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Beto O'Rourke no longer ruling out 2020 presidential run

Beto O'Rourke speaks to his supporters after losing to Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections, in El Paso on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune)

By Julián Aguilar and Patrick Svitek, Texas Tribune

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, said at a town hall in El Paso Monday that he and his wife had "made a decision not to rule anything out."

EL PASO – Beto O'Rourke, coming off a closer-than-expected race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is no longer ruling out a 2020 presidential run.

During his Senate campaign, the El Paso congressman declared he would "not be a candidate for president in 2020" regardless of the outcome. But on Monday, O'Rourke kept the door open to a White House bid during a town hall in El Paso and admitted his resistance to higher office was no longer as unequivocal.

During the town hall, an audience member asked O'Rourke if he was running in 2020. In response, O'Rourke said he is currently focused on spending time with his family and finishing his term in the House, which ends Jan. 3. "And then," O'Rourke added, "Amy and I will think about what we can do next to contribute to the best of our ability to this community."

Speaking with reporters after the event, O'Rourke acknowledged his answer on 2020 had changed from what it was during the Senate race. At the time, O'Rourke said, winning that race was "100 percent of our focus."

"Now that that is no longer possible, we’re thinking through a number of things and Amy and I made a decision not to rule anything out," O'Rourke told reporters. "The best advice I received from people who’ve run for, and won — and run for, and lost — elections like this, is: Don’t make any decisions about anything until you’ve had some time to hang with your family and just be human. And so I am following that advice."

While there was heavy interest in his future plans, O’Rourke also fielded questions about what his plans are during his final weeks in Washington. He reiterated he is fully focused on finishing out his term and tending to unfinished business.

O’Rourke and his U.S. House colleagues return to Washington Tuesday amid President Donald Trump’s threats to shut down part of the government if funding for his long-promised border wall isn’t included in the next round of spending proposals, which must be passed in early December.

“The president really seems intent upon shutting down the government,” O”Rourke said. “I read some of the reporting today [and] members of Congress from both parties — all of them say the last thing we want is a shutdown.”

O’Rourke said one proposal from the U.S. House includes about $5 billion for a barrier, while a bipartisan Senate proposal includes more than $1 billion. But he said he’s confident both parties and chambers can come together to find a consensus to keep the government in operation.

“Despite his comments and his efforts to shut down the government, there seems to be at least the beginning of a consensus that we can avoid that and we can fund, even with — and this is no one’s first choice — a stop-gap funding measure that gets us to a new Congress which will be sworn in on the third of January,” he said.

O’Rourke said he’s also going to spend his remaining weeks in Washington addressing the current immigration crisis that included the tear gassing of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday afternoon.

“This country has the capacity to follow our international obligations and our own laws, which we are so far refusing to do. That’s one thing I am advocating for right now,” he said. “The second is to make sure we are meaningfully engaged in the countries of origin with people who right now feel like they have no choice but to flee some of the most violent places [in the world]."