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tv   Conversations with Retiring Members - Rep. Gene Green  CSPAN  October 13, 2018 9:28pm-9:59pm EDT

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day. at the same time, i will look forward to the future. i will miss the people, not just my colleagues. i will miss my staff, certainly. i'm going to miss the people that police officers, the folks who work here that i see all the time and interact with, they are the support staff. they sweep the floors, cleaned the offices. i'm going to miss waking up knowing that i speak on behalf of of 750,000 people. i was their voice, their eyes and ears in washington. i'm going to miss that. steve: congressman joe crowley, thank you for your time. >> space -- c-span also set down with retiring congressman gene green to discuss his political. he served in the house its next 93. this is -- since 1993. this is a half an hour. steve: 26 years in the house of
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representatives, you decided to retire. why? rep. green: 20 years before that in the state legislature and 46 years in public service. i've been married 48 years. only had two years. we decided we wanted to spend more time with our family. four grandchildren that don't live in the houston area, two of them live in south texas, six-hour drive. two of them lived in omaha, nebraska, which is a two hour flight. it's a support system for your children. steve: how did the texas legislature prepare you for congress? rep. green: it prepared to negotiate, having people from different walks of life. i come from an urban area in houston. and in texas, we have a large rural area. i had no idea of agriculture except i like to eat.
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you get to know them. lature meetsgis only every two years for 130 days. whenever the house is in allion, everybody's there, 150 house members and senators. in congress, we have committees going on, floor debate, but we all go and vote. its different. much different way to deal with legislative process. steve: you came to washington in 1993. we had a new president, bill clinton. what do you remember of those first months? rep. green: the first months are tough on a new member. each are different. back then, i used to joke with it under two different constitutions in texas and washington because the house of representatives was organized so mr. finley in the statehouse --
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so much more differently than in the statehouse in texas. so much of the community was education and labor. i was on the education committee when i was a state senator. i fit in and worked hard to get federal funding for public ancation, particularly in urban area. congressman -- and i were new members together. now he's the attorney general in california. he had an urban area in l.a. like i had in houston, and we were successful. two freshmen were on the committee with senator kennedy, senator ford, also who worked on education for decades. that was my first real success. we can work in this system. steve: your terms did not overlap, but i'm wondering if texas politicians like the advice,peaker, give you
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or lloyd bentsen give you advice. rep. green: jim wright, i knew him because he was a house member because he was a member of texas before he was speaker. i met him in the legislature. he would come by. he was an active on the congress when i got elected. lloyd bentsen was very different. senator bentsen was almost a mentor for me. he ran for the senate in 1970. i supported him then before i was a state legislator. that as a u.s. senator, and then i got elected to the state house in 1970 and into the state senate over the years. i campaigned with lloyd bentsen. he was my ideal of an elected official. he was moderated, but he could get things done. steve: he will be forever remembered in that line in the debate with dan quayle in 1988. rep. green: i think he also was influenced by lbj because i've
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been a fan of lyndon johnson since i was in high school in the 60's because congress worked then. when you think about the great things that happened in 1965, voting rights act, first public aid to education, civil rights act, you name it. even after 1968, when there was an open housing deal that passed the congress to make sure people aren't segregated based on their race or ethnicity. so, i think lbj and lloyd bentsen were cut from the same cloth. steve: are the political demographics changing in texas? rep. green: i think they are. i have a district that was created as a predominantly hispanic district. mostly mexican-american. the district was drawn in 1991, when richards was governor. majority of democrats in the
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legislature. the three new congressional seats were in urban areas, one in dallas-fort worth, johnson has. one in san antonio that was created, the late frank to hader was the state senator, and also member of congress. the one in houston was drawn by a minority district. i was in the state senate. my hispanic friends at showed me, i represented most of that area and i grew up there. in ahey are running hispanic district was unusual. we had some competitive primaries and court cases,. and things like that -- court cases and things like that. i went out without having a primary opponent, for 20 years. steve: why do you think you want in the first place? rep. green: hard work. iran against a city councilmember.
