Congressman Jodey Arrington on Cotton, and Republicans going to the minority party in the House

Below is a transcript of our interview with Congressman Jodey Arrington. You can listen to the full episode below.

Jay Leeson: 00:00 Congressman Jodey Arrington, like clockwork, there he is, and we bring him on now. He is the Congressman out of Lubbock, and West Texas at-large. Congressman, how are you?

Jodey Arrington: 00:17 Jay, I’m doing great. Always good to be with you, and God bless West Texas.

Jay Leeson: 00:22 Do you ever wonder how many meetings in a day you can have?

Jodey Arrington: 00:28 Yeah. There was a time when I thought it’s pretty sad for my children who, when they go to their kindergarten or first grade, their peers say, “My daddy is a fireman, he puts out fires.” Another one says, “My daddy, he makes money. He goes to work on Wall Street.” They said, “My daddy’s a professional meeting guy. He meets with people all day.”

Jay Leeson: 00:54 Yeah, and that’s what you have to do. I know that you’ve had meetings stacked up. We appreciate you making time, Congressman. Here’s where I want to start.

Jodey Arrington: 01:02 Oh, you got it.

Jay Leeson: 01:03 I look at the map and I try to calibrate red and blue. A lot … Correct me if I’m wrong. Really, I would appreciate you correcting me if I’m wrong, but here’s my assumption. Red … Cotton by and large is represented by Red representatives, and that on the House and the Senate side. If that is a correct assumption, Jodey Arrington, and you being in the cotton metropolis, I mean the cotton …

Jodey Arrington: 01:39 Epicenter.

Jay Leeson: 01:40 Yeah, the epicenter. I was going to use like some big box store terminology there, but you are in the cotton epicenter. How huge is it now that the Republicans have lost the House that you and Chairman Conaway, Mike Conaway, got cotton into the Farm Bill under Title 1? Now that we see the Blues, and let me just lay this out. The Blues, by and large, corn and dairy. Would there have been a way forward for cotton, in losing the House, to be under Title 1, be in the Farm Bill?

Jodey Arrington: 02:25 It’s a good analysis and I agree with you. No, it would have been a very … I think it’d of been too steep a price if even we could get a negotiated deal with the dairy guys. Obviously, the dairy was part of that discussion, part of the equation for us permanently restoring cotton to Title 1. No, we … It was a blessing in terms of the timing, in my opinion there, and Conaway and us having the run of the table to be able to get that in.

Jodey Arrington: 02:58 I just don’t know if we could have negotiated then. I’m just grateful that it’s there, that hole’s been plugged, and it’s the law today, regardless … I mean, we hope to get a Farm Bill, and I’ll update you on it, but regardless of the outcome, whether we get that Farm Bill done on time or we get it done in the next couple weeks, which I believe we will or whatever the case, cotton is restored to Title 1 and it’s for see seed and lint, and it’s a better fix, quite frankly.

Jay Leeson: 03:30 You think that the Farm Bill will get done. Lots of people say it’s-

Jodey Arrington: 03:32 Yeah.

Jay Leeson: 03:32 … going to be pushed off to the Congress. Why the optimism?

Jodey Arrington: 03:38 Well, because I’ve met with Mike Conaway and he and Collin Peterson, the Democrat from Minnesota who’s a ranking member, soon to be Chairman in the 116th Congress on the House side, have finally agreed, and this is big breakthrough. They’ve sent a consensus, basically draft bill, to the Senate. Collin Peterson’s a good guy, and he and the Chairman have gotten along very well, right up until the point that Nancy Pelosi put out orders that no Democrat was allowed to vote for the bill because of the work requirements at SNAP, et cetera.

Jodey Arrington: 04:23 It was a midterm election, political gamesmanship play, but Collin is a pretty conservative, moderate Democrat. I’m not surprised that he and Conaway have found a path forward. Now the question is, what will Debbie Stabenow do? It seems like she’s running the Senate side more than Senator Roberts. I’m not very happy with the Senator, the Chairman of the Senate side because we have the majority in the Senate.

Jodey Arrington: 04:55 We don’t have control of it because of the 60 vote rule, but Jay, I mean we have four corners of this deal. You got the House Republicans, the House Democrats and Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats. We sent them a bill without a single Democrat vote because we believe so strongly that this was an opportunity to reform the welfare program of SNAP. The Senate did nothing and so it just took the legs out from under us. They’ve made it almost impossible for Mike Conaway and all of us on the House to negotiate much out of the SNAP program.

Jodey Arrington: 05:37 I think it’s going to play out better probably and improve Title 1, improve conservation and other components, but I just don’t see us getting a whole lot out of the SNAP reform, which is Title IV. That’s positive news. I can’t imagine that now that the House has put a bipartisan piece of draft legislation over in the Senate that they’re going to let this go any longer than a week or two. I would be surprised if next week, we have a deal.

