Feb 13, 2024 - News

Cornyn-Paxton beef gets personal

Two men side by side, both wearing suits and ties

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took the gloves off. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images and Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. John Cornyn and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, are publicly feuding over a variety of issues — and it's getting personal.

Why it matters: The public bickering typifies the rift inside the Texas GOP between more isolationist, MAGA-friendly Republicans aligned with Paxton and traditional conservatives like Cornyn.

What happened: In the latest back and forth, Paxton fired first on X, criticizing Cornyn's late-night vote in favor of a $95 billion foreign aid bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

  • Cornyn quickly replied, telling Paxton: "Ken, your criminal defense lawyers are calling to suggest you spend less time pushing Russian propaganda and more time defending longstanding felony charges against you in Houston, as well as ongoing federal grand jury proceedings in San Antonio that will probably result in further criminal charges."
  • Paxton then called Cornyn an "America Last RINO" who has "joined hands with the Biden administration to fund and prioritize foreign wars over the national security crisis at the southern border."

The big picture: Cornyn was one of 22 Republican senators who voted in favor of the bill, despite strong opposition from former President Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has indicated he won't bring the bill to the House floor — at least as is.

Between the lines: Last week, Senate Republicans scuttled a bipartisan border package that was tied to Ukraine aid after Trump announced he opposed the deal.

Flashback: Cornyn and Paxton have publicly sniped at each other for years. In 2022, ahead of Paxton's primary against George P. Bush, Cornyn called Paxton's unresolved legal issues "a source of embarrassment."

Yes, but: Cornyn has already endorsed Trump ahead of the 2024 election.

Of note: Texas' other senator, Ted Cruz — a Republican up for reelection this year — voted against the aid bill.

What we're watching: The last few years of scandals have given Paxton critics a full quiver of material.

  • How far will Cornyn go?
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