Roe: No winners in government shutdown

Robert Houk • Dec 21, 2018 at 12:00 AM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said Thursday he could not vote for a continuing resolution to prevent a partial government shutdown without including disaster relief for victims of the wildfires in California.

He said the deadly blazes in California reminded him of the destruction seen in Gatlinburg in 2016. Roe said it was important for Congress to help homeowners, farmers and others “devastated” by the disaster before members leave for their Christmas break.

At the same time, Roe said he did not relish the idea of a partial shutdown of the federal government, which he said would not impact essential services such as Medicare and Social Security. Even so, as many as 800,000 federal employees could be placed on furlough or asked to work without pay.

“I don’t want to shut the government down,” Roe said. “I’ve been through two of these, and no one wins.”

The U.S. Senate approved a continuing resolution Wednesday to prevent a partial shutdown — set to begin at midnight Friday — by extending current government funding through Feb. 8. That measure did not include the $5 billion President Trump has asked for his border wall with Mexico.

Trump, who said last week he would be “proud” to shut down the government if necessary, told U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Thursday he would not sign a continuing budget resolution that does not include money for Southern border security.

Roe, who spoke to reporters by conference call Thursday morning just minutes after huddling with fellow House Republicans, said the “votes are not there” to avoid the partial government shutdown. The 1st District congressman said some 70 of his GOP colleagues were absent for the day’s voting.

“I guess they lost (re-election in November) and didn’t feel like being here, but they are still collecting a paycheck,” Roe said.

The congressman said he recently conducted a telephone poll of his district and found at between 82 and 83 percent of his constituents support stronger border security.

“Most Americans believe it’s just good common sense to secure our borders,” Roe said.

He said the pushback on the subject from Democratic leaders of the House and Senate represented “raw politics.” The congressman said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer “will not abandon” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the promises she has made to incoming Democrats on the border wall and term limits to gain their votes to become the new House speaker next month.

“I’m amazed by all the hubbub,” he said.

In other business on Capitol Hill:

• Roe said President Trump’s announcement he would soon be withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria is “not nearly the same” as former President Barack Obama’s decision to remove this country’s fighting forces from Iraq.

“It’s unbelievably complicated,” he said, noting the United States had helped to defeat ISIS in the midst of a Syrian civil war.

• The congressman said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., “made a good decision” for his family when he announced this week he would not seek re-election in 2020.

“He wanted to spend time with his grandchildren,” Roe said, adding Alexander “didn’t let the system change him” in Washington.

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