Legendary Texas congressman Sam Rayburn used to say, “Any jackass can kick a barn down. It takes a carpenter to build one.”
One of the current Texas members of Congress – from Hays County no less – kicked down a barn this past week. He says he’s proud of his destruction. Maybe so, but Texans will suffer for it.
On the Friday before Memorial Day, local Congressman Chip Roy, a local Republican, single-handedly killed a disaster relief that would have meant hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for Texans still struggling to rebuild from Hurricane Harvey.
Due to Gerrymandering by the state legislature, Hays County is split into three congressional districts. Roy is a first-termer in the “middle” district, HD 21, that runs from Austin and Westlake area, Buda west to Johnson City, Fredericksburg and Kerrville-Boerne, and south into north San Antonio. This kind of hocus-pocus partisan district-making undermines accountability, since it’s often hard for people to know which district they’re in, or who their congressman is. Besides which, Roy doesn’t even live in the district he represents — or he didn’t when he won the seat in 2018.
But Roy felt the need to meddle in this legislation – aimed at helping his own state to a tune of $4 billion – which passed the Senate 85-8 with strong bipartisan support, with a similar bill earlier approved in the House by a 257-150 vote. He did it even though he comes from a county that has needed federal flood disaster assistance in recent years and is likely to again.
And he did it, as far as we can tell, for the basest political reasons – to gain a little quick attention for himself as a new member, and to try to score points against Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
It’s exactly the kind of thing Texans are sick of in Washington.
Rep. Roy claimed he was courageously standing up against Speaker Pelosi and the swamp in D.C. In reality, the bill had strong bipartisan support, was crafted in part by one of our state’s two Republican senators, John Cornyn, and was on the unanimous consent calendar in the House – as congressional leaders and emergency aid officials tried to get additional funding in place before the new hurricane season.
With most of Congress already gone for the Memorial Day holidays, Roy maneuvered to make a grandstand play for himself.
It got him a little attention in the national press. Maybe it will cement his reputation with the farthest of the right-win extremes, people who would rather see Congress bicker than get anything done, people who will excuse anything, no matter how far-fetched, in the name of “supporting President Trump.”
But most of aren’t on the extremes of left or right. Most of us want a government that functions, and takes care of the basics – like preparing for natural disasters and helping our neighbors in time of emergency. Most of us still put country above party.
And most of us will weigh this kind of thing heavily when the next election rolls around. Meanwhile, we will be hoping there are enough carpenters left in Washington to fix the mess this freshman made.