Roe: 'I don't want to shut the government down'

Hank Hayes • Dec 20, 2018 at 5:00 PM

“I don’t want to shut the government down. Nobody wins.”

That’s what U.S. Rep. Phil Roe told reporters in a Thursday conference call as the House mulled a short-term continuing resolution on a spending plan that needs to be passed by a Friday deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Roe, R-Tenn., said it “would be very difficult” for him to vote for a continuing resolution that didn’t resolve disaster relief for the fires in California.

“Having experienced the Gatlinburg fires, I know the needs those people have all too well. … I think we have to do that before we get out of here,” Roe noted.

And then there’s President Trump’s insistence on funding border security. Roe said he did a telephone town hall last week and more than 80 of respondents supported funding a border wall or border security.

“The people in our district believe we need to secure our borders,” Roe said. “I believe the majority of Americans believe it makes common sense to protect the sovereignty of your country.”

The “raw politics” involved in doing a spending deal, said Roe, are complicated by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who will run for House speaker when Democrats take control of the House in 2019.

“Schumer will not abandon Nancy Pelosi,” Roe stressed. “She has made a lot of promises to get 218 votes (to be House speaker in 2019). If she backs up on those promises, she will not be the speaker. She will never support wall funding. If you put border security funding in there, she loses those votes.”

The continuing resolution passed on a voice vote Thursday night without border security funding.

Next year’s budget is going to be a lot harder, Roe predicted, because there will be a stronger Republican Senate and Democrat-controlled House.

Roe also addressed these questions:

What do you think of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s announcement that he won’t run for re-election in two years?

“I think he made a decision, a family decision, a personal decision. He’s still in good health. … I think he wants to go enjoy his grandchildren. Maryville is home and the mountains which he loves. I think he’s making a decision that’s good for him and his family. He’s been a great public servant over the years. He hasn’t changed and let the system corrupt him.”

Who among your colleagues is interested in running to replace him? Do you have any interest in the job?

“From a colleague standpoint, I really can’t answer that question. You get a lot of tweets and text messages. I’ve had a lot of reporters ask me the very same question. … That’s a decision they will have to make. As for me personally, I’m going to enjoy Christmas.”

What’s your take on the president’s announcement to withdraw troops from Syria?

“We don’t have the same kind of presence in Syria. … It’s not nearly the same impact as when we pulled out of Iraq. … This is one of the most complicated religious situations in the world. You got Sunnis, Shias, the Kurds, ISIS, the Syrian rebels, the Syrian regime, the Russians, the Iranians. … I think our presence there, both air power and troops on the ground, has been one of the reasons ISIS has been defeated. I think he feels at this time he doesn’t want to put any more American lives at risk.”

Is there money in the continuing resolution for this U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) move to Bristol, Va.? Where does that stand?

“The answer to that is I don’t know. … There’s money appropriated for the USDA, yes, but on the move, that decision, as far as I know, has not been made yet. That would be huge. Even though it is on the Virginia side, that is a very big deal.”