Congressman Jeb Hensarling: Multiple Town Halls
Congressman Jeb Hensarling (Texas-5) held a full schedule on August 8th and 9th as he visited Kaufman, Henderson, Van Zandt, and Wood Counties. Though retiring at the end of this term, active citizens came out to hear the congressman speak on the state of the Union. The town of Mineola hosted the first in the series of town hall meetings on August 8th, with Canton, Athens, and Kaufman’s meetings on August 9th.
Judge Don Kirkpatrick opened the Canton meeting with a gracious introduction, which included a recollection of the Congressman’s many accomplishments over the past 16 years of service.
Hensarling began with humor and a warm statement how what he’ll miss most when he leaves politics is the people. In that same vein, he recognized the Vets in the room. thanking them for their service. Later during question time, an emotional Vietnam Vet thanked the Congressman for the recognition. He remarked that as a native Californian, and recent transplant to Texas, he has never been thanked. The Congressman drew good-natured chuckles when he asked the Vet, “What took you so long to get to Texas?”
Hensarling shared that this town hall is his 86th visit to Van Zandt county in his capacity as our member of congress. He says he gets asked why he is still holding town hall meetings when he is not facing reelection. His response reminds the curious: “I am still your congressman until January second at high noon when they swear in a new congressman…and this is a very important part of what I do.” He went on to say that until he leaves, he has more work to do, and that requires he stay in contact with the people for accountability and wisdom.
STATE OF THE UNION
Congressman Hensarling went on to give a report on the state of the union. “By and large, the state of the union is very, very good. Oh, what a difference 18 months makes. For 8 years we suffered through the most lackadaisical, lackluster economy that many of us have ever seen…a lot of families spending sleepless nights wondering how they were going to pay the bills…. We were told by a lot of people that this was the best America could do. In fact, east coast academics came up with a term: secular stagnation…which really means ‘bad liberal policies’. [laughter] …Due to a republican congress, due to President Donald Trump, the most sweeping pro-growth tax reform plan in a generation was passed.”
The Congressman continued on to tell several stories about how the growth of the economy, pay increases, bonuses, increasing 401Ks, and the decrease in joblessness is impacting families. Stories about how businesses are telling him they are hiring, expanding, adding new or higher tech equipment, and able to offer all their employees those raises and bonuses that amount to more than what Nancy Pelosi calls ‘crumbs’. “Those bonuses”, Hensarling pointed out, “buy a lot of groceries or cover a mortgage payment. …We now have, pretty close to the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. The greatest rise in incomes in about 15 years…” He pointed out how this is not due to an Obama-like stimulus package, but due to optimism – the American people and businesses are ready to once again “roll up their sleeves and take a risk”.
Hensarling believes that tax reform and deregulation have inspired this optimism. The congressman explained how it’s not a matter of deregulation vs regulation, but between smart regulation and dumb regulation. He says dumb regulation is “heavy handed, Washington driven, and never takes into account what the impact is going to be on jobs.” When President Trump came to office, he required that for every new regulation they must get rid of two. Hensarling said that rather than two, they’ve been able to get rid of twenty-two. These are the ingredients that have led to an economy that is exploding.
SAMPLING OF QUESTIONS FROM KAUFMAN AND CANTON:
East Texans Are Informed and Involved.
At the Kaufman town hall, the question was asked if the Congressman has “any insight on who the new Speaker of the House might be?” After starting out with humor, “I certainly hope it’s not Nancy Pelosi,” Hensarling got to the heart of the matter. “Having said that… I think there’s only one formally announced candidate to the best of my knowledge: Jim Jordan of Ohio. Jim is a good friend of mine. He used to Chair the House Executive Committee… a solid conservative… a man of integrity. He is a leader; …the only announced candidate. Everybody assumes that Kevin McCarthy of California will be in there, a very capable and able legislator. Some people say Steve Scalise may get in; I’ve heard other names. However, that’s a little premature, particularly when Republicans haven’t necessarily re-secured their majority yet; so, they’d better attend to that first…”
Another questioner from Kaufman inquired as to the impact of tariffs on the economy and international trade. the Congressman’s response offered insight onto President Trump’s use of tariffs as a strategy to balance trade relations. In addition, his feedback accentuated that there are multiple perspectives on how to use tariffs as a tool.
“There is a lot that the President does that I think has really helped this economy. I really, really appreciate his tactics, and I really appreciate deregulation… I’ve really been impressed by his judicial nominations.”
“His trade policy makes me nervous. Number one, a tariff is a tax. And, the President has opened the gate to the greatest economy in a lifetime, and if he’s not careful, that great economy is going to be lost. Now, I think and pray when all is said and done, that his strategy proves to be brilliant; and it may. I think to some extent, the strategy is, ‘They have more to lose than we have to lose;’ and at the end of the day, more trade barriers will be brought down. …I’m very, very encouraged by the truce, if you will, with the European Union.
I encouraged the Administration, ‘Let’s concentrate on the serial violator of international trade rules: China.’ China is through hook and crook in outright theft and espionage, taking our technology, taking our intellectual property. It’s all part of ‘Made in China 2025.’ They are a competitor. We ought to unite the world, including Canada and Mexico. Let’s take care of the serial violator of trade rules first, and I think we can unite the world; and we need to do that first, and then we can start worrying about the European Union and Canada and Mexico…”
At the Canton town hall, the first question queried as to why 40-50 Congressman are leaving at a time when their expertise and years of experience are needed. Hensarling did not speak to what may be motivating the other Congressmen who are leaving, addressing only his reasons. The answer had two-parts; citing professional and personal reasons. Hensarling started out by joking that the question shouldn’t be, “Why am I leaving”, but instead should be, “Why haven’t I already left?” He discussed how there should never be a permanent ruling class. That there is a time for new blood. He mentioned being frustrated he couldn’t persuade his fellow citizens and colleagues “as to the perils of a national debt.” The more personal part of the answer had to do with wanting to spend more time with his family.
Another person sought the Congressman’s opinion on term limits. “How the people vote” is the “ultimate term limit.” He noted that some kind of term limit may be good. However, he is “not passionate about it one way or the other.” He did acknowledge though, that it takes time to figure out how to maneuver the Washington bureaucracy. More often or not, they hold more weight in legislating than the legislators. This expertise is valuable and should be considered when thinking about term limits.
A gentleman in the Canton meeting noted that President Trump is willing to let the government shut down if immigration reform is not addressed. He wondered if Congressman Hensarling supported immigration reform. Hensarling started by talking about how the House voted on two immigration plans that would “fully fund the wall”. He voted for both, though the Goodlatte plan, (Congressman Bob Goodlatte) “was the better of the two, and more comprehensive”. He went into detail about the legislative process and how it takes multiple tries to get a bill to law.
Timna Rutledge is publisher of The Northeast Texan and a contributing reporter to this article. She attended Congressman Hensarling’s town hall meeting in Kaufman. Susan Skommesa is a freelance editor/reporter with The Northeast Texan, and attended Congressman Hensarling’s town hall meeting in Canton.