|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Texas's 16th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Silvestre Reyes|
|Succeeded by||Veronica Escobar (Elect)|
|Member of the El Paso City Council|
from the 8th district
June 1, 2005 – June 27, 2011
|Preceded by||Anthony Cobos|
|Succeeded by||Cortney Niland|
|Born||Robert Francis O'Rourke|
September 26, 1972
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
Amy Hoover Sanders (m. 2005)
|Education||Columbia University (BA)|
Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (/
A native of El Paso, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 by defeating incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary that year. The district includes most of El Paso County. Prior to his election to Congress, O'Rourke was on the El Paso City Council from June 2005 to June 2011.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Music career
- 3 Business career (1995–2005)
- 4 El Paso City Council (2005–2011)
- 5 U.S. House of Representatives (2012–present)
- 6 2018 Senate campaign
- 7 Future career
- 8 Political views
- 9 Personal life
- 10 Publications
- 11 Note
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Early life and education
Robert Francis O'Rourke was born on September 26, 1972, at Hotel Dieu Hospital in El Paso to Pat Francis O'Rourke and his second wife Melissa Martha O'Rourke née Williams. A fourth-generation Irish American, his family always called him "Beto" (a common Spanish nickname for first names ending in "-berto") initially to distinguish him from his namesake grandfather. His mother was the owner of a high-end furniture store, and is the stepdaughter of Fred Korth, Secretary of the Navy under President John F. Kennedy. His father served in El Paso as County Commissioner and then County Judge.[a] He was a political associate of former Texas Governor Mark White, and served as the state chairman of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign. A long-time Democrat, he switched parties in 1991 and ran an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Congress.
O'Rourke attended Carlos Rivera and Mesita Elementary schools. In 1988 after spending two years at El Paso High School, he enrolled in Woodberry Forest School, an all-male boarding school in Madison County, Virginia.  In-between graduating high school and starting college in 1991, he was a summer congressional intern in the Capitol Hill office of U.S. Congressman Ron Coleman. O'Rourke attended Columbia University where in his junior year he co-captained Columbia's heavyweight rowing crew. He graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature. He is fluent in Spanish.
On May 19, 1995, O'Rourke along with his friends set off an alarm when they snuck under the fence at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Physical Plant, and were arrested by UTEP Police Department on burglary charges. He stayed in jail overnight and made bail the following day. Prosecutors dropped charges against O'Rourke and his friends in February 1996 after UTEP decided on not pressing charges. O'Rourke was arrested, after a crash on Interstate 10 in Anthony, Texas, at 3:00 a.m. on September 27, 1998, for driving while intoxicated (DWI), but the charges were dismissed in October 1999 after he completed a court-recommended DWI program. He has acknowledged and taken responsibility for his arrests since the beginning of his public life.
On July 3, 2001, O'Rourke's father was riding his bicycle along the shoulder of Pete Domenici Highway when he was struck from behind by a vehicle, throwing him 70 feet (21 m) causing severe head injuries; he was pronounced dead at the scene. Beto delivered the eulogy during the funeral service at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
After being introduced to the band Bad Brains as a teen, he developed a love for punk music. He, along with two friends from El Paso named Mike Stevens and Arlo Klahr, began to learn to play instruments (O'Rourke played bass), and by the beginning of his freshman year at Columbia in 1991, the trio recruited drummer Cedric Bixler-Zavala (eventual vocalist for At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta), forming the band Foss. Bixler-Zavala recalls O'Rourke and Klahr introducing him to a zine called Book Your Own Fucking Life, a primer on how to schedule your own gigs without an agent. During their summers they toured the US and Canada, at one point garnering the support of the artist who would eventually be known as Feist. The group released a self-titled demo and a 7" record, "The El Paso Pussycats", on Western Breed Records in 1993. The album was named for a defunct show about an all-female band of crimefighters.
Business career (1995–2005)
Following college, O'Rourke worked as a live-in nanny for a family in Manhattan, then at Hedley's Humpers as an art mover, before working with his uncle at a startup Internet service provider. During this time, he fell into a depression, unsure of what to do with his life. However, his friends Stevens and Klahr (along with his friend from Columbia University, David Guinn) joined him in New York, and they rented and renovated an inexpensive 2,000-square-foot factory loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Interested in the publishing industry, he found a job as a proofreader at H. W. Wilson Company in the Bronx, and wrote short stories and songs in his free time. He began to miss his family and lifestyle in El Paso, and returned to the city in 1998.
