With a leadership scramble looming after Friday’s surprise resignation announcement by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a question arises for the Texas delegation: Will it use its weight to promote one of Texas’ own?
Texas has 25 House Republican members - the largest GOP delegation in Congress - but no one is in any elected leadership job.
Aware of their clout, at least if they stick together, Texas GOP members met Friday for over an hour to go over the prospects for a leadership post, potentially for speaker, majority leader or majority whip.
There are two Texans in the mix: Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, a conservative favorite who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and Rep. Pete Sessions, also of Dallas, who is a Boehner loyalist and the speaker’s hand-picked chairman of the House Rules Committee.
After then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., unexpectedly lost a primary election in 2014, both Sessions and Hensarling were poised to make a run for the job. But Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the majority whip, easily won enough support for Hensarling to forego running and for Sessions to quickly drop out.
You want to know how much each of you terrify Washington? Yesterday, John Boehner was Speaker of the House.
Sen. Ted Cruz at Values Voter conference
Now it is McCarthy, the House majority leader, who is the presumptive heir as speaker. But conservatives, especially in the House Freedom Caucus are looking for a like-minded member to be in leadership.
Neither Hensarling nor Sessions revealed their plans Friday.
“Chairman Hensarling is considering his options and I expect he will have a decision by early next week,” said Sarah Rozier, his spokesperson.
Sessions released a statement praising Boehner: “History will remember him as a devoted public servant and an earnest leader during challenging times, but also times of great accomplishment.” But the son of former FBI Director William Sessions did not show his hand.
Meanwhile, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., is expected to run for majority leader.
Texas members scrambled to make sense of Boehner’s surprise announcement. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is running for president, criticized Boehner to reporters at the annual Values Voter Summit meeting in Washington.
"Presumably he'll land a cushy K Street job, after joining with the Democrats to implement all of President Obama's priorities,” said Cruz. “That is not the behavior one would expect of a Republican speaker of the House."
“While unusual for a speaker to resign midterm, it has happened,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who represents a portion of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. “I am confident the Republican Conference will work through this process and elect a strong conservative to serve as speaker of the House.”
Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, the only Texan who is a member of the Freedom Caucus, did not name names in a statement but made clear that he wanted a strong conservative in leadership.
“America is at an incredibly perilous time in our history; we need bold leadership more than ever, and the speaker now has graciously given us that opportunity,” said Gohmert, who got three votes when he challenged Boehner for speaker in January.
“Due in part to the massive shift in power away from the most accountable representatives of the people to a president and five judges, we have needed leadership with vision for the future that did not continue the downhill slide,” said Gohmert.
Ron Bonjean, a GOP lobbyist and former long-time leadership aide, said: “Speed is what matters in terms of locking up votes.”
Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, who is also among the delegation’s most conservative members, said he, too, was looking for a like-minded leader for the House.
"It is no secret that the speaker and I have sparred on many issues. Having said that, Speaker Boehner did lead during a difficult time under difficult circumstances and I appreciate his service as speaker of the House,” said Weber. “It is now time for the Republican majority to come together, listen to the American people, and redouble our efforts to take back our country."