Freshman Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) still hasn’t adjusted to using the first person when he talks about Congress.
“It pains me to say “we,’” he said in the middle of some remarks on government spending. “I used to be able to say ‘they’ — now I have to say “we.’”
Roe’s remarks on government spending, however, do credit to Congress. He observed that if people knew the government wouldn’t spend more than it took in, their confidence would be restored in businesses — an important step in bolstering the economy.
“The single most important thing this government can do is to get a long range plan to balance the budget,” Roe said.
Roe’s budget philosophy is framed by several years of co-ownership in a thriving medical practice and his involvement in local politics. During his government work in Johnson City, Tennessee (he served terms as mayor and vice mayor), he preached spending less than the amount taken in — a principle rarely found, or followed, in the Beltway. Every budget Roe helped pass in Johnson City had a surplus and no tax increase.
“I have seen smaller government with low taxes work,” Roe said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve participated in it, and it’s fun. The citizens love you for it.”
He said one reason Americans don’t like the stimulus package (and didn’t like the earlier bailouts) is because they recognize it doesn’t treat everyone equally.
“Americans are the fairest people in the world,” Roe said. “As long as they think everyone is being treated the same, they’ll do anything for you…They may not know why they do, but it’s 200 years of heritage that makes them believe that we’re all created equal.”
Roe said he wants to be hard-nosed when it comes to balancing the budget in Congress — he was shocked when he found out the entire economic problem faced this year by his home state was only one-tenth of one percent of the Democrats’ stimulus price tag. Roe also wants to take on entitlements and contribute to the health care debate, and he’s committed to supporting pro-life and pro-Second Amendment issues.
But perhaps the best advantage Roe offers House conservatives is his attitude: he’s not scared of winning or losing elections, a fear that seems to have crippled Republicans’ courage in past Congresses.
“The thing that I think scares a lot of politicians is losing,” Roe said. “I’ve won elections and lost a close election. It’s a lot more fun to win. I admit that. But let me tell you what awful happened to me when I lost: my wife still loves me, my dog still loves me, and my golfing buddies still take my money…I had a great life before, and I’ve got a great life now.”
He’s always voted and brought his children — he and his wife Pam have three — to the polls when he did so. He remembers as a little boy during the 1952 presidential election thinking that his dad, a Democrat, and his uncle, a Republican, would get into a fight over the election.
“I don’t think they were going to fight,” Roe said, “They were having a real strong argument. When I was a little kid, it looked like they were going to have a fight.”
Roe’s run for office took him campaigning into different counties — there are nine counties in his district, and two partially so — 15 or 16 hours every day. Roe mentioned one encounter with two elderly gentlemen at a Hardees’s in Tennessee. He sat down with them to eat his breakfast, and the three began to talk.
“They both had survived the Battle of the Bulge in World War II,” Roe said. “And so I just got intrigued.” Later that day, he met another veteran who had landed at Utah Beach in Normandy and survived 99 consecutive days in combat, including the Battle of the Bulge.
Roe considers it a privilege to have the opportunity to meet people like these veterans.
“Why wouldn’t you want to do something good and great for those people?” Roe said.
If Roe keeps with his current agenda in Congress, he will have.
This article is part of a HUMAN EVENTS series featuring newly elected conservatives in the House of Representatives.