After coming home, O'Rourke wanted to tackle the "brain-drain" of El Paso, or the exodus of youth because of lack of opportunity. The following year, he co-founded Stanton Street Technology, an Internet services and software company that develops websites and software. His wife, Amy, operates the business as of March 2017. For a few years, the company also published an online (and briefly print) newspaper, also called Stanton Street, that O'Rourke modeled on alternative periodicals like The Village Voice and New York Press. O'Rourke was involved with civic organizations and nonprofit groups such as El Paso's Rotary Club chapter, United Way branch, and Center Against Sexual and Family Violence. He also sat on the boards of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and of the Institute for Policy and Economic Development at UTEP.
El Paso City Council (2005–2011)
During his childhood, his father would often bring him along to meet people at campaign stops and other political events which O'Rourke later described, “In some ways, I really hated it... I was an awkward and shy kid, so it was the last thing I wanted to do, but now I can look back and bless my experience in it.” As an adult he has volunteered for the campaigns of several local politicians including José Rodríguez 2002 reelection as El Paso County Attorney and Eliot Shapleigh 2002 and 2006 reelections as Texas State Senator. O'Rourke was inspired politically after the successful 2001 mayoral run of Ray Caballero, whose platform promoted the idea that El Paso was great and should expect greatness of itself—ideas O'Rourke's own father had espoused as well. When Caballero failed to get re-elected, however, O'Rourke—along with Susie Byrd, attorney Steve Ortega, and former Caballero staffer Veronica Escobar—considered entering public service, and started to discuss grassroots strategies with the goals of improving urban planning, creating a more diversified economy with more highly skilled jobs, and ending systemic corruption among city leadership. O'Rourke initially considered running for county judge, but his friends persuaded him to run for city council instead. In mid-2005, O'Rourke ran for the El Paso City Council, running on a platform of downtown development and border reform.
O'Rourke, Byrd, and Ortega all ran for office and all won; they came to be collectively referred to as "The Progressives." O'Rourke defeated two-term incumbent City Councilman Anthony Cobos 57 percent to 43 percent. O'Rourke is one of the youngest representatives ever to have served on the City Council. In 2007, he won re-election to a second term, defeating Trini Acevedo 70 percent to 30 percent. During his first term, he backed a development plan that would convert a depressed area of El Paso into a business district, including an arena, major retailers, and an arts walk. The initiative faced opposition, principally from small businesses and Chicano activists who did not want the historic El Segundo Barrio neighborhood gentrified. O'Rourke responded with an on-foot campaign to residents of the neighborhood and a series of meetings with local business leaders to hear concerns; the effort was met with a controversial mix of support and cynicism. An El Paso activist initiated a failed recall campaign against O'Rourke, and downtown property owners filed two ethics complaints against him for conflict of interest, which investigators dismissed. Ultimately, the redevelopment plans were only partially realized.
In January 2009, O'Rourke sponsored a resolution calling for a "comprehensive examination" of the War on Drugs and "the repeal of ineffective marijuana laws". The resolution, which was unanimously supported by his colleagues on the El Paso City Council, was vetoed by then-Mayor John Cook and spurred a larger national discussion on the topic. He told reporters that the reason he decided to speak up about what he called the failed war on drugs was the thousands of people who have been killed in the drug war in the adjoining city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. "I hope it has all had its intended effect of starting the national discussion of the wisdom of the war on drugs […] and probably more importantly, helping to bring about a better solution than the status quo, which has led to the terror and tragedy in Juarez."
U.S. House of Representatives (2012–present)
In 2012, O'Rourke filed for the Democratic primary against the eight-term Silvestre Reyes to represent Texas's 16th congressional district. The primary was seen as the real contest in the deeply Democratic, Latino-majority district. Byrd ran O’Rourke's field operation and Escobar was head of communication. O'Rourke took 50.5 percent of the vote, just a few hundred votes above the threshold required to avoid a runoff against Reyes. He was contrasted with Reyes in his support for LGBT rights and drug liberalization. His campaign was largely on foot, and he reportedly knocked on 16,000 doors. He defeated his Republican opponent, Barbara Carrasco, in the general election with 65 percent of the vote. Upon O'Rourke's election, the district was no longer represented in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a 26-member group established in 1976, because he lacks Hispanic heritage. As the district was 80 percent Hispanic with a 77.6 percent Hispanic voting-age, some officials, including David Austin, the El Paso-based border representative for the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition, argued that he should be permitted to join. For his part, O’Rourke said he respected the caucus's bylaws.
