The Federal Issues Forum – The Recap

The WHA Federal Issues Forum featured U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw (TX-2) and it took place virtually on October 29th. In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session moderated by long-serving Fort Bend County Judge Bob Herbert, Crenshaw spoke about energy, infrastructure, education, and of course, the Covid pandemic. 

Rep. Crenshaw said 2020 had started on a positive note for Congress, particularly when it came to increasing stability in the Middle East, a situation which benefits the Texas energy sector. In February, he introduced the New Energy Frontier Through Carbon Innovation Act of 2020. “We use science and engineering to actually build a better future for our energy sector that maintains our job growth and relies on facts to make decisions,” he said. The bill would help increase carbon capture at natural gas power plants and fund innovation in clean energy production. 

 Starting in the spring, the coronavirus “obviously took the attention of Congress” and has remained the focus throughout the year. “We’ve spent unprecedented amounts of money to get the economy back up and running,” he said. “I think some of the money was a bit of a waste, and I think some of it was pretty well spent,” citing in particular the Paycheck Protection Act (PPP). “Nevertheless, sometimes you have to take the bad with the good.” 

Crenshaw also said that pertaining to Covid, that going forward, he believes Covid “is something we have to live with and get back to our lives and use precautions.” He called masks “a costless thing to do” and encourages mask wearing, although it is ultimately peoples’ choice to make. 

Along with energy, much of Crenshaw’s time in Congress is focused on flood management in the post-Harvey era. This means things like “making sure the right people are in the room” when discussing flood control projects, seeing that FEMA is cooperating with Houston on dredging, and making sure people have time to give public comments on potential projects. 

“It’s really about identifying what needs to be done, exactly, because these aren’t easy questions to answer  —  and everybody on the grounds is an engineer when it comes to flooding and so everybody’s got their idea of what exactly needs to happen — but you got to look at holistically the picture and the entire watershed, and then see what needs to be done, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. 

Asked about infrastructure funding, Crenshaw said they had been very successful in directing Federal dollars to Houston infrastructure, including the Houston Ship Channel and the proposed Coastal Spine project. But the ideological split in Congress over how infrastructure money should be used makes it hard to come to a consensus on any single bill. “Just because you name a program a nice name, put a lot of money behind it doesn’t mean you did anything good,” he said. “It just means we’ve probably wasted a lot of your tax dollars.”  

Crenshaw also spoke about education, particularly workforce training. “I think that is definitely the future of education, a more dynamic education system, more charter schools that focus on vocational training that partner with the private sector with apprenticeship programs, and actually make a difference that way.” 

 In his closing remarks, Crenshaw urged people to go out and vote. “We’ve conditioned voters to ask that question ‘what will you do for me?’” he said. “What I’ll do for you is create a structured environment with limiting principles in mind that actually creates stability so that you can do all the things for yourself.”