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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 III of Texas Rising, a continuing series on Texas Republicans. Part I examined the growing clout of the House delegation and Part II delved into the GOP’s weekly lunch.
The Texas GOP’s weekly lunch may be a sacred ritual for most of the state’s 26 congressional Republicans, but two members stand out for not keeping the Thursday Sabbath: Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Steve Stockman.
If a family that eats together stays together, what does it mean that Cruz and Stockman have been absent from a lunch that other Texas Republicans insist is fundamental to the delegation’s identity?
Both Cruz and Stockman have their reasons. Cruz is a senator on the move with a burgeoning national profile. Stockman didn’t want to make things awkward for his colleagues — or himself — during his unsuccessful attempt earlier this year to unseat Sen. John Cornyn in a primary.
Of course, no one is taking attendance, but the Senate presence at the lunch has diminished in general since Kay Bailey Hutchison left Congress.
“Phil Gramm was 100 percent attendance probably,” Rep. Joe L. Barton told CQ Roll Call. “Kay Bailey was pretty close to 100 percent. I’d say Cornyn is probably 75 to 80. And so far this year, Sen. Cruz is maybe 30 to 40 percent, something like that.”
The senators do have a conflicting policy lunch on Thursdays, but Cornyn usually tries to at least walk by the Texas gathering.
“It’s always a challenge to get back,” Cornyn said, but he tries to make it “part of the regular routine.”
When CQ Roll Call asked Cornyn about Cruz regularly missing the lunch, he said: “You’d have to ask him about that.”
We did, and Cruz said he attended “a great many of them.
“The nature of serving in the Senate is that the demands on the schedule are often conflicting and pulling you in multiple directions,” Cruz said. “But the Texas delegation as a whole works together well and I expect will continue to work together well for the benefit of the state of Texas.”
But some House members, even as they tried to defend Cruz’s sporadic attendance, suggested the delegation might work better if the junior senator from Texas broke bread with them more frequently.
“Sen. Cruz, obviously, is new and he’s trying to get his office set up,” Rep. Randy Neugebauer said, more than 15 months after Cruz was sworn in. “And, you know, we’d like to see him a bit more.”