AUSTIN — U.S. Congressional District 25 stretches from Cleburne, Texas, down to Dripping Springs. Marble Falls, Fort Hood and parts of Austin also fall within the district's lines.
Since 2013, Republican Roger Williams has represented the area. He joined KVUE's Ashley Goudeau to talk about his campaign for re-election.
Goudeau: Let's start by talking about some of the issues important to the people within your district. What do you feel are the top three on their minds right now?
Rep. Williams: "Well, I think immigration, jobs, the economy. Of course, having Fort Hood in our district, the military. So there's a lot of issues there but I'd say immigration and jobs are the two, if you had to narrow it down to two, that's what they'd be talking about."
Goudeau: Immigration is such a big, important issue, especially when we saw the family separations happening down at the border. I know it is a big thing to say, 'What do you think should be done about immigration,' but what are some of your thoughts on how we secure our border and how we address immigration in the country?
Rep. Williams: "Well, I've had some thoughts. What happened at the border recently was not new to me. When I was Secretary of State under Governor Perry, that's one of the assignments I had was to kind of oversee the border. So I've been down there, I've seen this going on. This is not the first time this has happened. Nobody likes to see the separation of families, none of us like that. But we are a land of law and we have to adhere to the law. So I think what we need to be doing is we have a lot of people coming over here, frankly, that don't want a job. They're coming over here as terrorists, they're coming over here to kill us. We have a lot of drug dealing going on down there. So we need to secure our border. We need to ask people and make people, frankly, come between the ports of entry, or through the ports of entry not between the ports of entry. That's the best way that we can help them. But you know, I've always been for more boots on the ground. And, you know, maybe a wall, but technology, more boots on the ground to begin to secure the border and help us adhere to the laws that we have in this state and this country."
Goudeau: The president has been very vocal about his support and his desire to build the wall. Are you a fan of the idea of having a wall?
Rep. Williams: "Well, I've never really been a wall guy. I've been a boots-on-the-ground guy. I think people doing business with people is always a good thing. I'm a businessman and that's just, you can say without arguments, we have people talking to people. So we've needed more border patrol for a long, long time. We've needed to move them up on the border, under the Obama administration they had to be about 45 miles back, and so forth. So boots on the ground, technology and if there's a component for a wall, fine, but I have never really supported the wall as much as more people on the ground."
Goudeau: Another issue we hear a lot about from our viewers, especially in light of what happened at Santa Fe High School, is about guns. Do you think there needs to be some changes to our current gun policies and gun control?
Rep. Williams: "Well, our heart goes out when we see these school shootings. Right after Parkland, even before Santa Fe, I issued, I had a bill and I'm still working on it. It's bi-partisan. It's 5107 in the House that begins to get the Department of Education to help secure our schools and protect our teachers and our young people. I actually met with Betsy DeVos in my office with the idea using their, part of their $63 billion budget to issues grants to individual schools for whatever they think they may need to, it may be more people, it may be more boots on the ground as we say, maybe it's bulletproof glass, metal doors or whatever; let them apply to the Department of Education and get that grant. So we've got that bill going through there. I hope to get it out and on the president's desk. I think he would sign it. But I think when you talk about guns now, actually there's two sides to this argument, we know this, and I don't know if people on one side or the other really change their mind. I personally believe you can't take guns and arms away from the good people. I mean, the good people will always adhere to the law, the bad people won't. The bad people are going to get guns. And so I think that what we need to do, it gets down to a mental illness issue also. A lot of these folks need to understand that there's people that love them out there and they need to reach out for help. We need to help them. But just the argument of taking guns away from people will not solve the problem. I mean, you have to go just so far as Chicago and see when you take guns away from people what happens. And so that's going to be a debate that goes on and on and on. And while we're having that debate, I need to get 5107 passed. The bill that I have going through the House right now. I need to get it passed, get it over to the Senate and hopefully get the president to sign it."
Goudeau: Mentioning education with that bill, obviously when it comes to schools in Texas, the state legislature is largely responsible for education. But there have been a lot of concerns about Texas' education system and where we rank nationally. Do you think there are any things that can be done on a federal level to give our schools a boost?
Rep. Williams: "Well, I do. I'm really one of those, I don't really support the Department of Education. I think before we had the department, federal Department of Education, our schools were really top notch and now, as you say, there's some questions whether we're at the top or the bottom. And I just think what we need to do is, when I was in school in the 50s and 60s, you know your mom and dad and your grandpa and grandma met and you decided what we're going to teach our children at a local community. I think we need to drive that back down to the local community, even get it passed in Austin into the communities so they can decide what they want their children to learn. And I think this is time for the Department of Education to do something that really will help our kids and our teachers, and that's help fund school security with the program I just talked about."