As a Congressman, he has held at least one town hall meeting every month. In March 2013, O'Rourke and Republican Steve Pearce of New Mexico introduced the Border Enforcement Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act, legislation proposed to establish an ombudsman within the Department of Homeland Security that would investigate allegations of violence and civil-rights violations by CBP, create a commission that would overview the agency's policies and provide insight on how to spend its $18 billion annual budget, increase the training required for officers and agents, and establish protocols under which CBP would be required to report deaths at the border or agents' use of force. He co-sponsored the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, which was enacted in 2014. Notably, Section 506 allowed the US Customs and Border Protection to enter into public-private partnerships with local entities to help fund overtime pay to customs officers at ports of entry, which helped fund the personnel to lower wait times at the border. El Paso was one of five cities chosen to participate in the program.
During his bid for re-election in the fall of 2014, O'Rourke donated at least $28,000 from his own campaign funds to fellow Democratic candidates for House seats. O'Rourke was re-elected in 2014 with 67 percent of the vote.
In November 2014, O'Rourke opposed Obama using an executive action to bypass Congress in order to spare approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, saying "the motive is noble, but the means are really hard to stomach."
In June 2016, O'Rourke endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, being one of the last Democratic congressmen to support her during the primary. As a sitting member of Congress, O'Rourke was a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention. In October 2015, O'Rourke announced his bid for a third term in 2016. He won the Democratic primary and defeated his Green and Libertarian opponents in the general election. When Nancy Pelosi faced a leadership challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, O'Rourke backed Ryan. O'Rourke said that he believed in term limits, and therefore that it was time for new leadership. Personally, he has given himself a term limit in the House, and he promised not to serve any more than 12 years in the Senate if elected.
In 2017, the congressman, along with Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Eric Swalwell of California, sponsored the American Families United Act, which promoted the idea that US citizens have the right to sponsor their spouses for legal immigration.
- Committee on Armed Services
- Committee on Veterans' Affairs
2018 Senate campaign
As O'Rourke was considering entering the 2018 Senate race, political experts considered him the "longshot" candidate. Ben Terris of The Washington Post said he was suffering from a "bug" causing "mass delusions that the old rules of politics no longer apply." He asked, "Can a Democrat really win in this deeply red state—against Cruz, who will be running one of the best-financed campaigns in the country? And can he do so on a positive message about Mexicans in an era when calling them rapists helped make a man president?" Texans haven’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. On March 31, 2017, O'Rourke formally announced his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by incumbent Republican Party member Ted Cruz. In March 2018, O'Rourke became the Democratic Party nominee, winning 61.8 percent of the primary vote.
O'Rourke campaigned in all of Texas's 254 counties, sometimes drawing large crowds and sometimes speaking to as few as 15 or 20 people. He said that he planned to run a positive campaign, not focused on President Trump or Ted Cruz, although his political positions may be seen as a direct criticism of them. O'Rourke ran his campaign without professional pollsters or consultants and instead relied on volunteers, many of whom had no experience in running a political campaign. The campaign also employed the use of mass text messages to constituants. A large part of his campaign strategy hinged on his online presence. According to the 2018 third-quarter report from the FEC, his campaign spent US$7.3 million on digital advertising alone (in contrast with Cruz's $251,000). His first ad was filmed on an iPhone. He also posted to various social media platforms daily (including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), and livestreamed his activities while traveling the state, such as skateboarding in a Whataburger parking lot, washing clothes at a laundromat, and "blockwalking" in his constituents' neighborhoods. He encouraged supporters to post selfies they had taken with him to their social media. Other videos, taken by persons outside of his campaign, also went "viral," including his position on NFL players "taking a knee" and police brutality against unarmed black men.
Some supporters say that O'Rourke's "promise of compassion" more than any specific policy positions has drawn their support for him.
