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In the GOP, Texas Is in Charge

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The whispers are mounting that Hensarling, a former conference chairman, could launch a bid for the speaker’s gavel or majority leader.

It takes more than desire to win a leadership race, and it’s unclear whether Hensarling, Sessions or any other Texas Republican has that. But if any Texan did mount a challenge, they’d have a natural constituency.

Asked if there was an unspoken alliance among Texas Republicans regarding leadership elections, Sessions could barely wait for the question to end before answering it.

“We’re stickin’ together because we see the world that way,” he said. “It’s indigenous to us. It’s just the way we are.”

At the end of 2012, when it wasn’t clear that any Texan would be sitting in the GOP’s weekly leadership meeting, the delegation looked poised to raise a stink if Sessions didn’t take the Rules gavel. Speaker John A. Boehner was considering giving the chairmanship to Doc Hastings, R-Wash., but Sessions maneuvered, “joking” with reporters that he might want to stick around for a third term as the head of the NRCC. It was, perhaps, a trite but true message sent to the speaker: Don’t mess with Texas.

No word yet on whether Sessions is up for another battle, but unlike Hensarling, his children are grown — and the long hours and demanding requirements of leadership might not seem as daunting.

Almost every Texas Republican polled agreed that a Texan running for leadership would weigh heavily in their support.

“Absolutely,” said Rep. Kay Granger, who is considered one of the more levelheaded members of the delegation. Pressed on whether a Texan might be running for leadership, she responded with a wry shrug, “It could be.”

The dean of the delegation, Joe L. Barton — who emphatically said “Oh, you bet” when asked if he’d be inclined to back a Texan — unsuccessfully challenged Boehner for minority leader after Republicans lost the majority in 2006. All but “three or four” Texas Republicans, according to Rep. Kenny Marchant, supported Barton. (Marchant said he, Culberson and Sam Johnson were among those for Boehner.)

Barton said no one has broached the topic of leadership elections during the weekly Thursday lunch with Texas Republicans — yet.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., who hasn’t been a fan of Boehner, recently said there was chatter among conservatives about Hensarling running for speaker, particularly after he cut a $1 million check to the NRCC. He noted a speaker has to do a lot of fundraising.

“People like Hensarling have shown they can raise money — and they’re willing to share it,” he said.

Huelskamp said Hensarling is viewed as a “compromise candidate” among many conservatives, noting that he might be one of the few members who could upset the leadership order.

“Well if you got 24 votes in your back pocket,” Huelskamp mused. “I’m not saying he does or he doesn’t.”

Indeed, support might not be monolithic.

Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said Texans are “always going to want to support one of our own in a leadership race.”But he added: “Many of us in the Texas delegation are close to the current leadership, and the speaker particularly, so that could present a difficult choice if that happened.”

Rep. Blake Farenthold agreed, saying, “generally,” Texans support Texans running for leadership, “unless there’s a very good reason not to.”

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