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they are on tv every week. legislators are not. it was a tough race. we had five people in the primaries and i made it into the runoff. we had a court case after that. we had a new election call in july of 1992 to the democratic nominee for the election. so, we worked hard. i have, over the years, represented that area. thank goodness people appreciate the work done. steve: that -- you've been involved with, in terms of where it's going. we start with social security. by all that we read, in the next 10-15 years, we will face another potential crisis for funding for baby boomers and beyond. rep. green: i did a town hall meeting and we had 2034, unless congress fixes social security, there would only be able to pay three quarters of what seniors see now.
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congress should have fixed it in the last 15-20 years, but we keep putting it off. people don't want to raise the rates. i was born in 1947. but i would 65, have gotten less money than if i was 66. i think if congress could raise the its level, don't make somebody have to do it, by that would help like any other insurance plan. the longer you play in -- pay in, the more benefits you get. steve: can there be bipartisanship? rep. green: that's the only way we're going to pass anything. republicans have the majority in the house and majority in the senate. and of course the president. i think there's a bipartisan way we could do it. but there's a ways and means commission. medicare is probably the biggest concern because medicare doesn't have a trust fund like social security does.
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medicare has to be dealt with every year to make sure we continue to have medicare for seniors. steve: your also involved in the programs with johnson in texas. where do you see that going in the next 10-20 years? rep. green: the last 12 years or so, the space program has literally been running in place. we haven't been doing some of the things we did in the 1960's and 1970's, and 1980's and 1990's. but i think were seeing a turnaround. first of all, the space station, you have to pay russia to send out astronauts up there. that should have never happened 12 years ago. but we're correcting that right now. we're going to build our own vessel to go up there. i would like to go back to the moon before the chinese get there. steve: do you think there is still passion for the space expiration, returning to the
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moon? rep. green: americans like challenges and that's a challenge. we have to compete, used to be just us and the soviets. now we have russia still, but we have china who would like to get into space. india, a lot of other countries. anve: you've also been outspoken critic of the electoral college. two of the last three presidents winning the electoral college vote, but not the popular vote. why do you want it changed? rep. green: you look at the history of why we have that amendment to the constitution, late 1700s, 1800s. it took weeks to get something from washington to new york. today, we have instantaneous information. i think our individual votes ought to mean something other than to send an elect or to vote for the electoral college.
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now, there's a whole lot of difference. our country is mature enough now to elect by majority vote, whether it be in 2002 or 2000, president bush, or president trump. i think we ought to have a majority of people in america making sure who their president is instead of electors. steve: how do you change it or eliminate it? rep. green: it's a congress -- constitutional amendment that you do. they have to adopt it like we did 18-year-old votes and things like that. it's a process. i've introduced a constitutional amendment every year since 2001 because i thought, this is not a pure democracy unless my vote counts as much. for example, in texas, because texas is a republican state the last 20 plus years, people in my district who voted 70% for
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hillary clinton, that 73% did not help because the electoral that would be assigned to my district would vote for a republican. i think that's not democratic. steve: you have seen a lot in the last 25, 26 years. , 9/11 the impeachment of bill clinton, the war and i -- war in afghanistan,. donald trump what stands out? rep. green: 9/11 is probably the biggest impact. not just because we experienced an anniversary of it. that was the first time in my generation we were attacked. same with pearl harbor. i saw us work together. we did some right things to protect our nation, but we've done some things we should have probably waited in going into iraq, with saddam hussein and take care of the folks who
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actually started 9/11, who were in afghanistan. we split our forces and haven't done very well in either country. steve: was iraq the wrong enemy in the war? rep. green: yeah, iraq was in iran more. we were actually helping iraq against iran years ago. but there's saddam hussein was a terrible dictator. we had to live in a world where the don'ts of the words. we have to respond to it. resolution --hat voted for that resolution and i regret that. steve: when you could talk to constituents, what do they ask you about? rep. green: most of our area, local issues and personal issues. education for children. i have a district that probably has huge numbers of immigrants.
