Sen. Cornyn talks border wall, 2020 re-election at event for new STEM education law

Senator John Cornyn is helping roll out new legislation and looking ahead to his 2020 re-election campaign.

At a stop in Fort Worth on Wednesday, he shared his thoughts on the border wall and Beto O'Rourke, who could be Cornyn’s opponent in the U.S. Senate race if he doesn't run for president.

The senator was in Fort Worth to talk funding for STEM-related education programs, but also came prepared for “hard to ignore” political issues.

It was a big moment for U.S. Sen. Cornyn to discuss a new federal law to fund science technology engineering and math (STEM) opportunities at schools and universities.

"Making sure we have a STEM workforce. Science, technology, engineering and math workforce,” Sen. Cornyn said. “People who are prepared to perform jobs in ever-advancing technological fields. It boggles my mind to see how much things are changing before our very eyes."

The education topic brought the senator to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, but it did not keep away questions about Washington politics.

"I know the president did not want to have another shutdown,” he said.

Sen. Cornyn also discussed perhaps the biggest current national debate: President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to pay for a southern border wall.

The senator agrees with the need for a wall, but he also has concerns regarding the precedent an emergency declaration sets.

"This does raise legitimate questions about the separation of powers, and that’s what the courts are going to have to sort out. Unfortunately, it’s going to take some time before this all becomes clear. The good news is the construction on the physical barrier along the border that are part of smart border security can already begin to take place,” he added.

Cornyn also had an eye on his re-election campaign in 2020, and possible opponent, Beto O'Rourke, who narrowly lost to Ted Cruz in 2018.

"He raised $80 million, most of it in small dollar contributions from outside of Texas. So what I'm concerned about is people outside of Texas trying to dictate who the officials are who represent our state," he said.

O'Rourke hasn't said if he will run again for Senate. He has said he'll announce whether he runs for president by the end of the month.

SMU Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson says if O'Rourke ends up on a presidential ticket, that could hurt Cornyn, too.

“If O’Rourke is on the ticket either as a presidential or vice presidential nominee it will significantly drive Democratic turnout in Texas,” Wilson said. “And that would make Cornyn's reelection bid tougher.”

Whether O'Rourke joins an already crowded Democratic presidential field, jumps into the Senate race or doesn't run at all is still unclear. The stakes for 2020 in Texas depend largely on what O'Rourke chooses.

“His decision to run or not and then whether or not whether he would get the nomination or not has a lot of consequences for the role Texas would play in the presidential,” Wilson said.

O'Rourke was asked on Tuesday if he would be a vice-presidential candidate. He didn't rule it out.