Rep. Van Taylor of Plano Is Not Like Other Congress Members as He Works to Be ‘Mr. Bipartisan’

WASHINGTON -- Freshman Rep. Van Taylor of Plano is without question a conservative Republican. But watching him work the House floor, you might not know it, because he spends much of his time working the other side of the aisle.That’s not uncommon in Austin, where Taylor served in the state House and Senate for eight years before heading to Congress. In the Legislature, lawmakers in both parties routinely work together.But in Washington, the two tribes mostly stick to their own kind.“When you turn on the TV and you see a lot of both extremes -- extreme right and extreme left-- what you don’t see are the Democrats and Republicans who are working together...who actually like each other,” said Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., a fellow military veteran. “It helps when you have somebody like Van, not only someone you like professionally but someone you like personally.” Before entering politics, Taylor served in the Marine Corps as an officer for about 10 years and was deployed to Iraq.“You did not get to pick who your lieutenants or commanders were,” Taylor said. “You’re not there asking what their political party is or what they believe. You are simply there to do a job.” After a failed run for a U.S. House seat in 2006, Taylor won a state House seat in 2010. In 2014, he won a seat in the Texas Senate, where he served four years. Then Sam Johnson, now 88, announced his retirement after nearly three decades in Congress. Taylor coasted to victory in the GOP primary, assuring a win in the heavily Republican Collin County-based district.In Austin, lawmakers are assigned desks on the floor of each chamber based on seniority, regardless of party. Taylor’s first Democratic deskmate was Beaumont Rep. Joe Deshotel in 2013. In the U.S. House, there are no assigned seats or desks, and the center aisle marks a clear border.Republicans spend their time to the left, looking out from the rostrum, with Democrats mingling among themselves across the aisle.“The fact that there is a Republican side and a Democrat side on the House floor is something I still can’t quite wrap my head around,” Taylor said about Washington.On each side, though, freshmen and veterans alike tend to claim favorite spots. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, the senior Republican on the powerful Appropriations Committee, sits toward the back of the GOP side with other Texans. Across the aisle, Dallas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson can usually be found in one of the first few rows.Taylor is all over the place.One minute he could be talking with Rep. Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, or sitting next to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a top ally of President Donald Trump. The next he could be on the Democratic side talking with Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state about Medicare for All, or New York Rep. Joseph Morelle, a colleague on the Education and Labor Committee.For Taylor, this is part friendly outreach, part calculation.He understands to get things done you need to work with both sides, especially for Republicans in the House, with Democrats in control. He makes it a point, he says, to spend half his time on the House floor on the Republican side and the other half with Democrats.To keep track, he carries a schedule card in his coat pocket. On the back he list bills that he has co-sponsored with names of the authors. He uses that as a reminder, to help spark a conversation.  Continue reading...

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