Republican Rep. Tom Rooney Outlines His Hopes For The Next Congress Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., is part of a wave of Congressional Republicans choosing to retire. He speaks with NPR's Ari Shapiro about what he hopes to see, and what he anticipates, in the next Congress.
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Republican Rep. Tom Rooney Outlines His Hopes For The Next Congress

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Republican Rep. Tom Rooney Outlines His Hopes For The Next Congress

Republican Rep. Tom Rooney Outlines His Hopes For The Next Congress

Republican Rep. Tom Rooney Outlines His Hopes For The Next Congress

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Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., is part of a wave of Congressional Republicans choosing to retire. He speaks with NPR's Ari Shapiro about what he hopes to see, and what he anticipates, in the next Congress.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Florida Congressman Tom Rooney's job is not on the line today. He is retiring this year after a decade in the House of Representatives. Rooney joins us now to discuss how his Republican Party is changing and may change further after tonight's election. Welcome. Thanks for joining us.

TOM ROONEY: Thanks, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Predictions are tricky. But how do you expect tonight to go?

ROONEY: Well, I still think that we're going to keep the House. I know that I'm (laughter) - you know...

SHAPIRO: You do?

ROONEY: I do. I think we're going to keep it by just less than a handful of members. But I just cannot believe that with the economy being so strong that people would go in - to use a football analogy - at halftime and change the coach when you're winning the game. But if we do lose the House, then that is certainly a statement - I think - as Mara was just saying, on the president and the turnout and the - you know, the sort of reaction to his first two years even though the economy's good.

SHAPIRO: Your Republican Party has changed in the 10 years that you've been in Congress. And as you have pushed back on some of President Trump's unsubstantiated claims, that position has become less common and less popular. Right? You've said the House Intelligence Committee, on which you serve, has gone off the rails.

ROONEY: Right.

SHAPIRO: Do you think there is a place in the party today for Republicans such as yourself?

ROONEY: I don't know. You know, that's a good question. And, you know, it's certainly one that I think is going to - I think - you know, play itself out especially over the next two years, regardless of if we keep the Congress completely in our control or not. But, you know, growing up under Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, and being a Jack Kemp conservative and the traditional things but not necessarily singing the same tunes that maybe the president was in his election, which oftentimes, especially when you talk about things like entitlement reform, were completely at odds - or free trade and open markets - you just sort of questioned where your place was in the party and in politics.

And so I think that's why you see a lot of more traditional conservatives stepping back just because, especially in a district like mine, you know, Trump is extremely popular. So unless you're willing to hold that banner 100 percent, then people would - will really be angry at you. And so in my case, I think it was just better to let somebody else that was willing to do that take the banner and run with it. And...

SHAPIRO: It sounds like you're saying that whether Republicans are in the majority or the minority next year, the transformation of the GOP into the party of Trump is more or less complete.

ROONEY: It's definitely moving in that direction. I have no idea, Ari, if something changes that, you know, bounces us back to the more traditional GOP ideology that I've grown up to know. But it might never. It might not ever go back to what it was. And so if that's the case, then, you know, I think (laughter) a lot of us have a lot of soul-searching to do. And there's - you know, there's a lot of people that I grew up with in politics that I think are in the same boat, so - you know, as to where we fit in. But we'll see. I think we'll see in the next couple years, especially with the presidential election coming up.

SHAPIRO: So you've described your view of the Republican Party right now. What's your view of Washington politics right now?

ROONEY: Well, I mean, I think it can be summed up, interestingly, by the primary election in Florida, where I live. And that's that, you know, the two people that ran for governor that won the nomination could be seen as the two people of the two extremes. There was two people that were running that were seen as the establishment, more conventional politicians that would be normally seen as an easy favorite. And both of them, on the Republican side and the Democratic side, lost.

So in Washington, it's a mirror of that. I mean, people are retreating to the extremes. And for those people that are more interested in governing and compromising, it just gets harder and harder to make the case back to your base as to why government needs to work rather than why we don't want to burn the other side down, you know. So...

SHAPIRO: Do you see anything that could change that for the better?

ROONEY: I don't know. I think that, you know, obviously when the economy's doing good, and things are moving in a positive direction and people's pocketbooks are happy, you know, it's a lot less likely that somebody's going to want to demand change. Although, when you talk about having record turnout, there's something going on out there today that we have never seen before. And that's a record turnout with people that are for and against what's going on in our government even though the economy is doing well. So it's really hard to decipher, I think, in all my years in politics, how what's going on today is going to play out and mean something different for the future. So this is really weird (laughter).

SHAPIRO: All right. (Laughter) We'll leave it there. Retiring Congressman Tom Rooney, Republican of Florida, thanks for joining us.

ROONEY: Thanks, Ari.

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