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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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Rep Bill Flores talks agenda as possible house speaker

Bill+Flores
Photo by Photo By: Claire Shepherd
Bill Flores

Bill Flores’ first actions as speaker of the House of Representatives, should he win the position, would be to tackle transportation funding and the debt ceiling.
Flores (R-TX), Class of 1976, publicly said Monday he intends to seek the House of Representative’s highest position if Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) doesn’t. The decision comes after the current speaker John Boehner abruptly announced in late September that his resignation would take effect at the end of October, leaving a congressional power vacuum that has yet to be filled.
Flores came to Texas A&M Wednesday to meet with faculty and members of A&M’s student government. He said legislatively he separates things into two categories, so called ‘kicked-can’ items — things necessary to keeping the country running, but have been put off — and legislation he hopes to get passed.
“I’m going to put them in two buckets,” Flores said. “We’ve got kicked cans [and] we’ve got aspirational things that have to be done.”
Flores represents Texas’ 17th District in the U.S. Congress, which includes College Station and Waco.
Right out of the gate, Flores said transportation funding and the debt ceiling are ‘kicked-can’ items that have to be dealt with.
“The kicked cans unfortunately have to be dealt with first,” Flores said. “We’ve got a debt ceiling we’ve got to take care of, that will probably happen under Speaker Boehner’s watch but if we have a new Speaker before that, that will have to be dealt with. Transportation funding is an issue that’s got to be extended [and] we also need to fund the government. It’s only funded through Dec. 11.”
Flores said he also has his eyes set on four pieces of legislation.
“Moving to the next step, and that’s the aspirational items, I’d like to get tax reform on the floor of the house [and] I’d like to get our version of what healthcare reform looks like,” Flores said. “I think that it’s also appropriate to have a 21st century energy strategy, and then a regulatory reform bill. So I’d say those are the big four at this point.”
Flores said although a lot has been made of the differences in the Republican Party between the more conservative members and the more moderate members, in reality the members can generally agree about 80 percent of the time. As Speaker, Flores said, he would focus on this 80 percent to tackle the most important issues — moving into legislative areas where there might be more disagreement only after these were dealt with.
“So what we need to do, instead of fighting over the 20 percent, is start trying to find consensus on the 80 percent and find the solutions that fill that 80 percent where we agree,” Flores said. “What’s an 80 percent solution for tax reform? What’s an 80 percent solution for healthcare reform? And once you start doing that — restoring trust and relationships — then you can start tackling those [issues] where there might be some more differences.”
Talking about a return to regular order in the legislative process — or the ‘ground up approach’ as he called it — Flores said in his mind this has to be the starting point. This, he said, is the foundation on which the House is built.
“Well to me [returning to regular order is] the starting point. It’s the foundation that you build under the house. We’ve got to change the house rules so that instead of legislation flowing from the leadership down, that it flows up from the bottom.” Flores said. “So we create an environment where ideas can be planted and they can germinate and they can grow up — actually from our constituents, through our members, through the committees, [and] to the House floor.”
Flores said that although Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy deserve some credit for getting this right occasionally, too often regular order didn’t happen on very important legislation. Flores said as Speaker he would want to create an environment where every member can give their input, have their amendments heard and really feel like their colleagues are listening to what they have to say.
“So what I want to do is create an environment where everyone can get their fingerprints on a particular piece of legislation.” Flores said. “Now still we’ve got to have order to the process, but I think if that’s the first thing we fix and everybody as a legislator feels empowered and feels like their ideas are being heard, we’ll have a lot better legislative outcomes than what we have today.”
Talking about the Continuing Resolution that was passed Sept. 30 — a stop-gap funding measure to continue government operations for a short period of time the day before money ran out — Flores said there needs to be greater focus on calendar management and not just process improvement. He said Republicans need to identify deadlines and plan accordingly so that they’re not pushing things right up to the wire.
“So a lot of its calendar management, not only is it process improvement, it’s calendar management,” Flores said. “You figure out what your deadlines are and you start backing up and build some margin into your schedule.”
When asked about holding members accountable for their votes, that is punishing them for voting against legislation the leadership is backing, Flores held up the chipped voting card he uses on the house floor. He said members should always be able to vote their conscience, but if regular order is maintained and members are allowed to voice their concerns then they should vote for the legislation they helped to craft.
“These voting cards belong to my constituents — so to me every member needs to vote their constituency and their conscience and the constitution, and so I don’t think we ought to enforce some kind of a voting policy,” Flores said. “That said, I think there needs to be a recognition that if the structure of the house has allowed you to have your amendments brought up and considered, and they’re part of the bill, then you should vote for the legislation.”
Flores said he sees a lot of hope for the second half of the 114th Congress if Republican members will focus on their commonalities rather than their differences.
“Well I’m hopeful that we can heal the wounds that exist, that have divided us,” Flores said. “I’m hopeful we can begin to focus on the 80 percent of the policies that we agree on and start coming up with a vision that fulfills that 80%, and then the processes that help us execute that vision. If we do that, the second half of this congress could be wildly successful.”
The Congressman even gave a prediction on Saturday’s A&M-Alabama game.
“Of course it’ll be the Aggies [who win],” Flores said. “And I hope it’s by 76-0” — Rep. Flores is Class of 1976.

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