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some of the things the president has done is against what i think our country ought to be doing. think of the dream act, people brought here when they were children. can't commit an offense when you're a baby or a child. we should be more inclusive. america is an immigrant country. throughout our history, people didn't like the irish. they didn't like the italians. they didn't like the mexicans. we survive on people coming in, working and bringing new ideas. steve: you talk about your children. how many children do you have an the ages of your grandkids? two grandchildren and much of our 9, 10, 11, and 13. steve: what is more challenging? rep. green: it's always tougher
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to be a dad. i can play with them and do things with them but i'm not the parent. steve: what motivated you to get into politics? rep. green: in the 1960's, i was in the university of houston. my girlfriend at the time knew what she wanted to do. she wanted to be a high school abbottabad teacher and that's what she did -- algebra teacher and that's what she did. i was a business major, also interested in politics because president johnson was our president in the 1960's. his social program did very well. we had problems with vietnam, which tarred and feathered his administration. people remembered the voting rights act, civil rights act, aid to public education, things that are helping generations now to be a part of our system and government. steve: the one question we've
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been asking members is the following. complete this sentence. the state of washington politics is -- what? rep. green: is confused. i worked with my republican colleagues on issues we can't agree on. i do energy work coming from texas. health care in our district. i have a health challenge to district even though we have a great medical center in houston. the affordable care act is really important to our area. the current administration is hurting it everywhere they can. i've been working to expand health care access in an area that people's employer may not have insurance. so, that's health care such a major issue. steve: you came to washington when a houston leader, former president george h of you bush -- george h.w. bush was headed back. what was that like? rep. green: i was in college
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when congressman bush was my member of congress. i have the democratic part of his congressional district. he's a reasonable person. but, you know, he lost to bill clinton. there's a lot of conflict in the republican party even on president bush. them, buthello to we're not close friends. today i was out there during a ceremonial treeplanting for president pitched of you bush. steve: you worked with four presidents. bill clinton, what was he like to work with? rep. green: he was easier to work with. he was so outgoing. if you couldn't work with him on some issues, he knew his experience being government -- governor in arkansas, we would work on another issue. 1993n't vote for nafta in even though i had a majority
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mexican district. it was a blue-collar area and i was worried about losing blue-collar jobs. we lost six point mexico. years later, when china got the new trade agreement, they moved their plans to china. i could work with resident clinton on education. but also wanted to vote for nafta. i had some protection with our job base. i was told by trade secretary vincent we've already negotiated. we just need your vote. i said i can vote with you. i walked out of the oval office. i was worried i would be drafted by the secretary of treasury. their votes would give us 15 minutes to come vote. in congress, 15 minutes could mean 25-30. steve: a texas politician, george w. bush. former government -- governor.
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what was he like to work with? rep. green: he was governor in texas and i worked with him as governor. i was looking for federal funds to help our school districts. he was a part of that. i remember him showing up in austin, texas in his office and talking about, he was accepting this federal money for the public education. public education was one of his, just like his dad, was very important. that our future. steve: what about barack obama? rep. green: president obama was originally a law professor, having gone to law school. he was thorough, very thoughtful person. relationship,nal we didn't have that much contact. steve: what about speakers over the years? he worked under and with a number of them. rep. green: my first speaker was tom foley from washington.
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i was a new member of congress. we had the biggest new member in 1993 next 93 -- because of redistricting and things like that. i didn't get to know tom very well because i was a new member trying to find my way around the castle. my joke is what i found where the restrooms were at, a wind up with newt gingrich as speaker in 1995. steve: what was he like? rep. green: newt was another very thoughtful person. but coming from a democratic perspective, we didn't agree on many things. steve: what do you think your legacy is in washington, in congress and texas? is. green: i hope my legacy the work i did on education we changed the federal formula to provide more money to poor school districts, including schools in the district i represented, even though it's a houston independent school district, to provide more
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federal money to schools. in 1997, i moved to the congress commissioned to work on energy and health care. i district has always been health care challenge. before the affordable care act, 44% of my constituents who worked did not get insurance. through their employer -- through their employer. they had to buy it on an individual basis and they couldn't afford it because it's not a rich area. so people could go to clinics. we've had that success over the last dozen or more years, to where people can manage their diabetes, hypertension, instead of waiting. it's cheaper for the taxpayer, but also more humane. i've been working for the last number of years, including the affordable care act, to expend -- extant health care activity.
