In his radio call-in town hall meeting Thursday night, U.S. Rep. Bill Flores told listeners he "worries about how governable the country is today" because the U.S. "is exceptionally polarized."
The congressman, whose 17th District includes Brazos County, said the U.S. is still "a great country" but has its "challenges" because, among other things, "people spend so much damn time fighting with each other."
The radio call-in event, which was also broadcast on Facebook Live, was Flores's last of three successive nights of telephone town halls, a format that raised questions from some constituents who publicly called for in-person town halls. In an email sent before Thursday's radio show, which aired on WTAW-AM, Flores's communications director, Andre Castro, wrote that 5,200 people were on the telephone line and 8,950 watched the Facebook Live stream during the first two nights' tele-formats. On Thursday night, the count on Flores's Facebook page livestream listed 1,400 views of the 90-minute town hall. Broadcast numbers for WTAW were not immediately available.
Listeners called, emailed and posted questions on a range of topics Thursday night, including healthcare, immigration, veterans' benefits, Social Security and Medicare, abortion, taxes and Trump's first 100 days in office.
Flores said House Republicans "are our own worst enemy right now" and that "it is reprehensible to attack your own quarterback" by not taking advantage of Republican control of the Legislative and Executive branches of government, suggesting that Trump can get moderates and Freedom Caucus members in line.
"The president's got a pretty powerful Twitter following," he said.
Much of Flores's radio event centered on the Affordable Care Act, which he said was in a "death spiral" and an "absolute failure," echoing common rhetoric among his Republican colleagues. Flores hinted at forthcoming healthcare legislation as Republicans try again to repeal and replace the ACA with another healthcare system that lowers premiums while offering consumers more choices in coverage.
Flores said he supports a path of earned citizenship for DACA recipients -- commonly referred to as "dreamers."
"I believe we ought to have a path to legal status" for other law-abiding, undocumented immigrants, he said. Flores said he thinks such a path should result in a permanent green card, not citizenship.
Flores said raids under the Trump administration have resulted in fewer deportations of immigrants who do not have criminal records than those deported under the Obama administration. According to a recent Newsweek story, arrests of immigrants are up by 33 percent, but deportations are down by 1.2 percent, compared to a similar timeframe from last year.
Flores said he "really will" discuss Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago with the president; CNN recently reported Trump's repeated traveling to Florida has cost around $20 million in his first 80 days in office, putting him on pace to surpass Obama's eight-year travel spending in less than a year.
Flores said it was "inappropriate" for taxpayers to fund Trump's repeated trips to the so-called "Winter White House," and said Camp David would be a fine alternative for a president eager to leave D.C.
He might not agree with everything the president has done in his first near-100 days in office, but Flores said Trump's easing of federal regulations has been "remarkable" because "it's much more of a proper balance between growth and protection."
Still, Flores said he'd hoped the Affordable Care Act would have been repealed and replaced by now, but "everything else is on track."
Flores also talked about exempting community banks from the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the future of healthcare for veterans, the need to reform Medicare and Social Security so future generations can benefit, net neutrality and internet regulation, the privitization of American airspace, and, as Thursday was 4/20, his thoughts on the legalization of marijuana. ("I don't feel strongly one way or another." He also said it was a state issue.)
Speaking about the constituents who do not agree with his policies, Flores said his job was to "try to vote in Congress the same way the biggest number of constituents would vote," and that "there are some people who do not ideologically align with the center of gravity of this district," which the congressman described as "center-right."
Aside from the ideological belief, Flores said he shared common ground with some of his more left-leaning constituents, namely his support of a path to legal status for law-abiding, undocumented immigrants, his stance on DACA recipients, his opposition to the president's border wall and his believe that basic research funding is "a good way to spend tax dollars."
"There are some areas where we're common," he said.
To watch the Facebook Live recording of the radio call-in show, go to www.facebook.com/RepBillFlores/.