WASHINGTON, DC - Last Wednesday, numerous top leaders in the U.S. House and Senate were scheduled to meet with local leaders, but only one was a Democrat.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents the 28th District of Texas -- which runs from San Antonio down to Laredo -- was invited by Congressman Bill Flores (R-Bryan) to speak with the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce delegation on their annual trip to Capitol Hill.
After his chat with the group, Cuellar spoke with News 3.
FULLHART: Congressman, I guess when you had this opportunity to speak to local leaders from outside of your district, I would assume you think it's important, but why?
CUELLAR: It's important because I think people need to realize that we might be from different parts of the State of Texas. I'm from South Texas, but we all have issues that are so important to Texas. Whether it's education, the military, economic development, we all have similar issues, and this is why I was glad to be here with Bill Flores.
FULLHART: Bipartisanship is something that the Chamber has talked a lot about in their meetings with the different delegations, with the different aides. How important is that in Washington these days, because it seems like a toxic atmosphere...maybe a little less than it has been in the past.
CUELLAR: You know, bipartisanship has been so key to making sure we get the job done here in Washington, but I do have to say that we not only do the talk, but we do the walk. Some people talk about bipartisanship, and they just talk about it, but when it comes down to the actual voting, they don't see this. That's what we need to change in Washington, people that will actually sit down and work out the issues. Imagine if at your place of business there at CBS if the only way you could talk to your folks there is by sending a press release, then they would send a press release. You would never get the job done. It takes a very simple approach: you sit down, you frankly discuss the issues that we have, and then from there, you solve the problem.
FULLHART: You and Congressman Flores seem downright chummy. Did you have to clear that with your party? Did he have to clear it with his to be able to do that?
CUELLAR: No, no, no, no. Bill has been a friend of mine. I really appreciate his approach. We worked on some things. We worked on a bipartisan energy bill because, again, we understand how important energy is for the State of Texas. It's important for his area. It's important for my area. Bill and I go back a long way. I really think a lot about Bill Flores...good man.
FULLHART: Is that an example, do you think, to be set?
CUELLAR: Without a doubt. I think by having Bill and myself work on issues together, voting together on many issues, we can get the job done, and I think a lot of members can do the same thing. The whole thing is, believe it or not, a lot of members don't even talk to each other. They might even pass each other on the House floor, and they won't even talk. When you're able to have a personal, working relationship like Bill and I have, I think that really gets down to the crux of the problem, and that is sitting down and working things out, but you've got to be able to talk and communicate. Believe it or not, the simple things that we learn in first grade or even in kindergarten about how you treat people with respect and how you work will make things work up here in Washington.
FULLHART: The top issue that the Bryan/College Station Chamber brought here was concerning health care, and they believe that businesses are being harmed by the Affordable Care Act. Obviously, there is a lot of divide when it comes to that issue. What do you forsee as the solution if it's not a repeal that has failed as many times as it has?
CUELLAR: I think what we're seeing right now, quite honestly, is two extremes. On one extreme, you have people that want to repeal the whole thing. On the other side or the other extreme, you have people that don't want to change one single word. Basic Legislative Session 101 means that you look a piece of legislation or law, you look at what works, then you keep that, you look at the things that don't work, either you modify, you repeal it, and then you look at the overall package to make sure that it works. That's the approach that we look at. The health care law is not going to be repealed. It's been tried over 50 times, 52 times. It's not going to happen, but I think what we need to start doing now is get the two extremes out of the way, get in the middle and see what works, and what works, we keep. What doesn't work, we get rid of that.