Roby: ‘I have cast every vote with the guiding principle that Alabama always comes first’
MONTGOMERY — Congresswoman Martha Roby (AL-02) on Wednesday delivered a public speech and spoke to the media for the first time since announcing that she will not seek reelection to a sixth term in 2020.
Appearing before an overflow, hometown crowd at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues Breakfast, Roby seemed at peace with her decision.
However, in a deeply heartfelt speech differing from her normal central focus on policies and the issues of the day, Roby expressed her continued passion for serving the people of Alabama’s Second Congressional District — and emphasized how appreciative she and her family are that she has been able to serve, starting with her time on the Montgomery City Council.
“I’m just so overwhelmed and grateful. … It’s been 16 years since Riley and I prayerfully considered putting my name on the ballot for the very first time,” she said. “Never, never could we have imagined that by doing so, and by serving on Montgomery City Council, would that prelude us [serving] five terms in the United States House of Representatives.”
Holding back tears, Roby added, “I don’t have the words to adequately express how deeply thankful I am for the confidence that the people of Alabama’s second district have placed in me to represent them … since January 5, 2011.”
She said after much prayer and consideration, it was simply the right time for her family “to close this wonderful chapter” in their life.
Roby then reflected on some of the highlights of her time in Congress thus far, including one overarching common thread.
“Throughout my time in Congress, I have cast every vote with the guiding principle that Alabama always comes first,” she stressed. “Alabama’s priorities have been my priorities, and together we have been able to deliver some accomplishments.”
She outlined that some of her proudest achievements include work done to support the military, veterans, the agricultural industry, the unborn and general constituent services.
One of Roby’s legacies in Congress will certainly include helping bring the F-35 to Montgomery. She celebrated this in her remarks, as did Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Willie Durham when introducing her.
“[T]he River Region’s military footprint continues to lead our nation and our dedicated service members into the future,” Roby lauded, before emphasizing confidence that Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass will continue to play an integral national security role for many years to come.
On her pro-life beliefs, a choked-up Roby told the crowd, “By now, I hope it’s no secret to anybody in this room that I am unapologetically pro-life. And I’ve used this platform that’s been given to me in Congress to speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Roby said she will continue fighting tirelessly for these priorities and others until her very last second in Congress and added that America’s immigration system is something she is particularly focused on until the end of her term.
“We face some real challenges in a divided Congress,” Roby acknowledged, before going into a list of current and upcoming priorities.
“For starters, I believe it is absolutely critical that Congress address our nation’s broken immigration system,” she remarked. “And you all know, I’ve said it since 2010 — we absolutely must secure our border.”
She then said continuing to fund the nation’s defense adequately and on-time remains a priority for her. Thanks to the historic leadership of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Congress last year passed the defense appropriations package through regular order and on-time for the first time in a decade. Roby wants to continue this type of important appropriations work, especially for the military, as she serves on the House Appropriations Committee. She also stressed that she wants to avoid any more government shutdowns, as they harm the Department of Defense and federal employees and contractors in her district and throughout the state.
“I believe that our military, our farmers, our veterans and so many others who depend on certainty with government funding deserve nothing less than for us to do our job — and do it on time,” Roby added.
The congresswoman then stated that passing a federal infrastructure plan remains a priority for her, saying she wants to work with the Trump administration and her colleagues in Congress to accomplish this bipartisan goal. Roby said roadway, railway and waterway infrastructure is critical for the economy, including ports such as the Port of Mobile.
“We have not done enough in this country to properly maintain our infrastructure,” she said.
‘There are retirements every cycle’
Following her remarks, Roby spoke at length to members of the press, answering a bevy of questions, including several slightly different variations of why she is not running for reelection. She dismissed speculation from national — and some in-state — commentators that her decision was indicative of the current political climate.
Roby underlined that her relationship with the Trump administration is good and that her decision had nothing to do with being in the minority in the House.
“It wouldn’t matter who was president, who was speaker of the House,” she added of her decision to retire from Congress.
“This happens every election cycle — there are retirements every cycle,” Roby outlined. “I know that the commentators on the news want to make it into something, but I would say for each individual member of Congress, their reason is different [on why they choose to continue serving or not].”
Roby then said that during the 2018 election cycle, she “made it very clear” going into this current term that she was going to be supportive of President Donald Trump and “everything” she could to advance shared priorities.
“When the president is successful, we’re all successful,” she continued. “There are policies that I share, priorities that I share with this administration, and I’ve done everything I can to make sure to get those priorities across the finish line to the president’s desk.”
“I have a good working relationship with the White House. And there are times that I agree, there are times that I disagree. But, again, I want what’s best for the American people,” Roby advised.
Saying she has no specific future political plans, “the one thing” Roby is promising is that her name will not appear on the ballot in 2020.
One call to action that Roby said applies to elected officials and members of the public alike pertains to the diminished level of civil discourse in the country, particularly through social media.
“The way we communicate with each other now, even as opposed to 10 years ago, has created a toxic environment — one in which our civil discourse is the worst that I have ever seen it,” Roby emphasized.
“You can sit on a phone or a computer and you can type out anything you want to say without consequence,” she explained. “You know, there’s a lot of people that I run into from time-to-time — they think that I don’t read their Twitter, but I do. And the way they act to my face when they’re looking in my eyeballs is completely different than what they’re willing to say on social media. So, I just think we all have a responsibility…”
Roby expressed hope that the “pendulum” can swing back the other way as far as discourse goes. She said this is key “if we hope to accomplish anything.”
“Because if we’re shouting down at every single person that doesn’t agree with our politics or our position, we’re never going to get anything done,” Roby lamented. “I mean, I have strong convictions about the things that I believe in, but I’ve got to be willing to listen — to at least try to understand where my colleagues are coming from.”
Asked by an Alabama Media Group reporter whether “President Trump sets the tone for that (the level of discourse),” Roby said the responsibility is shared across party lines and societal roles.
“Well, I think that there’s [negative] discourse on both sides of the aisle,” she responded. “Oftentimes people want to point the finger at one person or one tweet, but I think that there’s plenty of blame to go around in terms of the way we communicate with each other. As leaders, in office, we have even more of the responsibility to choose our words carefully. But I do think that there’s responsibility on both sides of the aisle, and quite frankly, in every household in America.”
You can view a tweet thread from Roby’s appearance here.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn