“You didn’t send me up to Washington D.C. to make easy decisions; you sent me up there to make tough decisions that will be good for the country in the long-term.”
Standing at 5 feet 3 inches tall, Congressman Kevin Brady – R, who represents the eighth district of Texas, commanded the attention of roughly 200 students in an introductory political science class at Sam Houston State University on Tuesday.
“Sam has just grown so much over the years,” Brady said. “It’s just thrilling to see the growth of the university as an investment. It’s not just new buildings but new programs that are really sort of the future. In this country, a quarter of the jobs we have today didn’t exist 15 years ago, they’re brand new. You need a university that stays up with those types of jobs and skills so that you can have better choices in jobs going forward.”
Brady, who resides in The Woodlands with his wife, an SHSU alumnus and their two teenage sons, said SHSU is the primary institution of higher-education within his nine-county district. Although he spoke of himself for only the first ten minutes, the Q&A discussion lasted roughly an hour.
“I hold more than 50 town hall meetings a year and I do that to hold myself accountable to those I work for which is you,” Brady said. “We may not always agree on every issue – in fact I’m certain we won’t – but you’re going to get a chance to tell me about it and ask me about it and I’m going to get the chance to explain why I voted this way or that way. I think that’s what you ought to do when you’re elected to represent 750,000 people in the eighth district of Texas.”
At the age of 12, Brady and his four siblings lost their father who was murdered by the abusive husband of a client he, as a lawyer, was defending in court. According to Brady, some of the characteristics his widowed mother instilled in her children, were independence, faith in God, optimism and involvement with the community.
Brady dropped out of college during his junior year and upon returning to school, worked odd jobs to pay his way including everything from construction and meatpacking to bartending and disco disk jockeying.
Brady, who is in now in his tenth term in office, said he stands apart from most congressmen as he has never moved to Washington D.C. and instead, commutes to work.
“Over the years, I’m now on my fifth round trip to the moon from flying back and forth to Washington,” Brady said. “I do that not because I like airline food or TSA, I do that because my fear is that if you move 1,200 miles away, you’re going to get out of touch with the communities, the families, the neighborhoods you represent.”
Brady serves on the ways and means committee which tackles social security, healthcare, tax codes and welfare reform, among other issues, while leading the healthcare subcommittee. Brady discussed social security, student debt and job creation out of recession to accommodate students’ interest.
Regarding campus carry, Brady avoided giving his own opinion about the debate concentrated in Austin, however he did say at the federal level, his focus is on ensuring that there aren’t any more restrictions placed on second amendment rights. Brady said most of the mass shootings the country has experienced are a mental illness issue rather than a gun rights issue, which can be attributed to the country’s lack of any kind of mental illness system.
Brady also addressed the militarization of police in relation to the events which happened in Ferguson, Missouri.
“I’ve never walked in law enforcement’s shoes,” Brady said. ”My guess is that it’s one of the toughest jobs around, and the things we take for granted are just dramatically dangerous for them each day. So my view is that most law enforcement officer are giving 110 percent to do it right. There’s always some bad apples, but there’s bad apples in every profession and in every industry. Just like I don’t like stereotyping one group because of the actions of a few, I don’t think we ought to stereotype law enforcement.”
Brady also expressed his disapproval of the Affordable Care Act. Although he acknowledged the need for healthcare reform, he asserted that there are better and different ways to go about providing universal healthcare.
Throughout his tenure with Congress, Brady said the most difficult vote he has ever had to cast pertains to declaring war.
“The toughest vote you ever cast ever, is when you vote to send us to war,” Brady said. “I mean you really pray over that one and think hard over it because you know you’re sending people to a war they may not come back from and where they may be away from their families for five to six deployments. It’s hard.”
Brady also addressed the stagnant activity within Congress with regard to the extreme polarization of both houses over the last four years.
“Everyone’s just so frustrated with what’s going on up there,” Brady said. “It just seems like the country is headed in the wrong direction. The members of Congress, House and Senate, even the White House aren’t listening, aren’t connected and just don’t get it. I think that’s just a general frustration and I’m like everyone else, I’ve been up there, I’ve worked my way up so that I have a bigger voice in issues for you.”
Brady said despite what other public officials might think, he sees himself as a public servant to his constituency whose job it is to lift them up and provide them with opportunities.
“My job title is ‘representative’—that’s actually what I’m supposed to do for a living, represent you,” Brady said. “My thought is I don’t just represent your opinions, I represent your interests and sometimes it’s different. If I listen to those I work for, if I do my homework and really study that issue and know it, and vote my beliefs, what I believe is in the best interest of my district, even though it may be the opposite of the opinions, my belief is that’s my job.”