O'Rourke pledged not to accept PAC contributions for his Senate campaign. He raised $2 million within the first three months, mostly from small donations. During the campaign, PolitiFact rated his claim of not taking PAC money as "true". He received his first major organizational endorsement from End Citizens United in June 2017, which found that he had raised triple the funds of Cruz without accepting corporate special interest money. In the most recently reported quarter, he raised $10.4 million to Cruz's $4.6 million, with each candidate having raised $23 million by September 1. O'Rourke raised more than $38 million in the third quarter, three times Cruz's totals for the same period. It is the most raised in a U.S. Senate race in history. According to his campaign, the donations came from 802,836 individual contributions, mostly from Texas. When asked if he would share the funds with Democrats in other races, he declined, saying that he wanted to honor "the commitment that those who've contributed to this campaign have made to me."
The first of three scheduled debates with O'Rourkes's Republican opponent Ted Cruz took place on September 21, 2018. The candidates disagreed sharply on every topic of discussion including gun rights, immigration, marijuana legalization, the "take a knee" controversy, and other issues including the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. During the debate, O'Rourke was asked if he had fled the scene of his DWI arrest in 1998. He said he had not, admitted the incident was a "terrible mistake," and talked about the importance of taking advantage of second chances. At the close of the debate, the moderator asked them to "say something nice about each other." O'Rourke praised Cruz's parenting. Cruz returned the compliment, but then went on to compare O'Rourke to Bernie Sanders, saying he "admired [his] willingness to stand up for socialist beliefs and high taxes even though he knew it must be unpopular." O'Rourke replied, "True to form." Analysts opined that Cruz came off as more experienced and aggressive, while O'Rourke won over the crowd.
Cruz declined to participate in the third, town hall-style debate for CNN held on October 18, 2018. O'Rourke agreed to attend the town hall meeting, moderated by Dana Bash, alone. During the meeting, O'Rourke said he did not foresee himself running for President because of having young children. He said he regretted calling Cruz "Lyin' Ted" (a nickname given to the senator by President Trump) as it went against his commitment not to run a negative campaign. He confirmed that, if the opportunity presented itself, he would vote to impeach and indict Trump. He once again defended his Spanish nickname against accusations of cultural appropriation.
On October 19, the Houston Chronicle announced its endorsement of O'Rourke: "With eyes clear but certainly not starry, we enthusiastically endorse Beto O'Rourke for U.S. Senate. The West Texas congressman's command of issues that matter to this state, his unaffected eloquence and his eagerness to reach out to all Texans make him one of the most impressive candidates this editorial board has encountered in many years. Despite the long odds he faces – pollster nonpareil Nate Silver gives O'Rourke a 20 percent chance of winning – a "Beto" victory would be good for Texas, not only because of his skills, both personal and political, but also because of the manifest inadequacies of the man he would replace. The Chronicle expressed criticism of Ted Cruz, who they endorsed when he ran for the Senate six years before, saying he has shown "little interest in addressing the needs of his fellow Texans during his six years in office." On October 25, Dallas Morning News endorsed O'Rourke. After commenting on the divisive climate in politics, the paper said, "O’Rourke is the stronger candidate. In conducting his campaign, he has displayed a demeanor that offers respect for each person and a humbleness that will allow him to open the door to working with those who hold political views different from his." On October 26, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which serves the notably conservative Fort Worth and Tarrant County, endorsed O'Rourke, saying, "Only O’Rourke seems interested in making deals or finding middle ground. That is why the El Paso Democrat would make the best senator for Tarrant County’s future, and the future of Texas.".
Singer and activist Willie Nelson announced his support for O’Rourke and held a rally for him on September 29 in Austin, Texas. In a statement, Nelson said, "My wife Annie and I have met and spoken with Beto and we share his concern for the direction things are headed. Beto embodies what is special about Texas, an energy and an integrity that is completely genuine.” At the end of the rally, Nelson debuted his new election-inspired song "Vote 'Em Out". A few hours before the polls closed, Beyonce posted a picture of herself on social media wearing a "Beto for Senate" baseball cap with the caption, "I’m feeling grateful for everyone before me who fought so hard to give us all the right to have a voice." Other celebrity endorsements included Khalid, Aaron Jones, Eva Longoria, LeBron James, Jim Carrey, Travis Scott, Ellen DeGeneres, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Kelly Rowland.
