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Houston Matters

Retiring Rep. Gene Green Sees Dwindling Opportunities For Compromise In Congress

Green spent much of his congressional career in the minority, and he often sought to work with Republicans for the good of his constituents. But he found GOP efforts to block, then repeal, the Affordable Care Act frustrating, describing it as “legislative malpractice”

Earlier this month, Democratic Congressman Gene Green announced he will not run for another term. Green has represented Texas' 29th Congressional District, covering East Houston and Harris County, since 1993. He recently sat down for an extended interview with News 88.7.

Interview Highlights

Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives for much of your time in office. How has GOP control over the past six years affected your ability to get things done?

"It's difficult. For health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, all Republicans voted ‘no' on it. And no law that's ever passed should go seven years without looking at it and saying, ‘OK, this is something that we need to fix on it.' That wasn't an option with the Republican majority. They just wanted to repeal it. So politics has gotten split so much from the right to the left, and it's hard to be in the middle ground."

Since Hurricane Harvey, there have been a few instances of bipartisan cooperation, such as on the disaster relief bills, but these stand out precisely because they seem so rare. Is that just the way it looks from the outside, or have things really gotten so bad that Republicans and Democrats can hardly cooperate on anything?

"I do energy work...and on the Democratic side, it's gone more to the left on that. So I have to work across party lines. If I have a job base in our district, I'm going to help those industries to continue to hire my constituents. I want them to produce their product as clean and as safe as possible, but I also want them to produce the product, because if we didn't produce the product, we would have to buy it from somebody else."

What would you say are your proudest legislative accomplishments?

"First, the Affordable Care Act, because I was on the committed that helped draft it...And we’re still obviously in the middle of the battle, with the president saying he’s going to take away the subsidies for the low-wealth people to be able to get that health care. And…not expanding Medicaid, I consider that’s legislative malpractice. We passed a bill…that we worked on for eight years called the Toxic Substances Control Act [overhauling chemical safety legislation passed in 1976], and it empowered people who lived near plant sites or worked there tested more to see the impact of what's happening with this industry literally across the fence from them...And again, it was a bipartisan bill."

What bills would you like to have gotten passed that you were never able to get through?

"After the 2000 election, and after this last election, I think our country outgrew the need for [the] Electoral College. And I introduced a constitutional amendment in ′01, and I've done it every time since then...I think our constituents, they ought to be empowered to be able to elect the president of the United States [directly]. Our district, in 2016, carried by 70 percent for Hillary Clinton…but that electoral vote still went to [Donald Trump, under] the winner-take-all. And I think that disenfranchises a lot of my constituents, and the same could happen with Republican voters."


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