Tea party firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz playfully raised the possibility of a "President Cornyn" during the confirmation hearing for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.
Cruz, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, was attempting to draw out Lynch's views on the limits of a president's power, according to The Dallas Morning News
Cruz was specifically hoping to uncover her opinion on President Barack Obama's executive order giving amnesty
to millions of illegal immigrants who have children born in the U.S.
But his effort, as well as that of other Republicans, were met with defiance from Lynch during the hearing on Wednesday, the newspaper said, while noting that Cruz then tried another tack, a hypothetical scenario involving Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
Cruz asked: "If a subsequent president — let's say President Cornyn — is sworn in in January of 2017, and if President Cornyn decided that he was going to instruct the Secretary of Treasury not to collect any taxes in excess of 25 percent, to exercise prosecutorial discretion and not collect the taxes, in your legal opinion, would that be consistent with the Constitution?"
Lynch, Obama's pick to replace outgoing Eric Holder as head of the Justice Department, replied: "Senator, before I could render a legal opinion on the hypothetical as presented to me, I would want to know the entire scope of the action but also have the time to gather all of the legal precedent, the cases, congressional actions."
With Cornyn, the deputy majority leader in the Senate, sitting nearby on the panel looking bemused, Cruz continued with his mischievous line of questioning.
He asked Lynch whether her understanding of prosecutorial discretion would "allow a subsequent president, President Cornyn, to state that there are other laws that the administration will not enforce — labor laws, environmental laws. Would it allow a President Cornyn to say, 'Every existing federal labor law shall heretofore not apply to the State of Texas.' "
Lynch replied: "Well, I certainly can't imagine President Cornyn taking that step," but added that she would have to review the legal basis for any such steps before making an opinion.
According to the newspaper, Cruz then said that he was shocked by her reply, considering that a president is obliged to enforce the laws.
Democrat Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota feigned like he was almost rendered speechless by Cruz's unusual questioning banter, saying, "I'm sorry. I'm just a little shook up about this President Cornyn thing."
Cornyn jokingly interjected, "Your worst nightmare?"
Franken then added with a smile, "I just…got here, and suddenly, Cornyn was president. My world had changed."
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