Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-2) held a town hall in Houston Wednesday evening to engage with constituents before he returns to Congress next month.
Despite heavy area thunderstorms, which delayed Crenshaw’s arrival, about 75 residents attended. Although not as raucous as Congressman Chip Roy’s (R-TX-21) event last week, Crenshaw faced some hostile and disruptive attendees.
The representative opened with remarks on two topics for which he says Republicans need better messaging: health care and the environment.
“When it comes to the environment…we need to be focusing on one hundred percent of the problem. If you just look at the Green New Deal, you’re actually focusing on fifteen percent of the problem because the United States is responsible for fifteen percent of emissions.”
In order to reduce worldwide emissions, Crenshaw expressed support for investment in energy technology that is exportable, clean, reliable, and cheap. He highlighted the work of NetPower, a La Porte, Texas company that produces electricity from natural gas and recaptures carbon as an additional power source- resulting in zero emissions.
By exporting natural gas and technologies to countries like India and China, and transitioning them away from coal-fired plants, Crenshaw says we can address forty percent of worldwide emissions.
On health care, Crenshaw said he favored “incremental, achievable solutions,” such as direct primary care (DPC) programs. DPCs allow doctors to offer patients subscription services for a flat monthly or annual fee, giving full access to services without third-party billing.
While praising DPCs as a viable option, Crenshaw said we need to look at ways to encourage expansion of that model.
“We subsidize all sorts of different health care,” said Crenshaw. He suggested authorizing payments for DPC services from individual Health Savings Accounts as an effective way to incentivize growth in that field.
After his opening remarks, Crenshaw read questions submitted by attendees. During the nearly two-hour meeting, the Congressman engaged on a wide range of topics including gun laws, war powers, secure elections, tariffs, marijuana, and immigration and border policies.
Some of the most contentious moments related to gun control and immigration issues, during which several audience members loudly objected to Crenshaw’s explanations.
“Why can’t we do what Australia did and get the guns out?” one asked, referring to the Australian gun confiscation program.
Crenshaw dismissed the idea of confiscating “more than 300 million weapons.”
“We’re not going to do what Australia did, Australia doesn’t have a Second Amendment.”
He also pointed out that the program did not impact Australia’s crime rate.
During the sometimes heated exchange on guns, Crenshaw ardently defended Second Amendment rights.
When the congressman asserted that his wife should have access to effective weapons like rifles for her self-defense, one man accused him of inconsistency due to Crenshaw’s stance on abortion.
Crenshaw earned audience applause when he asked, “Would you agree protecting a fetus under the law is the right thing to do?”
As he has done elsewhere, Crenshaw explained he has two questions for any given legislative proposal: “One, is this law going to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens? And number two, is it going to have the effect you want it to have? Those are two extremely important questions.”
One woman in the audience insisted that allowing others to have guns did infringe on her rights, “because it’s terrorizing.” She said she shouldn’t have to see signs with pictures of guns at her church.
The congressman pointed out that he’s “taken a ton of heat lately because I’ve dared to talk about red flag laws.”
He clarified that he has not committed to supporting any specific legislation, but he is willing to consider proposals that satisfy his two-question criteria.
Crenshaw defended his support of the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety Act, or TAPS Act, since he says TAPS is not a “red flag law,” and does not create any additional law enforcement authority, but provides grants to local law enforcement for tools and training already used at the federal level.
Several questions surrounded immigration and border issues, and whether the U.S. should accept asylum claims from those crossing the border illegally.
Crenshaw, who has lived in Colombia and speaks Spanish, said he’s visited the border and detention facilities in El Paso and has talked with some asylum applicants who explained they were seeking better employment.
“These aren’t bad people,” he said, “but they are breaking the law, and they’re contributing to an unsustainable system. Last year 400,000 people crossing illegally… and this year it’s on track to be a million. It’s unsustainable, no matter how you cut it.”
“It’s also cutting in front of the line of all the legal immigrants; I don’t see why that’s fair; I don’t see how that’s moral.”
On the conditions at detention facilities, Crenshaw said allegations that authorities were not providing soap and toothpaste were “a blatant lie.”
Some audience members continued to yell questions and accused Crenshaw of being patronizing.
“I’m addressing every single point you make no matter when or where you yell it out,” Crenshaw responded.
In response to an audience question about what might be an immediate and inexpensive action on immigration, Crenshaw answered that the Flores Settlement Agreement must be addressed. The Trump administration issued new guidance to roll back the agreement just last week.
“Our system totally falls apart if you don’t actually hold people who broke our laws and crossed illegally.”
Crenshaw said if authorities just release those who crossed the border illegally, we may as well get rid of customs and passport control at airports because “what’s the point?”
On the border crisis, he added, “This isn’t a hard problem to fix, actually we just need the political will to do it.”
Several attendees attempted to extract promises from Crenshaw to support specific policies. One woman asked him to support House Resolution 2407, which she said would protect the rights of children.
“So I’m wondering if you will co-sponsor that or, if you’re not going to support it, why you won’t support upholding the rights of children,” she asked.
“Interesting way to frame that,” Crenshaw replied. “I’d have to look at it.”
“I’m going to say this last thing: We’ve got to get past this…way we do the back and forth. It’s like, “If you don’t agree with me, you don’t support children.”
Crenshaw added that while a perfectly fine argument could be made, ending the question with, “If you don’t agree with me then you don’t support children’s rights,” would not contribute to healthy dialogue and solutions.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.