Polls and news coverage
A September 18, 2018, a Quinnipiac poll based on phone interviews put Cruz 9 percentage points ahead of O’Rourke among likely voters, but a September 19 Ipsos online poll done in conjunction with Reuters and the University of Virginia showed O'Rourke leading Cruz by 2 percentage points. The Ipsos poll also questioned respondents about their major concerns; Republicans reported immigration as their major concern while Democrats reported healthcare. Questioned regarding their likelihood of voting in the midterm elections, more Democrats than Republicans reported the likelihood that they would turn out. Ipsos Vice President Chris Jackson said that this was interesting (since Republicans usually have the momentum advantage in Texas), and that "it demonstrates how Democrats are mobilized. This election is going to be really competitive and its going to be very hard fought." Going into the third debate on October 18, 2018, a CNN poll, conducted by SSRS, showed Cruz leading the campaign 52 percent to 45 percent among likely voters.
The media made comparisons between O'Rourke's Senate campaign and Obama's 2008 campaign for President, drawing parallels between their charismatic speaking styles, optimistic tones, and the nationwide attention their campaigns generated. Peter Hamby of Vanity Fair said that the energy of O'Rourke's rallies felt a lot like those of Obama in 2007.
Despite his loss, his campaign is credited with the election of several "down-ticket" candidates of the Democratic party, colloquially referred to as the "Beto effect". For example, Republican judges lost control of the Third Court of Appeals and the Fifth Court of Appeals in Texas. Of the 150 state House seats, 12 formerly Republican seats were taken by Democrats, as well as two of the state’s 31 state Senate seats. Over 4 million voters turned out for O'Rourke, in contrast with the 1.6 million voters in the previous 2014 midterm and the 3.9 million in the 2016 presidential election.
There have been growing calls for O'Rourke to run for the 2020 presidential election. Even prior to the midterm elections, The New Republic asserted that O'Rourke's Senate campaign was actually the beginning of a bid for the 2020 presidency, despite calling such assertions an "act of journalistic hedging," or a justification for the media extensively covering a candidate that is predicted to lose his race. Many national and international media outlets sent representatives to cover his senate campaign, including Vanity Fair, Town and Country, Spin, GQ, Buzzfeed, Yahoo! News, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Time, the Washington Post, the The Guardian, Bloomberg News, and the BBC. Democratic strategist Maria Cardona has said that he "has name recognition, a widely successful fundraising operation, a young fresh face with a sprinkling of woke, a cool persona, a new perspective, he speaks Spanish and would be an exciting and upbeat candidate." Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist based in Texas said of O'Rourke, "He has a bit of a star quality to him. People in Texas were mesmerized and moved by him," adding, "The fact that he lost by 3 percent [sic] is impressive." Jim Geraghty of the National Review, however, said that it's more likely that he will fare the same as Victor Morales, a school teacher who won the Democratic Senate nomination in 1996 and became a media "phenomenon," only to lose to the incumbent Republican nominee, Phil Gramm, and effectively leave politics. However, Democratic strategist (and former senior aide to John Kerry) David Wade compared O’Rourke’s current momentum with that of Obama after his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, saying, "You can’t guarantee that these moments last forever. Moments change. Political demand signals change." Wade also believes O'Rourke is on the "shortlist" of Vice Presidential candidates. O'Rourke has repeatedly asserted that he has no intentions to run, telling MSNBC, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That’s, I think, as definitive as those sentences get." That said, many media outlets took his blog post on November 15 as a allegory for a presidential bid. In it, he related his morning jog from the Capitol building to the White House, with a stop at the Lincoln Memorial, a possible allusion to another politician who failed to win a Senate election, only to then win his bid for the presidency.
Other analysts have suggested that O'Rourke run again for the other Senate seat in 2020.
Political analysts consistently classify O'Rourke as a progressive or liberal Democrat. Although O'Rourke is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, a congressional member organization that is described as moderate or centrist, he does not hold a leadership position in the group or any of its seven task forces. The non-partisan National Journal gave O'Rourke a composite ideology of 85 percent liberal and 15 percent conservative in 2013. Describing himself, O'Rourke has said that he does not know where he falls on the political spectrum, and he has sponsored bipartisan bills as well as broken with his party on issues like free trade. GovTrack places Representative O'Rourke near the ideological center of the House Democrats, being to the right of some and to the left of others; the American Civil Liberties Union gave him an 88-percent rating, while the United States Chamber of Commerce, a more fiscally conservative group, gave him a 47-percent rating. According to FiveThirtyEight, which tracks Congressional voting records, O'Rourke has voted in line with President Trump's position on legislation 28.7 percent of the time as of August 2018.
Before he was elected to city council he joined neighborhood and community efforts to stop the re-permitting of the local ASARCO copper smelter, and once he was on city council he made several efforts to ensure that the copper smelter did not re-open.
