Houston-area leaders have big hopes and promise bipartisanship as Biden takes office

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The saying goes that all politics is local, but local politicians say the change in Washington, D.C. will have very real impacts right here in Houston.

As President Joe Biden was sworn Wednesday, Houston State Senator Carol Alvarado watched from her East End home with her 93-year-old mother.

"I just think that this is a time we need to put D and R, Red, Blue aside and be one America," she said echoing the call of unity from the new president. "What we will no longer see is an attack on our health care system, the Affordable Care Act."

Local Republicans were also willing to talk about unity, up to a point.

"One thing we know the Biden administration is not going to be is as energy friendly," said Republican State Senator Paul Bettencourt, echoing some of the early attack lines from national Republicans on the Biden administration. "They're clearly canceling the Keystone Pipeline, but that notwithstanding, there's probably going to be a lot more discussion about the health and human services of it, because that's almost 36% of the Texas budget."

Sen. Bettencourt said he was willing to hear out ideas that would bring more federal dollars to Texas in terms of health care and other pandemic-related expenses. While he didn't outright say he would support the expansion of Medicare, it seemed like a possible starting point.

"I'm willing to look at each public policy issue to stand on its own," Bettencourt said.

"I think a lot of what we do in local politics is impacted by the tone that is set at the national level," said Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who is hoping the toned-down rhetoric will help both sides find issues to compromise upon.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she is looking for more federal help in improving our region's infrastructure, support in pandemic relief, and immigration reform.

"We're a county that's 25% immigrant, that's got tens of thousands of DACA recipients, there are very practical policy implications that will come from this change," she said.

"We will see the vaccination rollout revamped, really getting to the people that need it," said Sen. Alvarado. "I'm optimistic about that. I'm optimistic about Biden's plan to shut down COVID-19 and be prepared for any future pandemic."

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