Jodey Arrington looks to continue representing district 19 in U.S. House

Rep. Jodey Arrington reached out to the Breckenridge American last week and offered comments and context on his first term and campaign. The story has been updated with comments from Arrington and some information has been updated or changed. The Breckenridge American is reposting the stories for both Arrington and his opponent Miguel Levario in anticipation for next week's election.

Having served for the past two years, U.S. House of Representatives member Jodey Arrington is looking to do it again and serve District 19 through 2020.

A conservative Republican, Arrington has lived in West Texas all his life. Graduating from Plainview High School, Arrington graduated from Texas Tech University with both a bachelor’s degree and masters. His bachelors was in political science and his masters in public administration.

While this is his first time serving in office, Arrington has had a political career spanning back almost 15 years ago. According to his website, he has been an advisor to President George W. Bush, then serving as Chief of Staff to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) chairman Don Powell. He then turned his attention to serving as Chief of Staff to Chancellor Kent Hance. Finally, he served as the President of Scott Laboratories, Inc.

Arrington detailed his accomplishments at Texas Tech and as a president in the private sector, saying how it prepared him for his race and first term. In his first race, Arrington battled a field of nearly 10 Republicans, which came down to a runoff against him and the Mayor of Lubbock at the time. He said he has felt honored to be able to be the voice of the 29 counties in District 19.

"In West Texas, you can be a congress person if you win an election, but you can only earn the title of leader if you do what you say you're going to do and you deliver," Arrington said.

Healthcare

From the beginning of his time in the public eye, Arrington has opposed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He has come out in support of repealing the ACA. On his website, Arrington says the ACA has “failed our middle and working class families who have seen an uncontrollable increase in deductibles and premiums.” He goes on to say it has created more red tape in the healthcare industry, which has taken focus away from caring for patience.

Speaking on the progress on his first term, Arrington said he was happy the progress the Republicans made on repealing a variety of proponents of the ACA, such as the federal mandate, but added he is disappointed they didn't get the work done necessary to repeal the act as a whole. He said on the House side the work was done, but it was ultimately the vote in the senate, involving late Sen. John McCain's famous thumb down, that kept the act from being fully repealed.

"I am very proud of the product we passed out of the house, but I am also very disappointed that we were a vote shy from getting the Republicans in the Senate to support the repeal," Arrington said. "But there's a whole lot more we have to get the Senate to support in order to have all that we put into our healthcare repeal and reform."

According to eHealth, a company that assists in helping people find affordable healthcare plans, there estimations by year show an increase of 147 percent between 2008 and the beginning of 2017. The ACA came into effect in 2010. At open enrollment for the ACA in 2017, the average family health insurance premium for a family not receiving government subsidies was $1,021 per month, with a deductible of $8,352. The average cost of the most popular policy offered by employers totaled $19,481 for last year, with employers picking up almost 70 percent of the tab.

Another thing Arrington adds on his website is since the enactment of the ACA in 2010, 80 rural hospitals have closed nationwide, with 600 still in danger. This statement is true, as since 2010, 83 hospitals had closed as of January this year, with 14 of those in Texas, which leads the nation. Other estimations have this number as high as 90, with almost 700 at risk, according to the National Rural Health Association.

Arrington has expressed in the past an idea of passing provisions that would allow states to turn their Medicaid programs into block grants, create work requirements for able-bodied workers in order to receive benefits and freeze Medicaid expansion. Several Texas officials have also elected not to expand medicaid in the state.

The latter provision has been one of controversy between Republicans and Democrats in the state, as Texas officials decided to opt out of Medicaid expansion under the ACA. This was along with 18 other states, due to the lack of confidence they had in the government fulfilling its promise of paying 100 percent of expansion costs for the first three years and 90 percent in 2020. Estimations show if Texas had opted in, the state would have gotten over $1 billion back from the national government.

It is unclear if Arrington has changed his opinion in the past 18 months, but in March 2017, Arrington advocated in the House Budget Committee to consider amendments that would allow states to turn their Medicaid programs into block grants, create work requirements for able-bodied workers to receive benefits and freeze Medicaid expansion.

To get around the ACA, Arrington advocates for providing choice to the consumers and allowing them to pick their plan, more specifically through the market. Furthermore, he advocates for a bill that provides protection from having a plan taken away, cutting red tape and making Medicare stronger.