Goudeau: One of the biggest things that the president has had to do thus far is nominate Supreme Court justices. And we've recently seen that with the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. But that brought up a lot of concerns among people about women's health, reproductive rights, things of that nature, and the future of possibly Roe v. Wade. What are your thoughts on the nomination and how it could impact that?
Rep. Williams: "Well, anytime you have a Supreme Court nominee, there's going to always be these debates and that's one reason you always want to win elections, right, is because your person will have the opportunity to get someone who thinks in terms of how the party in charge does. I think anybody that's a nominee for the Supreme Court, I would support someone who, quite frankly, regardless of politics, will review and decide on what the Constitution says. I mean, don't make it up, don't what do you think, it's what the Constitution says. I think that's the most important thing. There's going to be the issues on the life issues and so forth, again, it's like gun control, that issue will never ever go away. I personally am a pro-life person in that but I want a Supreme Court justice, a Supreme Court pick, to address the laws of the land as the Constitution says it and be done with it."
Goudeau: And do you feel Kavanaugh is a good pick for that?
Rep. Williams: "I think he is a good pick. And, you know, before he went through, you'll know the numbers maybe better than I, but it was like 98 to 2 his last confirmation. So he went through pretty quick, and I think he'll go through before the election in November. I think that we'll get that done."
Goudeau: Just this week we've heard about the president's decision when it comes to NAFTA. And the U.S. now having an agreement with Mexico and eventually, hopefully, the president says we'll start having negotiations with Canada. What are your thoughts on this?
Rep. Wiliams: "Well, I've got a lot of thoughts on that. I'm a small business owner. You know, I'm a car dealer. And so a lot of this NAFTA talk and a lot of tariff talk had to do with that industry. But I never wanted to do away with NAFTA. The president, in the beginning, said he wanted to do away with NAFTA. We don't want to do away with NAFTA. We want to, it's a 25-year old agreement. It needs some, you know, tweaking. But from a Texas standpoint, to do away with NAFTA would really hurt our economy. What happened this week with NAFTA and Mexico, the negotiations with the president, I think is a stride forward. It's beginning to make the NAFTA agreement look more up to the speed of today's time. So I'm happy about that. And with Canada, Canada's now already begun to say shortly after this came out that they want to sit down and begin to negotiate now which is what the president wants. And, look, we need to have good trade relations with our, two of our best, our neighbors certainly and our friends. So I think we're on the right track but doing away with NAFTA was never something I supported and I think we're doing the right thing in making it better now."
Goudeau: Let's talk a little bit about your history. You have served in this position since 2013, why do you want to seek re-election?
Rep. Williams: "Well I never wanted to be a congressman. This was never anything I said, 'Hey, I'm going to be a congressman,' but I ran back in 2012 because I didn't think anybody was fighting for small business in main street America, and that's who I am. And so what I like about being a congressman and representing District 25 is, it's a great, diverse district. I mean you look at this district it goes all the way from south Tarrant County all the way into Wimberley. But, you know, we've got the largest population of dairy farmers, we've got the University of Texas, we've got a nuclear plant, we've got Fort Hood. We've got a tremendous amount of community colleges, we've got Tarleton State University. It's very, very diverse. And you're able to deal with the people, help with some things, help in ways they need. But, you know, we help our vets for example. Having Fort Hood, like I say, being able to help the vets with their issues is a big deal and so forth. So, you know, you get a lot of fulfillment out of it, but also it's public service. And I think that everybody at some point in time should give back to their country in some form or fashion. You don't have to run for Congress, but get engaged. And it doesn't matter what party persuasion you are, just get engaged with the system because we all like to curse the system out but it's still the best system. And we all should get in there and make it better. So I'm serving, I'm honored to serve. I don't know how much longer I'll do it but while I'm up here, I'm going to work really hard to make things happen for District 25 and I think we've done that."
Goudeau: What work do you feel you're most proud of since being a congressman?