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steve: for the professional cast of 2019, including the member who will take over this office, what is the advice he would give to a new member of congress? rep. green: first of all, your not going to remake the world with 435 members of the house. in 1992, we had the biggest new members of class. congress is different than anything else because it's so huge. all of us campaign that we are going to change the system. we are going to do this or that. you don't change a system unless you have 218 votes in the house. the senate has filibusters and things like that. you need to work with people who are may be different than you, different parties, different regions of the country, to make sure you could get things done. i think our forefathers created this system, as inefficient as it is, to make sure that when we
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get a bill passed, it comes from every part of the country and both parties. republicans can pass just like we did when we were in majority, they can pass things on democratic votes or democratic majority. the most successful things are the things we sit down and use the brainpower of both sides of the hour -- the aisle and work together. that's what i tried to do in energy and the environment. steve: why is that so hard? we have silos, people talking at each other, not to each other. rep. green: when you first get here, that's the problem. even a few months, you're going to realize you're not going to get everything you want. if you ran on a certain issue because there are 434 other members of congress who have the same issue, you have to sit down and work with people to come to
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the compromise. and i think our forefathers did that. we tried to compromise and i would say i would rather have half a loaf than no loaf adult. -- loaf at all. one of the things i'm proud of in the last three or four years, congress passed the 21st century years. i was a ranking member on the subcommittee that helped put that together. a bipartisan congressman from colorado, and fred upton for michigan, republican, took the lead. we created this facility with a goal was to plus up medical research at the institute of health. that bill passed the house overwhelmingly because we work together. i had community meetings with my republican colleagues in the houston area. we were hearing the same thing. instead of hearing from democrat
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to republican side. i think that was a good example. obama signed by president and it was a good bipartisan effort. we're still seeing the benefits today. steve: donald trump is what? rep. green: he's a different person compared to either president bush or president clinton. he grew up in wealth. money to be able to be a developer in new york. he's never had to deal with a order of directors because he's always owned the company, he and his family. he makes the decisions. that's not what an american presidency is about. your leader you have 100 u.s. senators and 435 representatives as your board of directors. is difficult for him to understand that. we're still in a learning process. steve: how is gene green
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repairing for retirement? rep. green: if i had known i have to pack up everything over the last 46 years, i may not have retired. when i left the legislature to come to congress, i stuffed all that stuff in a closet. now i'm having to find it and get here in washington. i did not know we had a storage room in the building until i decided i wasn't running. they said you need to look at our storage room. staff -- the last 26 years, the staff has put things in their i didn't know where their. unfortunate the university of houston will take my papers. steve: when you walk out the door of the final time, what will be going through your mind? rep. green: i've loved the service. one of the things i've done in our district, i go home every weekend. i was in a majority ex-american
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district and a committed to do their surfaces. we started giving free immunizations every year to children, raised the immunization rate for children, predominantly hispanic mexican-american district. citizenship is very important. in a 94, we started doing citizenship days in june to help legal residence. he told me, i'm a puerto rican in chicago with a majority mexican-american district. we both started citizenship days reaching out to help people to come citizens of our great nation. that helps the community you help. i do two job fairs a year. we explain how our children, no matter their wealth, can afford to go to college. i have one coming up in our district before i leave in october.
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don't let anybody tell you you can't go to college. there is a way you can do it and we'll show you how to do it. steve: what will be the first thing you do when you retire? rep. green: probably spend more time, since i'm retiring generate second, spend more time in south texas. omaha inend time in the winter because israel. steve: will you miss it? rep. green: i'll miss the camaraderie, the relationships. it's really bipartisan. we've had debates and my committee, but after it's over, they understand where i'm at and i understand where they're at, steve: you mentioned that, for those who watch washington, they say it's toxic, there is no bipartisanship or camaraderie. you're painting a different picture. rep. green: it doesn't make good
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news for me to sit down with missouri and work on things. or joe barton in texas, very conservative republican. that doesn't make good copy. but congress does things. to get things done -- to get things done. we'll fight. wants tonk the country be governed from the middle. steve: from a different party, how would you size up paul ryan and his performance? fella.een: paul's a nice he's had a tough job in republican my geordie -- majority and with president trump doing his thing. wanto, i can see why paul ed to say one term is enough for me. steve: congressman green, we thank you for your time. rep. green: thank you. . >> our interview continues now
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with retiring u.s. senator jeff -- jeffarizona josh flake of arizona. he discusses politics, president trump, and a challenger in 2020. this is a half an hour. steve: what led to your decision to step down after one term? flake: the political outlook. it's tough to be here. i never did warm to the president or how he campaigned as governor. he not only have to embrace the president, you have to embrace his politics and behavior in order to get through a republican primary. and that was never in the cards for me. i would have liked to maybe stay another term. that would probably have been


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