Economy and the Farm Bill

Arrington is a proponent for the tax cuts from 2017, saying it is creating economic growth and optimism. Due to the number of economic factors occurring at this time, including the tax cuts, trade wars, the uncertainty of several social programs like Medicare and social security, and due to how little time has elapsed since these actions, there is not a ton of data at this time to see how impactful the tax cuts have been.

Opponents say the tax cut will increase the deficit, which some short-term studies show may be the case. But proponents say in the long-term it will pay for itself by putting more money back in residents’ pockets and ultimately increase tax revenue. Some have argued it has begun to do this already. But in August 2018, the deficit was $898 billion. That time last year, it was $674 billion, which is a $224 billion difference. Many Republicans have said this is not due to tax cuts, but because federal spending has been climbing faster than prior years.

Earlier this year, Arrington also participated in voting for the Tax Reform 2.0 package, which made the tax cuts permanent and made amendments to several savings categories that impact education, retirement and general savings. It also aimed to promote new business by creating as much as a $20,000 deductible for qualified new businesses to help cover start-up costs.

Other economic issues Arrington has taken on involves trying to deregulate business, and promoting President Donald Trump’s agenda of redoing trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This month, Arrington commended Trump for fulfilling a campaign promise of improving the trade deal.

"What our country needed was less government weighing down the job creators, the innovators and the risk takers," Arrington said. "And we have unleashed them with free market policies that are creating now not just more money in the pockets of working Americans ... but that they have the opportunity now of a higher paying job for their family."

One thing of quick note is the money saved by the families due to tax policies. The average amount in Texas a family will take home can total over $2,000 more, but this factors in averages of those who are wealthy. The median increase will be somewhere around $1,000 nationally. Data for Texas specifically could not be found at this time. Lastly, while wages have gone up year-by-year by an average of between two and three percent, this number does not include inflation, which has left wages fairly stagnant. According to Pew Research Center, money today has the same buying power as it did in 1978.

The new trade deal, titled the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), made a few amendments to a variety of industries, including cars, which now requires 75 percent of the vehicle to be made in the U.S. to avoid tariffs. This is an increase from the 62.5 percent required by NAFTA. Other areas included a new agreement was a deal with dairy trade between Canada, and tech agreements.

Several in favor of the new deal say, similar to Arrington, it is an example that the U.S. is being treated fairer on trade deals and are the results of the president keeping his promises. Those who have opposed the new deal say there is not a lot of differences between the deals, and describe it as a “repackaged NAFTA.”

Lastly on the economy include the Farm Bill, which Arrington has talked at length about in several speeches and committees, including a town hall in Breckenridge, where he talked about the need to provide a social safety net through benefits, such as food stamps, for farmers and workers. It was in this speech he also talked about the deregulation that has occurred since he’s been in the House, and how he believes that is helping those in his rural district.

"Cotton was pulled out of the Farm Bill's safety net," Arrington said. "We were getting pummelled as the largest cotton producing district in the world and it was the only commodity taken out in 2014. My first job to be a voice for Ag and energy producers and a voice for West Texas and rural America, was to plug that hole in the safety net on the Farm Bill so the cotton producers would have a restored safety net. And we did it and it's permanently fixed." 

The deadline for the Farm Bill was Sept. 30. Now, almost in November, there has not been a new bill passed to renew the one from 2014. A big reason for this is the disagreement between both sides of the aisle on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Program. GOP members have supported new provisions that would require able-bodied adults from ages 18 to 59 to work, or participate in job training programs at least 20 hours. This is something Arrington has expressed support for.

“If you can work and you’re able to work then you ought to have to work to receive assistance,” Arrington said in a town hall in Breckenridge.

Opponents of work requirements say it will kick a number of people off from assistance, with estimates from the Congressional Budget Office being around 1.2 million over the next decade. Arrington has caveated this opinion by saying it will not be treated as a steadfast requirement, but as something to promote people being put back to work.

Immigration

According to his website, Arrington called the border “porous and unsecure,” which he said is leaving our country vulnerable to drug smugglers, human traffickers, waves of illegal immigrants and terrorist infiltrators. He called it a nationally security issue as well and said he believes there is a lot more to be done.

He has advocated in the past for the crackdown on sanctuary cities, which are cities that limit how much they are willing to work with the federal government on enforcing immigration laws in efforts to protect illegal immigrants that may reside in their city.

In June 2018, Arrington released a statement on the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, which he voted no on. The bill looked to close certain immigration loopholes, provide $25 billion more to the border and border security, and provide a solution for the current recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The bill failed in the House with a vote of 301-121. The vote concluded a stint in which both Congressional Republicans and Democrats tried to reach an agreement on immigration reform, but could not.