O'Rourke supports efforts to combat global warming. He supports putting a price on carbon emissions and wants to substantially increase the use of renewable energy. He has been a vocal critic of the Trump Administration's elimination of greenhouse gas regulations and the shrinking of the budget for environmental projects.
O'Rourke has introduced legislation to establish a national monument at Castner Range, near El Paso and successfully included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act to protect the area, which includes a historic military training facility.
Business and the economy
O'Rourke supports stronger antitrust laws to break up monopolies which he believes "stifle competition and innovation". He promotes industry and business regulations meant to promote competition, help the economy to grow, and protect consumers. He believes, "We must connect those out of work with the high value jobs being created right here in Texas by investing in the training, certification and apprenticeship programs that make it possible." He differs sharply from Cruz in that he has received high scores from labor unions with lifetime and yearly position scores of 90–100 percent from the AFL-CIO to a 2017 Cruz score of nine percent, and a 95 percent lifetime score from AFSCME to a zero percent for Cruz.
O'Rourke is in favor of increasing federal aid to public schools in low-income communities. He believes that teachers and local education officials should have more autonomy in setting classroom standards with a reduction of emphasis on "arbitrary, high-stakes tests".
Allegheny College bestowed the 2018 Prize for Civility in Public Life to O'Rourke together with Will Hurd, a Texas Republican. In March 2017, facing snowstorm induced flight cancellations O’Rourke and Hurd, both stuck in San Antonio, needed to get back to Washington for a House vote. They rented a car and embarked on a 1,600-mile drive that they captured on Facebook Live. O'Rourke and Hurd have worked collaboratively on important legislation since the road trip.
O'Rourke favors the decriminalization of possession and sale of small amounts of cannabis. In 2011, O'Rourke co-authored a book, Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico, which in part argues for an end to the prohibition on marijuana. He has called for the arrest records of individuals sentenced for possession of small amounts of cannabis to be expunged. During the 2018 Senate campaign, O'Rourke's opponent, Ted Cruz, falsely claimed that O'Rourke sought to legalize heroin; what he had actually called for in 2009 was an "honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics".
O'Rourke has held monthly veterans town hall meetings since he was elected in 2013. After hearing about long wait times, especially regarding mental health, he carried out his own local survey of veterans, which showed wait times far exceeding what the VA was reporting. To try to better meet veteran's needs, O'Rourke and others worked to establish a new program at the El Paso VA designed to care for military related health issues within the hospital while using community clinics or medical facilities in the area for more standard medical needs.
O'Rourke co-sponsored the bipartisan bill H.R. 1604, the Veterans' Mental Health Care Access Act, with Republican Congressmen Tom MacArthur, which expanded options for veterans seeking mental health care to non-VA facilities. O'Rourke serves on both the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees military installations such as Fort Bliss, headquartered in El Paso.
Criminal justice reform
In an essay he wrote for Houston Chronicle he repeated a common refrain of his campaign, that "Harris County Jail is the largest provider of mental health services in our state," and quoted the statistic that "the jail has more people receiving psychiatric treatment every day than the nine state mental hospitals in Texas combined." He proposed that politicians work to eliminate private, for-profit prisons, end the "war on drugs," stop using mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenses, end cash bail that disproportionately affects those unable to pay bail with longer jail sentences, and provide reentry programs to reduce recidivism for non-violent criminals.
O'Rourke voted against the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, which made a permanent prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortions and made reforms to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to prohibit qualified health plans from including coverage for abortions.[non-primary source needed] He has a lifetime score of 100 percent from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and a rating of 100 percent from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
O'Rourke told the Dallas Voice that he called marriage equality a core civil rights issue during his House primary campaign. While on the El Paso City Council, O'Rourke led a successful fight to overturn the domestic partnership ban. He was a co-sponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2013 (H.R. 3135).
Regarding healthcare, O'Rourke has expressed support for single-payer legislation to achieve universal health coverage, but has released a statement saying he's critical of John Conyers' Medicare For All bill (HR 676) for not allocating funds toward for-profit healthcare providers. He supports stabilization of the insurance markets to improve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He also supports the expansion of Medicaid and is a co-sponsor of the Medicare-X Choice Act of 2017.
