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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Political and Social Thought to the Left of College Station

17th District’s New Congressman in the 112th Congress

The 112th Congress was gaveled into session this week, and the Texas 17th Congressional District has a new Congressman in Washington. Republican Bill Flores defeated incumbent Democrat Chet Edwards in November; the first successful Republican after a long line of challengers to the Democrat who held one of the most conservative Congressional districts in Texas.

According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, Flores is confident of his and the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives ability to affect policy change. "We're 20 percent of the House. We're over 30 percent of the Republican conference. I'm not an army of one. I'm an army of many. I feel confident we'll hold together."

That remains to be seen. Newly elected Speaker John Boehner may have significant problems holding together a Republican caucus that will have several ideological divisions. One of the test to the new Speaker’s ability to hold together the Republican caucus will be the vote to raise the debt ceiling; a vote which many of the more conservative Congressman have pledge to vote against.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Flores said that “if the federal government was not spending beyond its means then we would not be having this vote [to raise the debt ceiling," and that he would not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless changes are made in the federal spending. "It will have to have substantial changes in the way we do business and substantial revisions in the budget process.”

Bloomberg interviewed Flores yesterday outside the Capitol, during which he said that his priorities as a new Congressman were legislation that creates private sector jobs, that grows a robust economy, and that balances the budget:

Republican leaders have been planning a legislative push that includes cuts to the Federal budget that amounts to $100 billion dollars. However, Flores said in to the Dallas Morning News that it "is not nearly enough when you're talking about a $1.1 trillion deficit. ... The voters are very impatient. I am very impatient to set the ship on a better course. But I do realize it's a very big ship. We're going to have to be pushing at the tiller pretty hard."

Of course Republicans have not announced any specific cuts to the budget, but just what cuts that they will not make to the budget. The New York Times reports that Republican lawmakers have said that they will not cut discretionary spending from the military, domestic security, or veterans programs. However, according to a report by Politico earlier this week, House Republicans have said that their budget challenge might require a cut of only $50 to $60 billion.

Flores was quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as saying that being a part of the new Republican majority gives him and his colleagues the power to push their legislative agenda. “I think it gives us the resources for the huge mandate the American people want us to accomplish." Although, with a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Democrat in the White House, it is likely that much of the legislation passed by Republicans in the House will not likely make it to the President’s desk and if it does could face the veto pen. While Republicans often said during the campaign the Congressional Democrats overreached, Republicans may have overpromised.

So far Congressman Flores has cosponsored three pieces of legislation including a proposal for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States, a resolution to repeal the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, and a resolution to repeal the expansion of information reporting requirements for payments of $600 or more to corporations. It is going to be interesting to watch what kind of legislation Flores authors and it is going to be interesting how he votes on key pieces of legislation.

It is also going to be interesting to watch the reaction of his constituents in District 17 to his performance in Congress. Will redistricting affect Flores’ seat in Congress? Will Flores be able ensure the federal funding for Texas A&M that Edwards was able to provide? Will Flores’ lack of sonority affect his ability to craft pieces of major legislation? Will conservative activist put pressure on Flores to vote with the Tea Party backed lawmakers on their issues? For now there are only questions, and no answers.

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