‘Who is the a–hole’: The congressman who missed his anniversary to keep lawmakers voting until 4 a.m.June 15, 2019
WASHINGTON – Rep. Chip Roy may not have made many new friends in the House this week after he kept his fellow lawmakers up all night debating a $1 trillion spending bill.
All through Wednesday evening and into Thursday, weary-eyed members of Congress slogged through amendment after amendment after Roy used a procedural tactic that dramatically lengthened the time it took to vote. Evening plans were canceled, members became grumpy and Roy himself got just two hours of sleep and missed his 15-year wedding anniversary.
By the time they ended, roughly 4 a.m. in Washington, D.C., the sun was close to casting its first light on the Washington Memorial.
But if you ask Roy, a Texas Republican, he’d do it all again. His marathon act of protest was to draw attention to funding dedicated to managing and combating the surge of migrants at the southern border, and force Democrats to act on President Donald Trump’s $4.5 billion funding request for the Department of Homeland Security.
WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 15: U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) listens during a House Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee hearing on confronting white supremacy at the U.S. Capitol on May 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker, Getty Images)
Democrats had planned to go through dozens of amendments to the spending package, which included funding for a variety of programs, including health care, by a voice vote, meaning lawmakers would just call out “aye” or “no” and exact votes wouldn’t be recorded. Roy chose the long way. He repeatedly asked for a roll call vote, meaning each member’s name was called to vote and a clerk recorded each one on a sheet, which drew out the process significantly.
The freshman lawmaker, who is a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, pitched the plan to fellow Republicans, arguing that House Democrats were ignoring the crisis at the border, which has become a core focus of Trump’s. So often, he said, issues are rushed through without an actual full vote that includes debate.
Roy, 46, told USA TODAY that Republicans, constituents and members of the White House praised him for the overnight voting session. Unsurprisingly, there were some who weren’t thrilled with being stuck voting for hours into the night.
“Wow! Who is the a**hole making me stay here and vote for all these hours,” one lawmaker remarked, according to Roy. Another chimed in that they’d been forced to cancel a dinner because of the stunt.
It’s 10:06 pm. I’m heading back to the House floor. Why? @HouseDemocrats, @SpeakerPelosi refuse to bring @realDonaldTrump’s $4.5 billion border supplemental request to the floor for a vote. We should also vote on a Flores fix, our broken asylum laws, and #CatchandRelease. pic.twitter.com/UlEFbj0uf4
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm for House Democratic candidates, accused him of “grandstanding.”
“Congressman Roy is embarrassing himself and his community once again by grandstanding and delaying funding for our armed services and other vital national priorities,” read a statement from the DCCC. “It’s clear Congressman Roy is more concerned with partisan showboating and causing gridlock than actually doing his job — and that makes him the ultimate swamp creature.”
Rather than balking, Roy leaned into the criticism.
“The interesting part is listening to the complaints on the floor. I was really entertained,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Cry me a river. Go down and walk and talk to the migrant who’s being abused, look that migrant in the eye and tell me that they should care about you missing your dinner.'”
The tactic has become Roy’s weapon of choice.
Last month, he was able to single-handedly delay $19.1 billion in disaster relief because most House members had left town and gone back to their districts before the Senate passed the bill. House Democratic leaders tried to push the measure through using a procedure known as “unanimous consent,” which allows passage if no one objects.
Roy was there to object, arguing that the legislation did not do enough to help secure the southern U.S. border. He said he wanted lawmakers to be present to vote. The bill passed when Congress returned from recess and Trump signed the bill earlier this month.
Like that attempt, his most recent act of defiance would eventually end. The House adjourned early Thursday morning after getting through votes on dozens of amendments.
How Rep. Roy held up disaster relief: Bipartisan disaster relief package held up by lone GOP House member over border security
Record number of migrants: Southern border crossings by asylum-seeking migrants kept rising in April, set new record
While Roy drew the side-eye from his colleagues, his wife, Carrah, was home in Austin, Texas. As an anniversary gift, he’d taken their two young children to Washington and gave her a full week of relaxation. While they might not have had the chance to spend the day together as he would have liked, Roy said, he wasn’t planning that their anniversary would be celebrated via text message and Twitter.
You know – I figured the most romantic thing I could do today is spend the day and night on the floor of the U.S. House. I’d apologize and say I love you, @carrahroy… but you knew what you were getting into and you know that. #WorthFightingForhttps://t.co/ov7vfkMNyZ
“I planned on certainly talking with her and frankly, I mean, I was planning on getting off and sending her some flowers, but I just got sucked into this thing on the floor and just couldn’t get away, so I’m texting her from the floor saying, ‘Happy anniversary, honey!'” and promising that he would make it up to her when he gets back.
Chip Roy is having another tantrum — keeping the U.S. House up all night to demand funding for a border wall. He really is @tedcruz's apprentice. Statement from @dccc: pic.twitter.com/GQWhgGAXUK
Roy said it’s likely not the last time he’ll make headlines or be called a “grandstander” for his acts of protest.
“I have no specific plans but I have an absolute commitment to making sure this town doesn’t just operate on autopilot, that we vote, that we debate, that we highlight issues of the day,” he said.
As for Carrah, she’s grown used to his late nights.
“I couldn’t do it without her,” he said. “In 15 years, she’s put up with a lot.”
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