Shortly after the passage of health care reform, Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) found himself one of the lone voices of moderation inside the Republican tent when he told the Huffington Post that the party would only seek to repeal parts -- and not the entirety -- of the law.
The National Senatorial Campaign Committee chair was criticized by conservatives for throwing cold water on the repeal effort and, subsequently, began changing his tune. But even then it seemed like Cornyn had a more sober-minded understanding of what exactly the GOP could (and politically should) do with respect to the health care law.
Fast forward and the GOP's health-care repeal campaign has morphed into a campaign to de-fund health care. The logic being that while President Obama could veto the former, Congress (under Republican hands) would have full control over the latter. And yet, in an interview with PBS NewsHour, it is Cornyn once again who is urging colleges to temper their expectations.
"I think [we will introduce a bill to repeal health care and financial regulatory reform] pretty quickly," said Cornyn.
"The fact of the matter, though, is that President Obama will remain president of the United States and he could veto any legislation we were able to pass. Even if we controlled the House, unless we controlled the Senate and got 60 votes, we wouldn't be able to pass any corresponding legislation in the Senate. So I think, we need to keep expectations, again, fairly modest as far as what we can do over the next two years. I think it is a chance to work together with the president if he wants to work with us like President Clinton did following the 1994 election to pass things like welfare reform on a bipartisan basis. But, I think, if the president doesn't reach across the aisle and actually try to do things on a bipartisan basis, the likelihood is that not a whole lot of legislating will be done."
Asking Republicans to keep expectations "fairly modest" is not the most motivational message to the base. But it does serve a larger purpose for Cornyn and others -- preemptively excusing the GOP for not undoing the entirety of the Obama agenda. The president will remain the president, after all. And it suits Republican lawmakers well to have voter displeasure directed at his legislation rather than their promises to undo it.
The relevant portion of the interview starts at the 7:00 minute mark.