By Bill Spinks
U.S. Congressman Ron Wright is keeping a full schedule from his home in Arlington while the House of Representatives is in recess. He says he would much rather be back in Washington, D.C. voting on important legislation.
In a wide-ranging phone interview Thursday, Wright expressed strong disappointment at not being able to take care of the people’s business within the U.S. Capitol while Congress is on an early-summer recess and multiple crises rage: the COVID-19 pandemic, the current racial unrest, and a drastic economic downturn now bordering on depression.
“There’s nothing going on in D.C.,” Wright said. “It’s a point of extreme frustration on both sides of the aisle, to be frank ... With all this going on in this country, (House Democratic leaders) don’t want to do anything and it’s maddening.”
The first-term District 6 Republican, who represents Ellis County as well as Navarro County and a portion of southeastern Tarrant County in Congress, also talked about the recent Democratic House leadership’s move to proxy voting, a move to which Wright joined an opposing court challenge; about working in his home district and efforts to connect with constituents amid the pandemic; and about his outrage at the Memorial Day incident in Minneapolis that has sparked nearly two weeks of massive nationwide protests, including one in downtown Waxahachie on Thursday evening.
In the meantime, Wright said he is on three to four conference calls per day with different groups and committees.
Wright, who is recovering from stage-4 lung cancer, also broke a little news during the interview: He said he is recovering from viral pneumonia after a stay in the hospital. However, Wright said he is clear of COVID-19 and has been tested three times.
“They didn’t stop until they hit the back of my skull,” Wright said of the COVID swabbing process. “My energy has come back and we’re staying busy.”
Before recessing, the House passed a bill sponsored by Texas GOP colleague Chip Roy that fixes provisions in the Payment Protection Act. The bill was approved by the Senate on Wednesday, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it in the coming days.
Wright said Congress has “pushed an enormous amount of money out the door,” which he said proves that the body can act in bipartisan fashion when it wants to.
“I’m a pretty serious student of American history, and there has never been a Congress quite like this one that has had to deal with the kind of things that we have dealt with,” Wright said. “Unfortunately it’s happening at a very divisive time. The closer we get to November, the harder it will be to get anything done. We haven’t even started on appropriations stuff yet; they’ve pushed that off to July. So it’s very troubling that the United States Congress is not working.
“But we’re still making phone calls, writing letters and filing bills,” he added. “We’re going to get there, but this inactivity, man, I’m not exaggerating when I say (the Democrats) are AWOL.”
Members of the House are up for reelection every two years, but Wright said he has been focused on House business rather than campaigning in 2020. Wright is being challenged by Democrat Stephen Daniel, Libertarian Melanie Black and independent Chad Snider in the November vote.
“We’re doing some social media stuff and that kind of thing; it goes on year-round,” Wright said. “But in terms of launching a campaign, I really haven’t done that. My focus has been dealing with the pandemic.”
Wright said he is outraged at what happened in Minneapolis. He said he has a “pure” record of supporting law enforcement while a member of city and county government in the past, and the vast majority of officers are men and women who want to serve and protect the public.
“It just blows my mind that something like that will still happen in this day and time,” Wright said. “But it shouldn’t happen to any American of any color. And it did.
“I stand with the protesters,” he added. “I support the protesters 100 percent. This cannot continue. This needs to be the last time that a police officer puts his knee on somebody’s neck and murders them while they’re in custody with three other officers standing there.”
But while Wright said the “bad apples” in law enforcement should be eradicated, he stopped short of suggesting that police unions that protect these officers be sanctioned or otherwise reined-in.
“The important thing there is that the justice system there work,” he said. “We don’t do that to other unions. Having said that, if the police unions are doing things that can be proven to be pouring fuel on the fire, so to speak, yes, that’s something we can look at. But I think it should be done at the state level, not at the federal level.”
As far as reaching out to constituents, Wright said he has held a number of virtual town hall meetings and said he has become quite adept at Zoom.
“Technology has brought us so far and made it so easy,” Wright said. “You and I could talk on the phone all day, but I don’t see your expression and you don’t see mine. It’s just a much more meaningful communication when we can see each other.”
Wright also supports the state of Texas’ moves to reopen businesses after COVID-19-related moves to shut down the economy in March. He praised the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court for freezing property tax increases, a move a number of other North Texas counties didn’t make.
“We’ve got to remember that the virus is still out there and people are contracting it every day,” he said. “We can’t be dismissive of this. It’s a dangerous virus, particularly for seniors and those with underlying health conditions. We need to remember as we open up, we need to do so carefully and just use common sense. I think we’re going to be OK.”