Challenges in the Senate

Between the healthcare debate — the national debt and economy and issues like cap and trade and the war in Afghanistan — there's a lot of focus on the U.S. government and its policy decisions. Senator John Cornyn is in Houston today and says there is more bipartisan work being done in Washington than many might imagine. Laurie Johnson has more.

Republican Senator John Cornyn spoke to about 400 members of the Greater Houston Partnership about the state of the Senate.

He spoke on a broad range of issues from immigration reform, which he says Washington is largely ignoring, to the healthcare debate, which he says has more consensus than many realize.

"I believe there's bipartisan consensus that we need to come together in a practical way to solve what is wrong in our healthcare system today. What is wrong in our healthcare system today? We know costs are so high that many people are priced out of the market. Workers have had to accept — because employers have found it harder and harder to afford it — higher deductibles and higher co-pays and the like, which are basically a substitute for higher wages causing wages to become stagnant."

Cornyn says he believes Washington can reach a point of agreement on healthcare — at least on a majority of issues.

But one of the sticking points between Democrats and Republicans will be the cost of it all.

Cornyn says there's extreme tension over the federal budget deficit and national debt.

"Never in American history have we borrowed as much and spent so much money. The federal budget deficit this year will come in roughly at $1.6 trillion. That's the highest it has ever been in the history of the United States of America, the highest it has ever been. And there's no end in sight. Under the budget that Congress adopted, the administration's proposed budget, we'll see a doubling of the deficit in five years and a tripling in ten years."

Cornyn says nationally that tension has played out in hundreds of townhall meetings and tea parties.

"While I know some people disparage the fact that ordinary Americans, ordinary Texans, showed up at tea parties and townhalls to express their concern, I actually see that as an encouraging sign that people are being engaged enough to let their elected representatives, let the public know, to see like-minded people with them around the country express concern."

Cornyn's assessment of the state of the senate in his own words is that Washington is growing the government too fast and accumulating far too much debt.

But he says he remains optimistic and believes that despite the partisan rhetoric that dominates Washington, the Congress will work together to make the right decisions for the nation.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...