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From Donald Trump to Mike Johnson, Chip Roy is a thorn in the Republican Party

By Matthew Choi, The Texas Tribune

From Donald Trump to Mike Johnson, Chip Roy is a thorn in the Republican Party” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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WASHINGTON — For many of his fellow House Republicans, Chip Roy is so conservative that he demands a level of ideological purity from his colleagues that routinely threatens to stall his party’s agenda — like this week when he toyed with ousting House Speaker Mike Johnson over a government funding deal.

At the same time, the Austin congressman is being attacked by the MAGA world, cast as a RINO, or Republican in Name Only, for his outspoken criticism of former President Donald Trump and refusal to accept his false claims of a stolen election.

“Everybody expects me to come down here and say, shirts and skins, Republicans versus Democrats, help us pass certain bills so we can go message them,” Roy said. “That’s not what I was sent here to do.”

Roy once again found himself at the center of a right-wing rebellion against House Republican leadership this week. A small coterie of hardliners tanked a procedural vote Wednesday, halting the floor for the day. The vote came shortly after Johnson tried selling the rest of his party on a deal to keep the government funded through the rest of the year — a deal the far right said was caving to Democrats.

Roy said on the Steve Deace Show that filling a motion to vacate was not off the table for him — an exhausting and painful proposition for many House members given the marathon of historic votes in January to elect former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and again in October to replace him.

“I’m leaving it on the table. I’m not gonna say I’m going to go file it tomorrow. I’m not saying I’m not going to file it tomorrow,” he said. “I think the speaker needs to know that we’re angry about it. He needs to know that we need to sit down at the table and try to solve this.”

It was hardly the first time Roy found himself in that position. He and his fellow hardliners similarly held up the House in May to protest a deal to raise the debt ceiling. He was also a lead negotiator during last January’s speaker election, shuttling between meetings with McCarthy’s deputies. He often writes to his fellow Republicans or takes the House floor to protest the party line as not taking a hard enough stance.

It’s a stubbornness that has irked some of his peers.

“I want to be a tough negotiator as well. I’d like to see tough negotiation and get some wins,” U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon, a close Johnson ally, said. “But at the same time, my goodness, just saying no all the time and just tooting your own horn, it just doesn’t get us anywhere.”

Roy is not alone in his drive for disruption or his dissatisfaction with House leadership. But his devotion to his principles has led him to politically poisonous positions that most in his party would never dream of touching.

Roy is increasingly rare among even those conservative allies for his willingness to speak out against Trump. He was one of only five Texas House Republicans to vote to certify the 2020 presidential election — a vote that drew fierce ire in his district.

Roy was also one of the earliest endorsers of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president this cycle. He has stood by DeSantis even as the Floridian dropped in the polls, appearing at his side in campaign events in Iowa.

“I want somebody who I can trust to do what he said he would do and would serve eight years to do it,” Roy said at a campaign event for DeSantis in Iowa. “We’ve got to have somebody in the White House that’ll deliver.”

Trump and his followers antagonized Roy for supporting DeSantis, calling the congressman a RINO. Nevermind that Roy’s voting record is one of the most conservative in Congress, not once voting with President Joe Biden’s agenda — an anomaly even in this divided Congress.

Nevertheless, Roy appears immune to the political poison pills he’s swallowed. Despite his vote to certify the 2020 election, Republican voters stood by him, giving him 83% of the vote in the 2022 Republican primary.

Trump sought to find primary challengers against Roy, posting on his social media: “Has any smart and energetic Republican in the Great State of Texas decided to run in the Primary against RINO Congressman Chip Roy. For the right person, he is very beatable. If interested, let me know!!!”

Trump wrote the post after the filing deadline. No one had stepped up to challenge Roy.

Roy said in Iowa he would back Trump if he won the party’s nomination.

In Congress, Roy has been consistent in his demands: a drastic reduction in federal spending and a severe hardening of the border.

In his latest dust up in the House, Roy vehemently opposed a bipartisan $1.59 trillion deal brokered by House and Senate leaders to keep the government funded past next Friday, when funding for a host of programs expires. The bill would cap discretionary spending at last fiscal year’s levels and would include a drastic cut in planned IRS funding — a major Republican priority.

But the Freedom Caucus decried the bill as riddled with budget gimmicks and side deals that actually put spending at $1.658 trillion and does not include hardline border provisions passed out of the House last year.

Johnson emphasized he and Roy are on the same page on their policy goals and that he is operating in the realities of a tiny majority.

Roy is “frustrated it doesn’t go far enough. I’m frustrated too. But remember we have a two-vote margin in only one chamber,” Johnson said in a Fox News interview Wednesday. “We have to play and advance the ball incrementally up the field.”

Roy sees a golden chance in the repetitive funding fights that have plagued this Congress. Funding the government is one of Congress’ most elemental obligations, and the need to do so gives Republicans leverage to secure other policy goals while controlling only one chamber of Congress.

And Roy is irritated when Republican leaders compromise without major concessions. He often repeats the maxim “No security, No funding.” He went viral after blasting his party on the House floor in November, repeatedly asking for “one thing! I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing — one — that I can go campaign on and say we did.”

“Urgency means not waiting for the next election, and the only tool Congress has left to stop this President from ignoring the law and endangering citizens is its spending power,” Roy wrote in a letter to other House Republicans earlier this month.

Still, that leverage only goes so far. Senate Democrats have made it clear they would never entertain the draconian border provisions Roy advocates, and House Republican leadership has turned to Democrats to pass necessary legislation on multiple occasions.

Roy rebuffed caring about what the Senate will or won’t do, saying: “You never know until you give them a bill.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/01/12/chip-roy-mike-johnson-texas-trump-congress/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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