Rep. Williams: "Well, there's several. I think the tax cuts, I had a big hand in the tax cuts. Back in 2012 I came up with a program called Jump Start America that cut a lot of taxes, and now that we've got that done I'm really proud of it. We're seeing it working. One of the things I really talked about and got in the bill was interest deductibility, which I thought was important. But we're seeing the benefits of tax cuts now. You see the numbers, the low unemployment, a lot of job startups with businesses giving bonuses and dividends to their employees. And just more cash flow coming through America. Now we have to get serious about spending, but we have a lot of cash flow coming through America. So I'm happy about that. I'm happy about giving the banks, the community banks that we all do business with, 99 percent of the banks, relief from the Dodd-Frank Legislation that created a tremendous amount of burden on the banks, where they found themselves hiring more compliance officers and loan officers, not being able to make certain loans to people they'd made loans before. So now we're getting that done, I'm proud of that. We're seeing the community banks being opened up again and being able to compete for people's business. I'm proud of what we've done at Fort Hood. Just got $61 million to begin to repair barracks that were falling down, that would literally make you cry if you were to go down there and see how our kids were living. And we've got about another $140 million coming to help with runways and motor pools and equipment. So, you know, I'm proud of that. So those are things that we're doing here and I'm proud of the fact that we've got a great energy program just working right here in state with all the stuff we've had out in West Texas that's all going to be converting all around this great state and into our district. Finally, just the other day we celebrated the Army Futures, which you're familiar with that and I had a hand in that, bringing it to Austin. And so there's a lot of good things we've done and, you know, you take pride in them. You don't do these things alone, but my background is I'm a retail person, I like to sell things and I think we've been asked to sell a lot of what we just talked about and I think we've been very successful."
Goudeau: One of the things that you mentioned was your tax plan. And your opponent, Julie Oliver, has been very critical of those tax cuts, noting that they will impact Social Security and Medicaid and further tax cuts. Talk to us about what you want to see done and your reaction to her criticism.
Rep. Williams: "Well, the tax cuts are working. The Democrats, see that's the debate. The Democrats, the Republicans, they just don't agree on taxes. You know, I think that you and I need to control our money. If we have the money, we spend it, we consume. The federal government gets the money, it's a $21 trillion debt. So, when you have tax cuts, you put more money in the hands of the people to spend. You create more job opportunity, you create more taxpayers, and we've already seen that. You know, we're going to have $3.2 trillion come in the cash flow of America this year. More than ever before. The problem is we're going to spend $4.2 trillion and that creates the deficit and we've got to get serious on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the aisle, of cutting expenses like moms and dads do and small business do to begin to balance budgets. And we're a long way from that. And I'm one of the about 40 that does not vote to raise debt ceilings and all that sort of thing because we're getting ourselves in a bad position from a debt standpoint. But tax cuts work and we're already seeing them work. I mean whoever thought, certainly in my lifetime, you're talking about three percent employment, you're talking about a five percent GDP heading toward seven, not since the Reagan days. You're seeing more small businesses start up. You're seeing people begin to take risks and get rewards. That's what builds America, is you can take risks and get rewards. So you couple all that with the banking regulations, which we passed out of my committee in financial services, Dodd-Frank legislation, that sort of thing, it's a great combination to help the people. And even if you don't agree with tax cuts, you're still getting a tax cut. You have that money. You're spending that money and so forth. So it's hard to argue the fact that tax cuts do not work. I would say this again, that both sides of the aisle gotta get serious about cutting back on spending or we're never going to be able to create enough cash flow to keep up with the expense."
Goudeau: We've received some concerns from some of our viewers who say they would like to see you be more accessible, they'd like to see more town halls with you, they'd like to see greater opportunities to speak with you. What do you say to that criticism?
Rep. Williams: "Well, I've been here since August, right, and I, we've been to over 75 places. I mean, that's 75 town halls, whatever you feel, a town hall. And I say we've seen over thousands of people. I mean, I walk down Congress every single day. I'm in restaurants eating. I was in schools today reading books to five-year-olds. I mean, we are everywhere. So that statement that comes from people, I don't know if they know what we're doing. I mean, you take over 70 events, places we've been and the people we've touched and the message we've got out, I don't know if I could do any more, quite frankly."
Goudeau: Are there any final thoughts you'd like to leave with our viewers about why they should re-elect you?
Rep. Williams: "Well, I think I should be reelected because I do have a business background, I have a vision for our country -- lower taxes, less government, cut spending, defend borders, listen to your generals, understand the 10th Amendment and stay with Israel. That's kind of our platform, that's where we are and I think what we have working right now with taxes, with regulations, with the energy programs we have, with the military, with helping children and keeping them from dropping out of school in the Ninth Grade and keep them in high school and keep them, I think, going into community college. All these things that we're working on, we have a track record that shows that. And if they elect me again, they're going to have somebody that believes in the individual, believes in the voters more than the federal government."
Democrat Julie Oliver is running against Rep. Williams. Click here to watch her interview with Ashley Goudeau for Texas This Week.