It’s no secret that I have disagreed with Congressman Bill Flores on any number of issues, especially on the process used and the votes cast for the failed health-care bills and most recently the tax-reform bill. But I have watched town halls and read Flores’ Facebook posts and articles in the Waco Trib, trying to understand why he thinks and votes as he does.
I have never read or heard anything that sounded like something more than a canned rationale, usually just ideological lines without much reason or detail about why the votes would be good for this district. I don’t think I have ever heard him say something about the legitimacy of an opposing position or, in any detail, why he thinks an opposing position is wrong.
There is, then, no room for debating or arguing about facts. That’s clear in the format of his controversial “telephone town halls.” He gets to choose the questions. The answers often sound like lectures or scolds. There’s no back and forth, no giving a questioner a chance to feel like he or she was heard, much less respected for his or her position.
“Same song, different verse” is the phrase that comes to mind.
This refusal to acknowledge other positions also takes the form of removing responses to his Facebook posts. We can now know this, without taking the time to go back and look. Thanks to a new page, The Flores Filter, we can see which posts have been removed. Most of the ones removed are simply strong, differing positions. The conclusion is he and/or his staff are apparently afraid of any form of critique, public dissent or robust discussion.
Tuesday this routine became outlandish. In one Facebook post, Flores tried to assert that the tax-reform bill went through the regular-order process in the two chambers. “In fact, the House has held 41 tax hearings and the Senate has held 72. The timeline shows the regular order process.” This is just false. Most meetings were behind closed doors involving one party. Most lawmakers did not have time to read the whole bill. The rush was on to secure a victory — any victory.
Read any article about the Reagan years’ process, such as the one in the conservative magazine Forbes by Len Burman, and you’ll see how different the process was. The process took two years. It was bipartisan from the get-go. The GOP did its homework and came to the table with a thoughtful proposal, not a hodgepodge of tricks thrown into some murky document. And the vote was bipartisan. My Facebook comment essentially said the same. It was removed.
In a second post the same day, Flores reported the vote to send the bill to the Conference Committee with the Senate (a vote opposed at first by the few remaining GOP deficit hawks). He noted how hard he was working to overturn a House provision that would tax waived graduate student tuition, an idea that could decimate the dreams of Baylor University and Texas A&M University to become first-class research universities. This seemed to imply courage on his part when, in fact, I have no doubt that he can ill afford to lose his support in the Baylor and A&M communities. I suspect he has heard from them, loud and clear — probably without the chance for him to argue a different position.
Make no mistake, I think this is a terrible provision as well. But there are many other provisions in the two tax bills that are going to have as much, if not more, negative impact in this congressional district. The problem: Those questions and voices are neither heard nor recognized.
In my frustration Tuesday evening, I posted a response: “You have probably already had A&M and Baylor sitting on your doorstep, and if it went through, you would have the two biggest centers in your district out after you. It is not courage, it is self-preservation, and a cover for all the other awful stuff in the bill you agree with.”
That post got taken down. In fact, all of mine have been removed. I guess that means, at least, someone reads them. But if you want to hear the other side of the public debate with him, check out The Flores Filter for yourself.