn and other Republicans endorsed ongoing litigation that, if successful, would end protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions (among other things).

4. The Texas judge who ruled against the ACA and called for its complete destruction is a former aide to … John Cornyn.

Some may argue that the three-term senator is so confused that he doesn’t realize how wrong his rhetoric is. Cornyn is stuck in a partisan bubble so impermeable, the argument goes, that it’s better to chalk this up to ignorance than dishonesty.

I find that very hard to believe. The Texas Republican has worked on the issue for quite a while, and it’s implausible that he doesn’t yet understand the most basic details of the debate.

What’s likely happening is that Cornyn knows that the public supports protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, and voters will be apoplectic if the GOP succeeds in taking those protections away.

The result is efforts like Cornyn’s to convince the public that Republicans are the real liberals when it comes to health care, rather than those rascally Democrats who created the cherished protections in the first place.

Update: It’s worth noting for context that Cornyn isn’t alone in pushing the idea that Republicans are to Democrats’ left on health care protections. Donald Trump got this nonsensical ball rolling last year.