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McCaul’s Legislative Wins Should Earn Him a Victory in November
The Houston Courant ^ | March 2, 2020 | B. Vasoli

Posted on 03/09/2020 4:24:31 AM PDT by The Houston Courant

Any ranking of congresspersons’ national-security expertise would put Michael McCaul near the top. A Republican who represents the 10th District, an area spanning from Austin to the Houston suburbs, he served as a deputy to future U.S. Sen. John Cornyn when he was state attorney general. After 9/11, the Dallas-born McCaul became chief of the Terrorism and National Security Section of the west Texas federal attorney’s office. In 2004, the prosecutor won his seat in the U.S. House where he chaired the Homeland Security Committee for the full term limit of six years; he is now the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. In 2016 he wrote a book titled Failures of Imagination about national-security threats, particularly the terrorist group ISIS.

McCaul cites his father’s service in World War II, bombing Nazi forces from a B-17, as an impetus to work in government on national safety concerns. “Service was always important to me, growing up,” he told HC. “I’ve felt very passionate about counterterrorism and homeland security issues and I think that’s what drove me to run for Congress.”

His legislative accomplishments in this area are substantial, sometimes pleasing both security hawks and civil libertarians. In 2014 he had a major role in passing the National Cybersecurity Protection Act to strengthen protection of private and government digital networks from cyberattacks. In 2015 he helped enact the USA Freedom Act to rein in the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of private data including phone records.

And even with his conservative voting record, the Cornyn protégé hasn’t had trouble working with Democrats where common ground exists. He worked in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration and his former Homeland Security Committee colleague Jane Harman (D-CA), now president of the Woodrow Wilson Center, counts him as a good friend. “We forged a relationship with flourishes to today,” Harman told a Wilson Center audience last April.

McCaul’s current foreign policy priorities include counterbalancing the global clout of adversary states like Russia, Iran, North Korea, and particularly China. While a federal prosecutor in 1996, he worked on a case related to efforts of the communist Chinese government to capture sensitive U.S. information and to influence American elections. He admonishes his fellow U.S. lawmakers to recognize Chinese President Xi Jinping as a thoroughgoing antagonist toward democracy domestically and internationally, far from the reformer some initially expected.

“I think we’re going to see China really emerging as our biggest competitor,” he said.

He’s perhaps made his greatest domestic-policy impact in healthcare, having spearheaded a new law to facilitate development of treatments for children with cancer; each year, 15,000 U.S. children receive such diagnoses. McCaul formed the Childhood Cancer Caucus and undertook a publicity effort alongside 10-year-old leukemia survivor Sadie Keller to gain momentum for the legislation. The two are publishing a book called Better Angels, due out this May, telling the story of their policy victory. “It really makes a difference,” he said, noting significant research efforts have been spurred by the law so far. In late January, the House passed a new bill McCaul introduced to fight childhood cancer globally.

When it comes to the provision of healthcare coverage, McCaul supports lowering costs via market competition. The growing popularity of socialized medicine among Democratic politicians troubles him.

“I think people want [healthcare] to be more affordable and more accessible and we need more competition in the system,” he said. “I don’t think putting it in the hands of government necessarily is the right answer to this. When I ask people, ‘How many of you have gone to the Department of Motor Vehicles and had a good experience?’ most people say ‘no.’ Would you want them in charge of your healthcare?”

Another important domestic-policy role McCaul has taken up pertains to flood mitigation and repairs. He helped shepherd through the appropriation of $140 billion to repair areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. He observed that bureaucracy, however, has hindered the swift use of those funds. Ending inertia on reservoir building, which is overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, is an especially high priority for him.

Among initiatives McCaul still hopes to enact is the LIFT Act, a bill that would require consular denials of visas due to human-trafficking concerns to be shared with federal law enforcement. “You’d think that’s kind of a no-brainer, but it’s not being done currently,” he lamented. He has worked with Courtney Litvak, a Texan who is a trafficking survivor, as well as the White House to affect the executive order the president signed earlier this month to help address this problem. “This is modern-day slavery in our lifetime, and it’s becoming a bigger threat to the United States and to our children.”

McCaul is running for reelection this year and has no primary challenger. Voters in Tuesday’s Democratic primary will choose between Shannon Hutcheson, Pritesh Gandhi, and McCaul’s 2018 opponent Mike Siegel. The former Austin city attorney came within five points of McCaul’s tally last time, but Siegel’s primary opponents have benefited from concerns that the general electorate will find him economically too far left. All three Democrats have nonetheless run as steadfast cultural liberals. Hutcheson, an employment lawyer, has the endorsement of the pro-abortion EMILY’s List. Gandhi, a physician, has the backing of 314 Action, a group opposed to the Trump administration’s policy on climate change and other issues. Both Hutcheson and Gandhi have significantly out-raised Siegel as of their latest campaign finance reports two weeks ago.

McCaul has so far benefited from the Democrats’ contest; he’s leading all of them financially with $1,650,700 raised and $892,879 on hand as of February 12th. But after his opposition picks their nominee, they’ll likely close ranks posthaste. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began ballyhooing plans to target the congressman’s seat over a year ago. Media attacks on McCaul by that committee go back at least to last autumn. But McCaul judges the Democrats too starry-eyed about their chances.

“I know they think this district is competitive, but I really think the last election was a bit of a fluke,” he said. “It was the top-of-the-ticket, straight-party voting that hurt a lot of us down-ballot. That had nothing to do with who my opponent was—nobody knew who my opponent was….”

The evidence bolsters his view. Since Democrat Beto O’Rourke marked himself certifiable last September by declaring “hell yes” he would confiscate currently legal firearms, it’s easy to forget how his relative youth and pseudo-moderation got him close to unseating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Left-leaning millennials and other infrequent voters who showed up to back O’Rourke appeared to be decisive in numerous GOP losses and to have made several wins, including McCaul’s, much narrower.

“I do think 2020’s going to be a totally different story,” he said, “because [Republican voters] are going to come out for the president. We’re already seeing that energy right now. And particularly if [the Democrats’] nominee is somebody like Bernie Sanders who is a far-left socialist, there’ll be a very stark contrast between the two parties.”

McCaul is nevertheless prepared for the toughest scenario. He has a teeming, diverse volunteer base that includes many college and high school students. His door-to-door operation was the first among GOP congressional campaigns to commence for the 2020 cycle; they’ve visited about 70,000 households so far. Digital ads urging his reelection have begun as well.

“I’m feeling pretty good about this, but we’re not taking anything for granted.”

TOPICS: Government; Local News; Politics; Society
KEYWORDS: blogpimp; elections; houston; michaelmccaul; texas

1 posted on 03/09/2020 4:24:31 AM PDT by The Houston Courant
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