WASHINTON — As House Republicans navigate an obstacle course of challenges this month, a Texas Republican has emerged as a leading voice for hardliners demanding steep spending cuts and other conservative priorities — even at the risk of a government shutdown.
“My question for my colleagues, particularly my Republican colleagues, is when is it enough? When is it enough to stand up and do what you campaigned to do and use the power of the purse to stop this administration?” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, standing alongside other ultra-conservative House Republicans last week.
Roy showed his willingness to go after members of his own party, as well as Democrats, in service to his conservative principles.
“If the government shuts down, and there is a hiatus in federal activities and federal spending, a small government, fiscally conservative guy like Chip Roy is not going to cry a lot of tears, and I think he's made that pretty clear in his public statements,” said Matthew Wilson, political science professor at Southern Methodist University.
The third-term Texas congressman is the policy chair for the Freedom Caucus, a group of four dozen or so hardline Republicans who have been a thorn in Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s side and wield outsized influence in the GOP conference. In January, Roy took a leading role in wringing concessions from McCarthy in return for reluctantly backing him for speaker.
“He's more influential because he and his group are pivotal for the Republican majority, because it is a narrow majority. So yeah, which party controls Congress next year, we'll have a lot to say over about his level of influence,” Wilson said.
Roy and other hardline conservatives are now demanding changes to policies at the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security in return for supporting critical spending bills. But those policy changes are largely opposed by Senate Democrats, putting the spending bills in jeopardy. Without an agreement on them by both chambers, the government will shut down.
“There are always ways to negotiate but the negotiation has to start with actually getting our half of the damn loaf. I'm just tired of Republicans always saying, ‘Here, you get the entire loaf.’ And we'll walk away and try to sort of go claim a win, as what Republicans have been doing as long as I can remember,” Roy told journalists on Capitol Hill during the first week lawmakers returned after August recess.
The 51-year-old grew up and went to college in Virginia and at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Since then, he has been in and out of Washington working for some big names in Texas politics including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. John Cornyn. He was Sen. Ted Cruz’s chief of staff in 2013, when Cruz tried to defund the Affordable Care Act, leading to a government shutdown.
Today, the government is on the brink of another one. Spectrum News asked Cruz if he supports Roy’s hardline approach.
“What Chip is arguing for is, is that Republicans who were just given a majority in the House ought to stand up and fight for the priorities that the people elected them to fight for. I think that's exactly right,” Cruz told Spectrum News.
“Washington often presents a false choice that either for Republican you have to completely concede to the massive spending, the unprecedented debt that is fueling inflation that is hurting Texans across the state, you either have to completely roll over to the Democrats, or the alternative is a shutdown. I don't think we should have a shutdown,” Cruz continued.
Roy said he is not actively trying to seek a shutdown, but downplays the political risks to Republicans if they help to trigger one.
“Our job is to do our job now, politics take care of themselves. My experience in life is that the American people tend to reward people who lead and fight for them,” Roy said. “I believe it was true when when Senator Cruz was was leading a fight on Obamacare, which by the way, if you go look at the outcomes, post Obamacare, go ask the American people whether they like the current state of their health care system a decade later.”
Those new spending bills must be approved or at least extended by Sept. 30.