Jay Leeson: 06:13 Next week. Congressman Jodey Arrington making time with us here. The SNAP program, essentially, I think what we mean is food stamps.

Jodey Arrington: 06:23 That’s right.

Jay Leeson: 06:24 Why do you think … To his credit, or discredit, or whatever you want to make it out to be, Pat Roberts has said all along that there will be no deal based upon SNAP. What’s the political thinking there? Help us out as we listen to this. You got guys out there on the [bowl pollers 00:06:44] right now, Congressman, you got a lot of people interested in agriculture. Why is Roberts made it a non-starter to talk about SNAP in this conversation?

Jodey Arrington: 06:56 It’s a mystery to be, because I understand that we’re not going to get all of the reforms to SNAP, to the food stamp program that we would like as conservative who happen to believe that it’s actually the compassionate thing, not just the right thing to do to, to incentivize people to work who can. Not those who can’t, but those who can. I just, I’m mystified by the fact that there was nothing put in there.

Jodey Arrington: 07:33 Here’s what I believe. I’m sure Roberts, Senator Roberts is a good man and a decent man, but it was weak and I think it was more about expediency to get a Farm Bill done so you can check a box and put skin on the wall and say, “Man, we got the 2018 Farm Bill.” I would say it’s a much better Farm Bill. It’s stronger on infrastructure. It’s more flexible for first time farmers, and it’s got the right investment into broadband for access to Internet.

Jodey Arrington: 08:09 It’s a much more reliable safety net, so it is a very good piece of legislation to be proud of, but when you’re in the Republican majority, and people elected conservatives to not just do part of the job, but do all of the job in terms of making good legislation out of anything we’re working on, but especially something that represents 85% of the Farm Bill funding or $70 billion a year.

Jodey Arrington: 08:47 I’m still just very disappointed. I think my colleague’s just done everything he can to drive some effort among all of the parties negotiating so that we have some semblance of reform in the food stamp … We’ll see what happens but, again, I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.

Jay Leeson: 09:10 Let me ask you this, Congressman. Pat Roberts of Kansas, up for reelection 2020, that’s when his next Senate term falls. Let me just throw you the curve ball here, Congressman. Do you think that it’s that he saw the tea leaves in Kansas? That Kansas could turn quite a bit purple within the 2018 election? That he wanted to hold on and try to appeal to the middle, to the political middle in Kansas? Is that what prompts all this?

Jodey Arrington: 09:47 Well, he didn’t survive in politics this long by being a dummy. I mean, he’s probably made those calculations. I don’t how much longer the guy has to serve in the Senate. I’m not sure. I think this will be his last Farm Bill. Again, I’m not making any judgment on him as a person, but I just think it’s unfortunate. It’s, I don’t know if it was … I think it’s expediency, but maybe there was political calculation.

Jodey Arrington: 10:21 I’ll tell you this. We didn’t have the time or the space or the oxygen in the room during the Kavanaugh hearings and the midterm elections to take this to the public. This poll’s about 80, this poll’s about 75% across the board, Republican, Democrat, Independent. People, whether you’re, whatever your party preference, Americans want other capable, more capable, able bodied adults, Americans, to work in order to receive government assistance.

Jodey Arrington: 11:01 If we’d of had the runway and the time and we didn’t get caught up and wrapped up in the midterm and the sort of Kavanaugh political theater, we could have taken this substantive argument to the American people. I think President Trump would have helped us in places like, well, whether it’s Michigan with Heidi … With Stabenow or whether it’s Kansas with Roberts, but we would have taken it to the people and I’m convinced that when they knew what was going on, they would have put tremendous pressure on the Senate to do something, something reasonable like what Mike Conaway proposed and what we supported in the House.

Jodey Arrington: 11:48 Just 20 hour work weeks or volunteer weeks or training weeks. 20 hours for able bodied adults. It’s hard to believe that we can’t get that through, but it tells you, to me, just how the established welfare culture is in Washington is, let alone the entitlement culture we have in this country. It’s sad, it’s unfortunate, and I think it’s aiding and abetting that culture by allowing this program to continue without reforming it. I’m not going to tie up the Farm Bill and the farm policies and the safety net on account of food stamps.

Jodey Arrington: 12:35 As much as I’d like to fight this for another several months of a year, if we had to, it’s not worth it. Because we’ve had too much drought and cost and fallout from trade, and there’s just been too many curve balls thrown to our producers and they need this thing. They need the certainty. I’m going to stand and be counted with those who are going to push this Farm Bill over the line. I’m telling you, I’m going to tell you right now, I’m not voting against the Farm Bill that has the things that we need for West Texas to thrive and prosper.

