By Gallagher & Schleicher
You know Chip and Joanna Gaines live in Waco and maybe that Willie Nelson did, but do you recall the most famous ex-Wacoan of all?
We write of Joe Linus Barton, ninth longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, embedded since 1985. A Republican representing Texas’ 6th district, his sphere of influence runs from Genesis Custom Chemical Blending in downtown Ennis, to the parking lots of Arlington, all the way out to Catfish Plantation in Waxahachie.
We come not to parry with Joe, but to praise him — or at least to reintroduce him to those who may have forgotten their prodigal son. He’ll be up for re-election in in 2018 and, with several Democrats lining up to oppose him, it’s not too early to revisit his record in Washington.
For starters, he boldly voted against funding Hurricane Harvey relief. He understands Congress has more important things to worry about, like his HR 3696, the College Football Playoff Act of 2011, a rehash of his HR 7330 from 2008. He earned an Honorable Mention award from CREW — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Granted, it was in their 2011 Most Corrupt Members of Congress report, but an award is an award.
He’s also creative. The Dallas Morning News in February 2010 recognized Barton for his inimitable ability to mix campaign contributions, profitable personal investments and legislation. The Washington Times in 2009 likewise pegged Barton as a financial genius, able to solicit large contributions from large companies for his family foundation, making big public pledges of support to groups like Meals on Wheels — only to be rather stingy when it came time to fulfill those promises. Family man to the end, he put his daughter-in-law Amy on his foundation’s payroll.
Little could classmates at Waco High have guessed that, of 435 members of Congress, only he would inspire a ballad in his honor (hear it at QuidProJoe.com). And let’s not forget Joe was the only member of Congress brave enough (in June 2010) to apologize to BP for the heat it took over what turned out to be merely a billion-dollar, beach-squalor spill of a little Deepwater Horizon oil in four states over 87 days.
Speaking of standing up for what’s right, we can thank Congressman Barton for his 2009 comments in a hearing on renewable energy about wind being “God’s way of balancing heat.” Joe disregarded the perils of global-climate change and temptations of clean-energy jobs in favor of courageously speculating that spinning wind turbines might deplete global wind supplies in a way that makes the planet hotter.
And let every LED light we encounter in the days ahead remind us that hot bulbs will be an experience our grandchildren may never know. When the history of incandescent light bulbs is written, it will be remembered that the Honorable Joe Barton fought the good (losing) fight for the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act. His fondness for inefficiency and excess hot air knows no bounds.
Telling a constituent to “shut up” at a town-hall meeting. Fighting net neutrality rules. Letting a federally paid congressional staffer block his opponent Jana Lynne Sanchez from passing out information at a taxpayer-funded meeting. These are the actions of a congressman who knows the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, rules.
Bills for which Joe Barton is the lead sponsor become law on average about once every three and a half years. Never one to be restrained by age or experience, this is a record only the most junior of his colleagues could match. His HR 2749 in the 101st Congress captured the essence of his tri-decade reign: authorizing transfer of land for a waste water treatment plant.
If you’re trapped in a swamp, look for the alligator with the thickest skin or at least the deepest pockets. Barton is all that and more. You need not fear change so long as he remains in Congress. He even fought his own party over committee chair term-limit rules.
Joe, as the Good Book says, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” We bow before you, a true Goliath among Capitol Hill’s many giants. Many may call you a son of something else, but to us you’ll always be a son of Waco. We wish you all the success you deserve in the upcoming election.
David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, living and working in London, England, and tweeting @TBoneGallagher. David Schleicher is an attorney who splits his time between Waco, DC, and Houston, tweeting @TheContranym. This originally appeared in the October 1, 2017 Waco Tribune-Herald, where they are on the Board of Contributors.