Roy is a freshman who has spent time at one point or another in the offices of Texas’ two Senators — it’s undoubtedly a different experience being the member instead of the staffer.
Little did I know the event would serve as a microcosm of the larger political landscape.
Not known for shying away from hard questions, especially in defense of his political philosophy, Roy began the townhall discussing his trip to Israel.
“What we are missing in our country today is the sense of community that I witnessed there. The collective sense of purpose that bands them together,” Roy stated, and added Israel must have in order to protect themselves.
Roy also mentioned the reverence Israelis have for their Sabbath and how it doesn’t hold the same weight stateside.
What came next angered some in the crowd.
Roy criticized his colleagues, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), for their involvement in the recent dustup with Israel.
Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim females elected to congress, passed on the bipartisan delegation of House Republicans and Democrats who made the trip to Israel earlier this month.
Instead, they tried to go separately under the auspices of an extreme anti-Israel group named Miftah. Israel denied their entry due to Tlaib and Omar’s vocal support for the BDS movement, a far-left effort aimed at waging economic warfare to undermine the Israeli state.
Tlaib said she was trying to visit her Palestinian grandmother. Israel offered to let Tlaib in the country if she promised not to agitate against them. She initially promised she would not advocate for BDS while in Israel, but then reneged and held a press conference calling for an end to foreign aid to the Jewish state.
Roy’s stated point of the criticism — which was interrupted in the shouting from the audience — was to illustrate the lack of community in America by pointing to the actions of what he called “the radical left in Congress.”
This resulted in a 20 to 30-minute period of shouts from some audience members, even arguing amongst each other, spaced out by the Congressman’s attempts to regain control.
“I think you’re seeing [why this issue is important to Texas-21] right here (speaking of the belligerent audience members), when the radical left takes over the House of Representatives,” Roy stated.
“We have wasted seven months of this entire Congress, accomplishing literally nothing,” Roy added.
Sandy Senter, who was seated in front of me and did not agree with the Congressman on much but did not resort to shouting accusations, repeatedly appealed to Roy to “stick to talking about our district,” adding that “we’re in a house of God.”
Roy responded by saying, “We are talking about Texas-21, we are seeing a total inability to get accomplished what the people of Texas-21 sent me to do.”
Roy pointed to some of the unaccomplished necessities, saying, “We cannot balance the budget, we cannot find a way to get healthcare prices down, and we cannot secure the border.”
On border security, Roy added, “900,000 people have been apprehended illegally crossing our border since October 1 of last year.”
Losing a bit of his composure after being repeatedly interrupted, Roy emphatically stated, “You want to talk about a Christian church, I’ll talk about the women who are getting abused because Democrats refuse to secure our border.”
At this point, the interruptions were largely overtaken by applause.
After a couple attempts to regain order by senior pastor Rev. Adrian Compton and towards what would be the end, one woman who was consistently shouting more than most, said, “the people who stand next to [Roy] at events are white supremacists.”
At that point, Roy ended the program and stepped off the stage. The entire spectacle resembled that of a school cafeteria food fight sans the food.
Roughly 15 minutes after the conclusion, Roy appeared to be informed that some of the disruptors had shuffled out. The event was then resumed with an entirely different tone from all parties — one of substance and mostly polite disagreement and discussion.
The first topic of the question and answer portion was on healthcare.
Roy, who introduced the “Healthcare Freedom Act” (HFA) in July, said his perspective on healthcare is “to make a significant expansion of what currently are called health savings accounts (the HFA). “
“We don’t go out and shop for healthcare the way we shop for any other basics of life item, so we have no pressure to get prices down,” Roy added, which has caused “a doubling and tripling of premiums, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and drug prices.”
Roy added, “I believe the future of healthcare is allowing individuals to go out and get healthcare — and having it subsidized by employers as you do now — but now you own it, the same way you do your life and automobile insurance.”
He also hailed direct primary care as a promising way forward for healthcare.
I asked Roy about the next steps for his HFA, and he said, “We are growing support for it and adding a few other layers.”
The extra layers, Roy added, are how to deal with pre-existing conditions from a market approach and lowering pharmaceutical drug prices. He also stated that there is growing “support across the aisle,” for his bill, especially regarding driving down drug costs.
Another topic touched on was guns and red-flag laws.
Referring back to his original point about community, Roy indicated a root problem was not having “a healthy environment for connecting with each other.”
As for red-flag laws themselves, Roy repeatedly emphasized, “I have yet to see a proposal that would not violate due process.”
One woman asked about instituting licenses for guns like we do cars. To which, Roy stated, “There is no fundamental right to own a car, but there is a fundamental right to protect yourself.”
Other topics addressed were his blocking of the unanimous consent motion for the massive $19 billion disaster relief bill in May; places he has broken ranks with the President and GOP leadership (on the budget deal and Yemen); and his continued effort on the border crisis.
Senter, with whom I spoke after the event, said, “The second half was very much what I would expect and respect from my congressman.”
As for the first half, Senter felt it “was very insulting to not only the people in the audience but also [Congressman Roy] himself because it was beneath him.”
Senter felt that Roy was deliberately trying to anger the crowd to create conflict, “which was contrary to the message he was trying to convey which was community.”
When asked which of Roy’s responses she appreciated most, Senter said, “He explained with the gun situation that there needed to be more work [presumably of enforcing the laws already on the books, which Roy mentioned].”
Regarding my pre-planned question on his takeaways after eight months in office, Roy told me, “The first thing is I’m going to continue to do what I said I was going to do — and wherever that takes me, it takes me.”
Those things are limiting spending, healthcare freedom, securing the border, clear mission for our men and women in uniform, and getting the federal government out of the way.
As for the second part, Roy said, “You have a very radical and extreme left-leaning group that is hijacking the Democrat party, making it impossible to come together and find out how to get reasonable solutions.”
Roy then pointed to 2020, saying Republicans need a strong showing in the upcoming election “so that small groups can’t continue to hijack, and frankly take over the Democrat party.”
If the trackers sitting behind me and across the room were any indication, this townhall may well become the norm going into next year’s presidential election.
It will be interesting to see if Roy’s takeaways have changed at all by then.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.