The Texas congressional delegation is poised to lose significant clout on Capitol Hill after the Democrats on Tuesday took control of the U.S. House and Texas voters elected nine new representatives — one-quarter of the state’s 36 members.
All told, Texas Republicans will lose seven committee chairmanships. Three of those — Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Mike Conaway of Midland, chairman of the Agriculture Committee; and Kevin Brady of The Woodland, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — won re-election Tuesday and are likely to become ranking members on those committees.
Lamar Smith of San Antonio and Jeb Hensarling of Dallas announced earlier this year they would not seek re-election, ending their tenures as chairmen of the Science, Space & Technology and Financial Services committees, respectively.They’re being replaced by fellow Republicans — Chip Roy in Smith’s seat and Lance Gooden in Hensarling’s — who both will begin their congressional careers low in the hierarchy of their caucus.
Michael McCaul of Tomball was re-elected but will not be returning to the Homeland Security Committee, which he currently chairs, because of a term limit imposed by GOP House rules.
And Pete Sessions of Dallas — chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which determines the terms of floor debate on legislation — was defeated Tuesday night by Democrat Colin Allred.
The Texas delegation will go from having seven chairmanships to only possibly having one: Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, the current ranking member of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, who announced in a Tuesday night news release she will seek the chairmanship. If she gets it, it would make her the first African-American from Texas and first woman from Texas to chair a committee.
In addition to committee chairs, the Texas delegation also will lose years of seniority. Republican John Culberson, who lost his Houston-area race to Democrat Lizzie Fletcher, is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, an important panel for securing a wide range of federal funds. Culberson’s use of his position on the committee to help secure Hurricane Harvey relief funding was a key issue in his re-election campaign.
Retiring members such as Republicans Joe Barton of Ennis, Sam Johnson of Richardson and Ted Poe of Houston and Democrat Gene Green of Houston have served for years or decades and will be replaced by freshmen who will have little clout when they first get to the Capitol.
Veteran Republicans who are remaining in the delegation could still move up in the ranks over the next two years, but landing a coveted chairmanship will remain out of reach as long as Democrats control the chamber. The Texas Tribune previously reported that Republican Kay Granger of Fort Worth could become top ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee and that McCaul may seek the ranking member position on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
In the U.S. Senate, where Republicans retained control Tuesday night, Texas’ clout remains unchanged. And as Senate Majority Whip, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is the highest-ranking Texas senator since Lyndon Baines Johnson.