Texas Congressmen talk immigration and health care


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Two congressmen from Texas took to the airwaves to share their thoughts on important issues at the Texas Tribune Festival 2017 on Saturday.

U.S. Reps. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, of the 16th District representing El Paso, and Will Hurd, R-Texas, of the 23rd District stretching from El Paso to San Antonio, participated in a recording of the On the Media podcast with host Brooke Gladstone.

The pair are well-known for their “bipartisan roadtrip” from San Antonio to Washington, D.C. in March, after snow storms on the east coast canceled flights. They traveled 1,600 miles by car, and live-streamed the journey as they stopped in cities and towns along the way.

“One of the things that we learned from that is, whether people are on the liberal political continuum on or conservative continuum, they believe that we should transcend R and D, and get things done,” Hurd said after the podcast taping.

United States Representatives Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas (16th District), and Will Hurd, R-Texas (23rd District) snap a "selfie" at the Texas Tribune Festival 2017 on Sept. 23, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

O’Rourke said he did not know his congressional counterpart very well before their road trip, but that they felt more comfortable working on legislation together after the trip.

“After doing that, not only were we better friends and not only did we trust each other a little bit more, but we began to sign onto legislation that the other had written,” O’Rourke said. “In my case, I had written a bill that begins to fix our broken immigration system. And Will, after that road trip, joined that effort so that we could show Republicans and Democrats alike that there is a bipartisan path forward on one of the most difficult contentious issues of our day.”

Hurd said, “Way more unites us than divides us, and we can also disagree without being disagreeable.”

“When you see that across the country, something like that stays with you and you also realize that we should be working to get to know one another across the aisle, that builds trust, and when you improve the trust amongst people, you lead to better outcomes,” Hurd continued.

The representatives were also asked about their stances on President Donald Trump’s goals to implement a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico to curb illegal immigration.

O’Rourke said a border wall and “being suspicious of our fellow Americans” do not make the United States a “better” country.

“They make us worse,” he explained. “That’s what I’m hearing from El Paso, but it’s also what I’m hearing from McAllen and Brownsville, and Laredo, and Eagle Pass. It’s what I’m hearing here in Austin. We here it in North Texas and in the panhandle and in East Texas as well.

“People in this state, this defining border state get that we don’t need walls,” O’Rourke mentioned.

Hurd said he has opposed a wall since 2009.

“We need a smart wall, we need to be utilizing the technology and manpower to get operational control of the quarter,” he continued. “It’s 2017 and we don’t have operational control of the border and it’s because we’ve tried to have a one-size-fits-all solution to it.”

When asked about the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), they agreed that health care legislation needs to support Medicaid and increase access to health care. The latest plan is labeled the Graham-Cassidy bill, and is likely to be voted on in the Senate next week.

“It’s in the Senate’s court,” Hurd stated. “For me, whatever legislation may or may not come back to the House, I’m going to evaluate it on whether it makes sure that we are supporting Medicaid, and two, that we are increasing access to and decreasing cost of healthcare. That is the metrics by which by which I’m going to be looking at any kind of plan.”

O’Rourke said the most recent attempt at undoing ACA would take health care away from 3 million Texans and cost 200,000 Texans their jobs.

“Building from the defeat of Graham-Cassidy, we’ve got to expand Medicaid, so more Texans can afford to see a doctor, get the medication that is going to extend and save their lives,” he added.

“We as quickly as possible need to get to true universal healthcare, where health care becomes not a function of luck but a human right,” he said. “Something that every single Texan and American depend on, so that they can finish their education, so that they can look for a job, live to their full potential, make this a better state, and a better country. That’s where Texas can lead and I think there are a lot of people around the state who want to do that.”

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