Jay Leeson: 13:14 You went into Heidi Heitkamp and I think that you just cut the word Heidi out before you went into Heitkamp but, of course, she lost there on North Dakota.

Jodey Arrington: 13:25 Yes.

Jay Leeson: 13:25 Some writing that you and some other Republicans saw on the wall.

Jodey Arrington: 13:31 Yeah, well, we saw a few of them flip. I think that we’re all beside her-

Jay Leeson: 13:40 On the Senate side. We should be sure.

Jodey Arrington: 13:42 Yeah, on the Senate side, that’s right. Well, we have some flip on the House side. More flip Democrats than Republicans. Then ultimately, obviously, a 30 plus margin now in the House, with Democrats having the majority. Yeah, the Senate … I wish we’d of had this margin, Jay, in the Senate when we passed the healthcare, the Obamacare repeal, where we fully repealed and reformed healthcare, not just the individual mandate, which we put in the Tax Reform bill.

Jodey Arrington: 14:11 If you remember the famous thumbs down from John McCain. We were one vote, and that’s when we had 51 majority, now we’ll have 53. You just, you don’t know woulda, coulda, shoulda’s. You just do what … We got it out of the House. We did what we thought was right. I remember the conference leadership in the House saying … I was demanding that we put more pressure on the Senate.

Jodey Arrington: 14:38 I remember people saying, “Well, that’s not really keeping with sort of the custom and decorum, Congressional decorum. We sort of let those guys do their thing, we do our thing.” I said, “I don’t know about y’all, but when I go back home, not many people make the distinction between House and Senate. They just say, ‘Congress isn’t doing their job. Congress is …'”

Jay Leeson: 14:57 Or “decorum,” yeah.

Jodey Arrington: 15:00 Yeah, or the word “decorum.”

Jay Leeson: 15:01 Take me into the room, Jodey Arrington. Take me into the room the night your staff is punching out the numbers. Look, I’ve alluded to this before on the program. I know that you had your district pretty well nailed down in the reelection. That you were out doing what people who want to aspire to leadership do, and they go out and they campaign for other folks. You were doing both at the same time. You were pushing the clutch and the gas at the same time.

Jay Leeson: 15:38 All that to say, take me in the room whenever you find out that the Congress has lost the House. That all of a sudden, you’re going to go and count the … Figure out where the paperclips are on the minority side, figure out where the office is on … How disappointed were you? Did you cuss?

Jodey Arrington: 16:02 If I thought it would’ve helped, I probably would of, but I don’t think … I think as much as I was cautiously optimistic we had a chance … Because the economy was so good, Jay. I mean, the policies that we put in place were working-

Jay Leeson: 16:18 You’re saying you did cuss.

Jodey Arrington: 16:22 No, I think I just sat there, and to be frank, I had mixed emotions. Because we won by 50% margin. Not necessarily because … I hope it’s because the folks in West Texas think we’re doing a great job and that we’re being a good voice for them and that … I know it’s because we are, in many ways, the last bastion of principled, Red hot conservatives.

Jodey Arrington: 16:54 Even in the State of Texas, we carried Senator Cruz by, what was it? The 70% win margin in my district, Thornberry’s and Conaway’s. I was proud to have that be reflected through my peers in Congress of the values and the core beliefs of the people of West Texas. At the same time, we lost people that were friends of mine that I have tremendous esteem for, and a good relationship with and friendship.

Jodey Arrington: 17:26 Then there was the notion of Nancy Pelosi having the gavel, and I don’t have much hope for constructive governing. Maybe there’ll be some pockets of that on the VA and other places, but I see a lot of obstruction. I see more Kavanaugh, but just chapter two, three and four. Mostly to tie up the President.

Jodey Arrington: 17:56 I mean it was just a, it was a night that you should be happy that you won, and that the people of your district are placing their confidence in you again to continue as their representative. At the same time, Jay, we spent a lot of time and effort to raise about a million dollars for people around the country.

Jodey Arrington: 18:16 That’s, I don’t know if that’s ever been done before in West Texas, but we had a lot of people from around this district who believed that when you are in a district as conservative as ours, when you have a safer seat in the general, we’ve got to do everything we can to help keep the majority. I traveled around the state, I traveled beyond the district.

Jodey Arrington: 18:45 Look, selfishly, I mean, A, that’s good for the cause, it’s good for our conservative agenda. It would have been good if we’d kept the House. B, it’s good for West Texas because we demonstrated leadership, and we made the sacrifice to do that. As I’ve said to you before, and I’ve said to your audience, we have to be leaders and we have to be in leadership, because we can’t just be a vote and make a difference for rural America and West Texas and all that’s good about West Texas.

