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In Texas GOP 'Family,' Food Is the Tie That Binds

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Barbeque from restaurants like Capital Q Texas BBQ, 707 H Street NW, is a frequent feature of the Texas delegation’s lunch menus.

Loving the state you represent is not a unique phenomenon in Congress. But, as Texas Republicans are just dying to tell you, everything is bigger in the Lone Star State. This is Part II of Texas Rising, a continuing series on Texas Republicans. Part I examined the growing clout of the House delegation, the largest in the GOP.

To understand the bonds among Texas representatives, you have to understand Texas. But you also have to understand another thing: lunch.

Every week, Texas House members gather with their colleagues to share a meal and discuss their issues. The Democrats meet on Wednesdays — a tradition that apparently dates back to former Speaker Sam Rayburn, D-Texas. But while Democrats supply their own lunch for their meeting, the real fun — the real bonding — it seems, happens on Thursdays with the Republicans.

Ever since 1985, when the so-called Texas six-pack came to Congress, Texas Republicans have met on Thursday afternoons for a meal that the dean of the delegation, Joe L. Barton, described as “one of the highlights of the week.”

Barton unofficially leads the Republican lunch, or “kinda kicks things off,” as Rep. Randy Weber put it. (“We pretty much have a roundtable discussion,” Weber said.)

Texas is not the only delegation to meet every week. Many do. The entire Nebraska delegation, for instance, meets every Wednesday morning. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., told CQ Roll Call the Cornhuskers thought it was necessary because they’re a small delegation. “And so a large delegation like Texas, if they do it, that’s a pretty big deal,” Terry said. “For us to do it, that’s just survival.”

Indeed, with the power and size of the Texas delegation, the weekly lunch — or weekly Texas banquet, more accurately — helps bind members together.

The Republican representatives rotate who buys lunch and they change up where they meet. But this much is constant: They try to make the meal as Texan as possible.

They mostly have barbecue (from Hill Country, naturally, because of its Texas roots), but they also enjoy Mexican, burgers and other selections.

Just don’t bring Popeyes chicken. Barton made that mistake once, and he still can’t live it down.

“Yeah, that was out of line,” Rep. Michael McCaul said with a laugh. “We had to gavel him down with that one.”

Kevin Brady, who called the Popeyes “pretty lame, really,” offered a slippery slope indictment of Barton’s selection from the Louisiana kitchen.

“Next thing you know we’ll be eating quiche,” Brady said.

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