AP NEWS

Valley reps move into majority

January 8, 2019

Only one of the Rio Grande Valley’s three congressmen has ever experienced being in the ruling party in the House. That changed as of Thursday, with Democrats officially taking over the chamber.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, will place a regional representative in the upper brass with his appointment as Speaker Pro Tempore, a position in House leadership, after more than a decade in Congress, including four years in the majority.

U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, both in the majority party for the first time in their political careers, are optimistic about being able to hold a check on President Donald Trump and to push back on Republican hostility toward the U.S.-Mexico border, they said.

And rather than rule the House without bipartisan discourse, the congressmen pledged a more free-flowing, productive body than the country has seen in recent years.

“Now we have a big responsibility to govern,” Cuellar said in an interview. “When Pelosi was in the majority last time, we were able to pass things, many times in bipartisan ways. We were able to govern. They weren’t really able to govern.” Gonzalez said border related rhetoric and policy will change.

“I don’t thinky ou’re going to see border wall funding,” Gonzalez said in an interview, referring to the current government shutdown that is centered on Trump wanting wall funding and Democrats in Congress not giving it to him. Gonzalez added that there will be an end to the recent government-contracted surveyors that have been spotted in South Texas.

“We’ve seen guys out there surveying and doing maneuvers like that,” he said. “I don’t think this is going to go further than it already has.”

The Financial Services Committee, the sole committee Gonzalez sits on, will also likely launch investigations into Trump’s finances, he said.

“I would anticipate that happening, yes,” Gonzalez said, before naming a couple of Democratic colleagues on the committee who have strongly opposed Trump and his fitness for office. Gonzalez added: “We have a pretty antagonistic group.”

Cuellar and Vela both discussed funding they’ve been able to secure for their districts in previous years, such as education and transportation money, but it took maneuvering they hope will now not have to happen since they’re in the majority.

There will also be challenges to the party’s reclaiming of the chamber. Vela cited various factions within the caucus that could present challenges, Gonzalez acknowledged possible hurdles to the House potentially passing the new North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and Cuellar called on his colleagues to not “go full left and lose the majority.”

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