Jodey Arrington: 19:20 In some ways, we’re setting the table for us to hopefully be in a much stronger leadership position coming in when we do get the majority. Look, I was the only Republican freshman out of Texas. Now, there are five new freshman coming. We also are moving up in that regard too, so not all is lost. We’ll find ways to be productive. We’ll defend the policies we put in place, and we’ll get a Farm Bill done, and we’ll continue to be leaders in our conference.

Jay Leeson: 19:55 Congressman, does it not give you more weight now to say, a million dollars, let’s put that up against precedence but also, who delivered the votes for Ted Cruz? Look, Ted Cruz did not have the commercials on in the major metropolitan … Within the Triangle, DFW, Austin to Houston, that he had up here.

Jay Leeson: 20:20 Does it not give you some weight then, Congressman, with some of these larger Republican Senators to say, “Look, we aren’t going to do the school choice things. We’re going to do rural investment, because rural infrastructure … We’re going to look at this Farm Bill and we need your attention here, because you would not have been here without districts like mine and Conaway and Thornberry,” et cetera. Doesn’t it give you ground on that front as well?

Jodey Arrington: 20:52 Absolutely. It absolutely strengthens our conversation with … Look, Senator Cruz is a friend. He’s been a guy that I’ve enjoyed getting to know better. I knew him professionally, now I know him as a friend and a colleague. I mean, I sent that article that the [Agent 00:21:14] printed that talked about that 70% win margin coming out of West Texas. I’m going to make sure that we continue to remind him when we have conversations leading up to the Farm Bill, so which could happen in the next week or two.

Jodey Arrington: 21:35 Yeah, I think it strengthens our hand because rural Republicans, they carried the day with Cruz and [Komp 00:21:44] in the swing states and I told that to the President in a respectful way, every time I met with him, if you recall. I kept saying, “Rural America’s for you. Farmers and ranchers, don’t forget our guys.” That’s certainly going to be a similar mantra and a similar message to my Senate colleagues. Yeah. I think it does, Jay.

Jay Leeson: 22:10 Okay, well I think you did a good job in this interview, if I may critique you. A good job of couching your disgust whenever you found out that you’d lost the House, but that’s what long-timers do, Jodey Arrington, they look at it and they say, “Well, we’ll see what happens next time around.”

Jodey Arrington: 22:32 Well, if my mom ever thought I cussed, and she listens to you religiously, she might come up here and slap me around in front of my grown men and women colleagues.

Jay Leeson: 22:47 That wouldn’t look good.

Jodey Arrington: 22:48 Just for the record, I didn’t curse. I just felt a little ambivalent that night, emotionally. Okay, mom?

Jay Leeson: 22:56 Well, I’m sure that she’ll hear that, hear you say that. Thank you to that message for Miss Arrington. Also, I want to just ease anything as we get off with you here. I told you that, sent you a text message and said that we won at the auction, at our elementary school, Roscoe Wilson Elementary here in Lubbock. We won the luncheon with the Congressman.

Jay Leeson: 23:21 I will not send the four-year-old in for you to monitor him at the Chick-fil-A playground. It will be the 11-year-old girl, and I really look forward to her having lunch with the Congressman.

Jodey Arrington: 23:31 Well, I can’t wait.

Jay Leeson: 23:33 She’ll be respectful and won’t be nearly the trouble you’d of had with Charlie on the playground.

Jodey Arrington: 23:41 Well, I look forward to it. You’re a good family man, and your kids are good kids, and I can’t wait to sit down and just … Listen, it’s been what? Three years, Jay, since you and I first met and got to know each other, maybe four years. We’ve talked a lot about the things that you’re doing, the things that I’m able to do now thanks to the people of West Texas.

Jodey Arrington: 24:05 Man, we’re finally in a place where we can make a difference for our folks and the people that don’t have the voice that they ought to have. It’s kind of neat how it’s all playing out. Even at election, like you mentioned, how rural Republicans are kind of pulling more than their weight and doing more than their share, don’t think we’re not going to take full advantage of that.

Jodey Arrington: 24:32 I’m proud to be from Hill County like you, and I’m proud to be a voice for West Texas, alongside the likes of Mike Conaway. God bless you, buddy. Thanks for the time and man, take it easy on me on the restaurant. Don’t go fancy steak house or something like that.

Jay Leeson: 24:51 No.

Jodey Arrington: 24:51 I’m a public servant.

Jay Leeson: 24:53 I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be a hamburger steak at Bryan’s. There he is, Congressman Jodey Arrington. Thank you for the time, bud.

Jodey Arrington: 25:04 All right, you too. Go West Texas.

Jay Leeson: 25:05 All right, Hill County forever. There he is, Congressman Jodey Arrington, and stick right here. We’re going to breakdown the old, crazy old Honeymoon. Love it. Love the bumper music, breakdown what’s coming up for you on the other side. Stick right here with me. (singing)

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