Babin, Weber must adjust to new House

November 12, 2018

For the first time in their careers, Brian Babin and Randy Weber will be serving in a U.S. House of Representatives with a Democratic speaker. Their ability to adjust to that change will be important to the people they represent in East Texas and Southeast Texas.

The transition could be tricky for them, and most other Republicans in the House. Babin and Weber are solidly conservative, but the new Democratic majority in the House will be solidly liberal. No longer will Republican bills like the tax cut be rammed through the House. Starting in January, Democrats will have the numbers to send their bills to the Senate.

A better option, of course, is legislation that some members of both parties can agree on. That used to be common in Washington, but the past decade or two has seen increasingly bitter partisanship. Now, both parties tend to ignore the other and run the House or Senate as they see fit.

When Republicans controlled the House under Speaker John Boehner or Paul Ryan, most members didn’t care what their Democratic colleagues thought of a particular bill. Now, Babin and Weber may find that shoe on the other foot. Someone has to break the cycle of petty revenge, and the country would benefit if the new House speaker, presumably Nancy Pelosi, actually tried to work with Republicans as much as possible.

This region, like every part of the country, will be affected by how well that plays out.

Funding for the deepening and widening of the Sabine Neches Ship Channel appears to be assured finally, and Babin and Weber need to make sure nothing happens to disrupt that. When this project is finally completed, the public ports of Beaumont and Port Arthur would be able to handle bigger ships and therefore get more traffic. That should mean more jobs and tax revenue — probably as much as from a major refinery expansion — for the region.

The LNG export terminals being built or operated in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana also have a bright future, but they depend on national trade authority that could run through Congress. These terminals have considerable potential to improve the region’s economy, and Babin and Weber should be vigilant in watching that nothing happens in Washington to undermine that, like tariff battles.

House legislation can affect other issues, from highway funding to Harvey recovery. Babin and Weber need to find a way to work with the new Democratic majority to make sure this region gets its fair share of any relevant bills. To do so, they will have to treat Democratic members as colleagues, not enemies, and hope that the response from the other side of the aisle is positive.

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