McConnell Thanks Cornyn For His Service As Republican Whip

‘So really, whatever his title happens to say, what I’m looking forward to from John is more of the same. More invaluable guidance. More exemplary legislating. I know the press corps is certainly hoping for more of his informative one-liners. Like I said, I’m so happy we aren’t saying goodbye to John today. What I am saying -- with complete personal sincerity, and also for the entire conference -- is thank you.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding friend and colleague, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX):

“Now I'm down to my very last end-of-year tribute to a member of this body. I offer this one with the very greatest reluctance. This one isn’t occasioned by any retirement. Fortunately for all of us, Senator John Cornyn isn’t going anywhere. He’ll be right here with us when the 116th Congress convenes in January. But he will no longer be serving as Republican Whip. His tenure in this key leadership role is almost complete. So I could not let this week pass by without sharing – for the official record, and with all of our colleagues – a small slice of the tremendous gratitude, and respect, and admiration that I feel for the senior Senator from Texas.

“Of course John and I were already well acquainted when he took over the Whip role six years ago, in relief of Jon Kyl. But still, I wasn’t sure exactly what our relationship would look like. You never quite know in advance. Everyone’s different. But just a few weeks into our partnership as Leader and Whip, John presented me with a birthday gift – and it told me at least three things about him.

“He’d framed and autographed a picture of… ourselves. Just an ordinary, not-particularly-glamorous shot of the two of us plus John Barrasso, probably talking with the press there in the Ohio Clock corridor. A somewhat unusual gift, I thought. Lesson number one: This guy has a sense of humor and good cheer. Now, in this photo, I’m kind of standing front and center. Six-foot-one John is standing right behind me, a little out of focus and halfway in the shadow. So there’s lesson number two: Humility.

“And then there was his handwritten message. ‘Happy birthday, Mitch – I’ve got your back!’ That was lesson number three. It spoke for itself. And how fortunate I have been to be reminded every single day since that John Cornyn means exactly what he says. John has proven to be a stunningly effective Whip for the Republican conference these past years. He’s also been a more solid friend and a wiser, more loyal counselor than I had any right to expect.

“Whip is a powerful position. Your conference trusts you to help lead them. Your peers trust you with their candor and their concerns. As each piece of legislation progresses, different groups of your colleagues are trusting you to help secure accomplishments that are huge priorities for them and their own constituents. So it’s easy to imagine ways this critical role might go off the rails. You could wear out your welcome with your colleagues. You could become too focused on notching today’s win at the expense of tomorrow’s relationships and good feelings. You could let personal disagreements threaten the unity of your leadership team and your conference.

“But as those who know him well can attest, these aren’t worries that keep John up at night. That’s because he’s the quintessential team player: Not focused on personal gain. Dedicated to the causes that matter to Texas and his members. And willing to roll up his sleeves and do the heavy lifting himself to advance them. You know, they say everything’s bigger in Texas. And sure enough, ‘Big John’ has been known to ride across the screen in campaign spots from time to time.

“But somewhere along the way, John’s ego didn’t get the message. John doesn’t twist arms or get angry. He doesn’t play-act at being the ‘bad cop.’ Instead, he listens. He learns. He pours his time and energy into learning all about his colleagues, their concerns, their states’ priorities. People outside the Senate might think someone in John’s position would need to act like a bully. The term ‘whip’ certainly sends that message. But John knows that scare tactics don’t do many favors in the long run. The winning strategy on Team Cornyn has been less like the Mafia and more like savvy and heartfelt customer service. And they sure have a lot to show for it.

“The more I’ve been reflecting on why John has had so much success, I’ve kept coming back to his the fact that this man was a judge -- a Texas Supreme Court justice, to be exact. And in a courtroom, the judge has the power -- but their job isn’t to wheedle or persuade. It’s to listen fairly to all parties, all theories, and all ideas. Give everyone a hearing, take it all in, and then chart the best course possible. How lucky we’ve all been to have someone like that whipping votes.

