While Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., prefers the religious litmus test, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is more efficient. Cornyn doesn't care about the Christianity of Russ Vought, President Trump's nominee for deputy director of the Office of Business and Management.
Cornyn just wants to get paid.
He's has been holding Vought hostage. The ransom? More federal funding for Hurricane Irma relief. If OMB Director Mick Mulvaney wants a deputy, Cornyn warns, then he will have to buy him first.
Nominated back in April, Vought has seen his share of false hopes and slow starts by now. He endured attacks about his religion from Sanders in committee, only to watch Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., place a procedural hold on his nomination right before it headed to the floor. That Florida man decided to slow-walk Vought until Republicans forked over cash for his state's citrus industry.
A congressional veteran, Vought probably expected that sort of partisan obstruction. But what the budget wonk never accounted for was his kidnapping. Cornyn more or less snuck up from behind, threw a bag over Vought's head, and dragged him into the back of a waiting van. What's worse, when Axios reported the abduction, Cornyn tried making the rest of Texas complicit.
By all accounts, Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz (both Republicans) aren't willing accomplices. The governor never cared about the federal nomination while Cruz has supported Vought from the beginning. But so long as they stay silent, Cornyn can use them as cover.
"He's obviously trying to spread the blame to Cruz and Abbott," one senior Republican strategist told the Washington Examiner. "I'm sure they don't appreciate it. Here's the truth: Texas was always getting the money it needs, Cornyn is just posturing for state press and hurting a good conservative in an attempt to act tough."
No one knows how long Cornyn can hold out. Grassroots conservatives have surrounded him online and the administration must be tiring with his negotiations. The longer he holds onto his hostage, the longer he risks burning himself.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.