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GOP Rep. Chip Roy On What He Wants To Hear During The SOTU

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We're talking today with some of the newest members of Congress, both to get their take on tonight's speech and to ask what Washington in 2019 looks like through fresh eyes. Joining us next from Statuary Hall where broadcasters are setting up for the event is Texas Republican Congressman Chip Roy. He represents a district near Austin, and he's a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Congressman, welcome.

CHIP ROY: Hey, Mary Louise. Thanks for having me on this afternoon. I appreciate it.

KELLY: What is the top thing that you are hoping to hear tonight?

ROY: I hope the president will continue to address the important issue of border security. I spent two days last week down in the Rio Grande Valley sector with my friend Dan Crenshaw. And what we saw was really troubling. And I think, you know, the American people need to continue to understand what's actually happening.

KELLY: I know that you are a supporter of the wall. Should the president offer some olive branches tonight in an effort to reset relations, create a climate in which stuff can get done, whether we're talking the wall or any other issue?

ROY: Well, keep in mind that the president offered a fairly sizable olive branch a couple of weeks back in offering what he did on that Saturday where he's talking about status for certain individuals who are here obviously in sort of the class of kids, DACA DREAMers, however you want to define it and...

KELLY: He was proposing a temporary measure.

ROY: A temporary measure, that's right. But, again, status and trying to reach across the aisle. And also keep in mind that the bill in question, the funding which would fund 234 miles of fencing, it would fund 75 judges, 50,000 beds, $600 million in humanitarian relief - a lot of things that would improve the state of the border. All of that is a kind of compromise position off of his initial ask. So I don't think that there's a whole lot more that the president needs do in terms of olive branch as much as saying we need to make the case the American people are with him and continue to make that case at the State of the Union.

KELLY: Let me turn you in this direction. A lot of people despair at the state of Washington, the partisan bickering, the dysfunction. And you arrived just a few weeks ago to take up your role in Congress to find not just dysfunction but the government not even open. What gives you hope that you're going to find a way to make a difference in this town?

ROY: I believe that Washington functions best when the American people demand that the people representing them step up and do their job, right? We have almost - over 20 percent - right? - of the House is now new. So we need a new look, some new freshman members to be able to come in and change things in this town. And I think there's been a lot of good conversations underway. We've had a lot of dialogue across the aisles of freshman class trying to reach some agreement. And we'll keep moving ahead and trying to do that for the people who sent us here.

KELLY: I saw a quote that made me curious where you referred to yourself as a Republican version of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I'm guessing you two don't vote the same way on a lot of issues, so let me ask what you meant.

ROY: Well, that quote was actually taken a little bit from the person that was asking it and kind of framed it that way. But what I meant was...

KELLY: OK. What did you actually say?

ROY: What I meant was - and I think the quote's not too far off. What I meant was both of us are coming at our role in Congress as trying to challenge the status quo, trying to change things once we get here and not accept the normal order of things, that you don't just get things decided from on high, that the party bosses don't get to decide everything in a backfilled room, that we need to have full robust debate of the issues that we believe in and then have actual votes, have amendments and figure out where they go.

That's where I think - and interestingly, we've had a couple of votes where my colleague from New York and I've been on the same place in that, voting against something. So, you know, I think that those of us who want to see change, a lot of us, regardless of ideology or position of party, want to challenge the broken status quo in Washington. So I think that's where there's some synergy there.

KELLY: Congressman, thank you.

ROY: Well, thank you, really appreciate it. Thanks for what y'all do.

KELLY: That's freshman Republican Chip Roy of Texas. And we are also talking with a freshman Democrat elsewhere on the program today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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