“So, it’s a privilege to see John at work. And it’s been an honor to work in the trenches with John, day after day, these past years. Well, to be more accurate, it’s been a pleasure to stand shoulder to shoulder with him here in the well. We’ve had our fair share of quality time. At the end of any Congress, you’d expect the Majority Leader and Whip might have a small handful of close shaves and dramatic moments to reflect on. But John’s helped steer the ship with the slimmest possible majorities. Week after week, 51 to 49 -- 50 to 49, in many cases. We’ve seen this play out in the confirmation of a historic number of well-qualified nominees to the federal judiciary… and in the passage of major legislation with delicate moving parts -- from comprehensive tax reform to a landmark opioids package.

“And the truth is, even a comprehensive catalog of all the big floor votes would only capture a fraction of John’s excellent work. More key nominees and important pieces of legislation have traveled quietly through the Senate -- because John has been there, diligent and patient and respectful, working through challenges and addressing concerns around the clock. And as if this wasn’t enough to fill John’s plate, let’s remember: While serving as Whip, he’s also been a vital member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Judiciary Committee, and the Finance Committee -- and been an outstanding senior senator for Texas all the while.

“In fact, in each of the past two Congresses, no Senator has been the lead sponsor on more bills that have become law than John Cornyn. He led on Fix NICS. He led on the fight against human trafficking. All in a couple years’ work.

“Of course, he doesn’t do it alone. John has assembled a whip staff that are as much a testament to his eye for talent as they are a tremendous asset for the entire conference. And at the helm of the operation is the Chief of Staff in his whip office, Monica Popp. In so many ways, John and Monica seem to be cut from the same cloth. Like her boss, Monica has a sixth sense when it comes to reading a room and getting people what they need. She relishes the chance to tackle tough problems. As far as she’s concerned, a troublesome situation is really just an opportunity. And just like John, Monica is an attentive listener.

“This has made her an encyclopedic authority on what makes each member of the conference tick. When Monica makes a recommendation, you know it’s based on the best possible information. And on so many occasions, I’ve relied directly on her sharp counsel here on the floor. I’m not sure I’ve ever worked with someone who had such a warm heart and such ice in her veins at the very same time. She operates with calm and confidence precisely because she’s built so many genuine and solid friendships that she knows just where things stand.

“Outside observers get Congress wrong when they say, ‘It’s all about the math.’ It’s really all about relationships. And ironically enough, this former math teacher turned all-star Hill staffer is just about the ultimate living proof. We may not be losing Senator Cornyn this month, but I’m sorry to say we are saying goodbye to Monica. I will miss her, and I know the entire conference will miss her.

“It’s all about relationships with John, too. Even as he was constantly tasked with walking a tightrope through a pressure cooker, he’s also managed to be one of kindest, most down-to-earth human beings around. In no place is this more evident than in the way he treats the unelected members of this Senate family. He gets to know everyone. He wants to earn your trust. He wants to know how you’re doing. After all, before he was the Senate’s Majority Whip, or a Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, or the state’s Attorney General, he was a husband and a father.

“And I know his wife, Sandy, and their family are hoping that the end of John’s service as Whip will bring at least a nominal relaxing of his schedule. Ordinarily, I might guess that John might be able to spend more time on his hobbies. But somehow -- as his prolific Twitter and Instagram pages regularly notify the whole world -- he’s kept right at them, all along. For all the different hats John wears in the Senate, he’s managed to hang on to his chef’s cap, too -- marching through the Rasika cookbook and whipping up feasts for the family. And the dove hunts certainly haven’t gone anywhere, either.

“So really, whatever his title happens to say, what I’m looking forward to from John is more of the same. More invaluable guidance. More exemplary legislating. I know the press corps is certainly hoping for more of his informative one-liners. Like I said, I’m so happy we aren’t saying goodbye to John today. What I am saying -- with complete personal sincerity, and also for the entire conference -- is thank you. Thank you for your friendship and partnership. Thank you for making all of us look better than any of us deserve. Thank you for helping the Senate deliver for the country. Thank you for always having all of our backs.”

Related Issues: Tributes