O'Rourke has spoken out against racial inequality. He supports the football players who have taken part in the "Take a knee" protests. Speaking in a video that went viral, O'Rourke said he believes there is "nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere or any place." He has also lamented the fact that despite being arrested twice in his youth, he was able to take advantage of a second chance, chances that are often "denied to too many of our fellow Texans, particularly those who don’t look like me or have access to the same opportunities that I did." In September 2018, Cruz posted to Twitter a video of O'Rourke in a Dallas church, largely attended by African-Americans, speaking out against the killing of Bothem Shem Jean, an unarmed black man in his own home, by an off-duty police officer. In the video, the crowd gave the speech a standing ovation, and the video served to bolster O'Rourke's standing nationally, going viral and receiving wide praise. Political analysts wondered if Cruz's choice to post the video was a tactical error, or a dog whistle to racist members of his base.
O'Rourke denounced the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem as "provocative". He supports a two-state solution and believes that the U.S. could best support a peaceful settlement by urging Israel to discontinue settlements in the West Bank and assist the Palestinian Authority to negotiate in good faith and recognize Israel's right to exist.
In July 2018, O'Rourke said that Trump's performance while attending the 2018 Russia–United States summit in Helsinki warranted impeachment. Addressing the Trump–Putin joint press conference of July 16, he said standing "on stage in another country with the leader of another country who wants to and has sought to undermine this country, and to side with him over the United States—if I were asked to vote on this I would vote to impeach the president".
O'Rourke favors comprehensive immigration reform. As early as 2012, he asserted that his experience living on the border gave him "a strong understanding of immigration's impact on our community," calling El Paso "an Ellis Island to Latin America for more than 150 years," and spoke against 'militarizing' the border. O'Rourke opposed Trump's decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which granted temporary stay to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. O'Rourke said it is a "top priority" to protect DREAMers. In October 2016, he gave a TEDx talk about his views on immigration titled, 
He has criticized President Donald Trump's rhetoric on immigration, saying: "[Trump is] constantly stoking anxiety and fear about Mexicans, immigrants and the border with Mexico. Unfortunately this President takes another step into a dark world of fear, isolation and separation." In June 2018, O'Rourke led protests in Tornillo, Texas, to protest the Trump administration family separation policy which involved the separation of children of immigrant families. The city is located just miles from the Rio Grande, the river that creates the border of the United States and Mexico in the state of Texas. The Trump administration had created a "tent-city" in Tornillo, where separated children were being held without their parents. O'Rourke called this practice "Un-American" and the responsibility of all Americans.
Ted Cruz asserted in 2018 that O'Rourke wanted "open borders and wants to take our guns". PolitiFact found that Cruz's claims were "false", noting that O'Rourke had "not called for opening the borders or for government agents to take guns from law-abiding residents".
On the evening of June 22, 2016, O'Rourke participated in the sit-in in the House of Representatives that attempted to force a vote on gun control legislation. When the Republicans ordered C-SPAN to turn off its normal coverage of the chamber, O'Rourke and Representative Scott Peters transmitted images by cell phone to social media for C-SPAN to broadcast.
He supports universal background checks for gun purchases. On March 7, 2018, O'Rourke told Alisyn Camerota of CNN: "We have a great tradition and culture of gun ownership and gun safety for hunting, for sport, for self-defense... I think that can allow Texas to take the lead on a really tough issue, which the country is waiting for leadership and action on." He has called for a complete ban on assault rifles.
O'Rourke married Amy Hoover Sanders, the daughter of Louann and William Sanders, at her parents' ranch in Lamy, New Mexico, on September 24, 2005. William Sanders is a real estate developer who managed a real estate portofolio estimated at $20 billion by Bloomberg News. Louann Sanders is the director of education development for the La Fe Community Development Corporation and executive director of the La Fe Preparatory charter school.
The couple, with their three children live in El Paso's Sunset Heights area in a Henry Trost designed mission-style house reportedly where General Hugh Scott and Pancho Villa met in 1915. O'Rourke is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. He is a fan of bands Aisling & Arlo and Sleepercar.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Beto O'Rourke|
- Representative Beto O'Rourke official U.S. House website
- Beto O'Rourke for Senate
- Beto O'Rourke at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Beto leading "Bike-To-Work Week"
- (subscription required)The Bloody Border, Time, April 23, 2009
- Lights, Camera, Mayhem!, Melissa del Bosque Texas Observer, April 17, 2009
| Member of the El Paso City Council
from the 8th district
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Texas
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority