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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.

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.

Republican House members punctuate their $300 suits with gimmicky $3 Texas-themed ties. They sit together on the House floor during votes as a sign of solidarity. And they hold weekly lunches to socialize and celebrate just how Texan they are.

Texas Republicans talk about the state like it’s a different country — it was, they’ll be happy to remind you, once an independent republic. (Rep. John Culberson, the Republican who represents west Houston, said it’s “genetically Texan” to remember that the state was once its own nation.)

But how does a state delegation translate its state pride — state worship, really — into congressional power?

In hallway interviews with more than 20 Texas representatives, Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Gov. Rick Perry, the Lone Star State politicians all insisted there was something special about their state, that the relationships they share with their Texas colleagues go deeper than the bonds in other states, and that because of their unity and because they come from Texas, they are the strongest delegation.

Flexing Their Muscle

With 24 Republican members, Texas has the clout to bend the Republican Conference to its will.

Easily the largest GOP delegation, Texas is poised to add to its collection of committee gavels next year, and, maybe, wage a fight for the upper rungs of House leadership.

Texas holds five of 21 full committee chairmanships already. And next year, with Rep. Mac Thornberry expected to take the gavel of the Armed Services Committee, it could have six chairmen — with K. Michael Conaway also expected to trade his Ethics gavel for the Agriculture Committee.

That’s assuming one of the delegation’s current chairmen, such as Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling or Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, doesn’t snag a spot in leadership first.

The whispers are mounting that Hensarling, a former conference chairman, could launch a bid for the speaker’s gavel or majority leader. He was recently asked whether he might run for leadership at a fundraiser at Carmine’s. Hensarling’s answer? “Next question.”

Sessions, with his two stints as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is also said to be pondering a run for majority whip.

Whether either of them will actually seek a spot is an open question — they might be, as Texans are fond of saying, “all hat and no cattle.”

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