March 28, 2020

Freshman GOP Congressman Who's Stood Up to Trump
Could Have Race for President or Leadership in Future

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

A rookie Republican congressional member from Texas has sparked speculation on a potential bid for the White House with his open defiance of President Donald Trump in the battles over the coronavirus emergency plan and a U.S. Senate runoff election in Alabama.

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Austin also could have his eye on a race for the leadership position that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California has held since early last year.

But Roy faces a more pressing challenge in a re-election campaign in a swing district where Democratic foe Wendy Davis could be running as the favorite if Trump performs poorly at the top of the Texas ticket as a consequence of his lackadaisical leadership in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis and the destructive effect that it's had on the American economy.

Roy could be forced to fend for himself in the duel with Davis this fall without help from the most powerful Republicans in Texas like Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick as a result of bad blood with a president who has a history of seeking revenge against anyone who hasn't marched in lockstep.

Roy - a conservative ideologue with close ties to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and other high-ranking GOP leaders in Texas - had effectively told Trump to shut up in the midst of a rhetorical tirade that the president had directed on Twitter at Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky after he'd forced the House to be present in Washington on Friday for a vote on the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

Massie had tried and failed to require a record vote on the historic measure that had cleared the Senate the night before without dissent. Trump had portrayed Massie as a mediocre lawmaker who should be kicked out of the GOP for his posturing on the COVID-19 measure before Roy rushed to his colleague's defense in a tweet.

Massie "is one of the most principled men in Congress & loves his country," Roy declared. "He is defending the Constitution today by requiring a quorum. There’s nothing 3rd rate about that, @realDonaldTrump. I may miss vote if he forces roll call (flights) but it will pass. Back off."

Roy had been one of 40 representatives who'd effectively opposed an initial coronavirus relief plan two weeks ago with votes against a move to fast-track the bill at the urging of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republican U.S. Reps. Michael Cloud of Victoria, Louis Gohmert of Tyler, Lance Gooden of Terrell and Randy Weber of Pearland also voted against a motion to suspend the rules so the first coronavirus bill could be passed without delay.

Roy had run the risk of piquing Trump's wrath this month when he endorsed Jeff Sessions in a comeback bid for the Senate in an overtime fight with Tommy Turbeville - a former Auburn University football coach who the president was backing. Trump had been heaping insults on Sessions as a result of his refusal to try to block a special probe into Russian hacking in the 2016 election while serving as the president's first attorney general.

Roy had worked for U.S. Senator John Cornyn in his first campaign for the federal post in 2002 before joining his staff in Washington. A former federal prosecutor, Roy had served as the director of the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations under then-Governor Rick Perry before signing on as Cruz's chief of staff in the Senate.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton enlisted Roy to be his top assistant before leaving the state post so he could head a super PAC that backed Cruz's bid for president in 2016. Roy and Paxton appeared to have a falling out before his exit from the state lawyer's office.

But Roy bounced back when he claimed the GOP nomination in Congressional District 21 in 2018 with a victory in a runoff in an open race that featured 18 Republican contenders in the opening round. Roy won the CD 21 seat later that year when he defeated a Democrat who'd been a political unknown by less than 3 points with 50.2 percent of the general election vote.

Roy has proven to be a rarity since his election to Congress as a Republican in a state where other GOP leaders and lawmakers have been afraid to cross Trump and have hitched their stars to the president despite the baggage that he's been in the last two election cycles for down-ballot nominees. Roy hasn't appeared to be concerned about a possible backlash from moderate Republicans and independents for his staunch conservative stands in a fight with Davis - a former state senator who's well known on both sides of the aisle in Texas where she'd been the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014.


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