Regarding DACA, Arrington said in March 2018 he supported a three-year legal status for recipients that would require them to go back and obtain permanent residency, but “only by standing in line behind everybody else who is pursuing legal status today,” Arrington said on Fox News.

Other areas

In terms of education, Arrington has been a proponent of allowing school choice, advocating for providing the ability for parents to decide on a free-market where to enroll their children. He also chastised the Department of Education for their top-down approach, calling our current school system overregulated.

Arrington has also stated he is wanting to promote conservative values. According to his website, this includes being pro-life, against gay marriage and a right to bear arms. He also spoke favorably on the confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Voting record

Arrington has introduced two bills, which helped provide disabled veterans returning home certain adaptations to their homes. It received bipartisan support in the House, with 32 of the 435 members voting against it. The other bill he introduced was helping veterans find housing.

Other bills of note he has sponsored include an amendment to the Constitution that would create term limits for members of Congress, making the House limit six terms and the Senate limit two terms, which would mean 12 years in each chamber. Though, the bill would not affect those who were elected before the 115th Congress, which includes Arrington.

Another bill he voted on was the Probation Officer Protection Act of 2017, which made it legal for a probation officer to make an arrest without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that person forcibly assaulted or obstructed a probation officer while the officer was performing his duty.

One major bill he voted for was the H.J.Res. 43, which made it to where states could decide to withhold funding from family planning services, namely Planned Parenthood, which receives 43 percent of its funding from the government. The bill passed repealed an Obama-era rule dealing with Health and Human Services that made it so states could not withhold those funds.

Some statistics from his 2017 year in the House, according to GovTrack’s report card, include being tied for receiving the fewest cosponsors on his bills among the Texas Delegation with 12 cosponsors. He has also been one of the most present members during roll call voting.

Arrington has missed 12 of 1,125 roll call votes, which is 1.1 percent. This is almost twice as few as the average, with the median number of missed roll call votes by a member of the House being 2.4 percent. According to an analysis by GovTrack, Arrington was the fourth-most present in votes compared to the Texas Delegation. Specifically, in 2017 he missed 0.7 percent of the votes, being present for 705 out of 710 roll call votes.

Arrington stressed the necessity to help veterans, but also talked at length about what he called the rebuilding of the military, which involved increasing the military budget by $165 billion over the last two years. Though, he called what has been done only the beginning.

"There is no freedom without security and if we want to be safe and if we want to be free, then we have to give our sons and daughters in uniform the tools and resources to be safe and successful on the battlefield," Arrington said.

Campaign and remarks on Miguel Levario

Arrington has raised in total a little more than $1.2 million, as of Sept. 30, for this year’s election. According to Open Secrets, 61.83 percent of Arrington’s campaign money has come from large individual contributions, which are donations over $200. Most of the remaining comes from Political Action Committees (PACS), which account for 34.34 percent. The remaining 3.82 percent come from small contributions and other means not specified on the report.

Arrington said he has not really had a focus on the campaign, as his priorities have been to continue getting work done for his consitutents in Washington D.C.

"I have focused on doing the job that people elected me to do and my belief is ... people sent me to Washington to fight for our West Texas values ... as long as I'm doing that and we're delivering, they're going to send me back to keep doing it."

On his opponent Miguel Levario, he said he is advocating for policies that are not in line with West Texas values and in terms of differences there is not much to debate. Arrington said as polar opposites, he believes people will vote for him if they want a limited government approach, or for Levario if they want big government.

"With all due respect to my opponent, who is a decent person and by all accounts a good family man and a good guy, but he's been endorsed by Bernie Sanders ... he's supporting Bernie Sanders-style socialism rather than free market principles," Arrington said.

In terms of endorsements, Arrington has received endorsements across the board from several Texas officials, including the mayors of Abilene, Plainview, Big Spring, levelland, Littlefield, Denver City, Haskell, Roton and Throckmorton. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has also endorsed Arrington. He has also received an endorsement from the Abilene Reporter News, saying “he has been a pleasure to work with,” and adding Arrington “works hard.”

Arrington will face off against Levario in the Nov. 6 midterm election. In 2016, Arrington ran unopposed in the general election. Early voting began Monday, Oct. 22. For more information on Arrington’s campaign, visit his website, jodeyarrington.com.

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