Texas is about to take on an outsized role in Donald Trump’s America.
Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico would stretch for hundreds of miles along the Rio Grande River. Rapidly rising Obamacare premiums could soon be cut entirely. And the oil and gas sector, long the lifeblood of Texas’ economy, may see federal regulations slashed.
Texas delivered Trump his largest haul in the Electoral College on Tuesday night, and its 25 members of Congress wield significant power in implementing a conservative agenda that would roll back many of President Barack Obama’s accomplishments in office.
In an instant, the Texas Republican delegation went from a vocal naysayer of Washington’s influence to the cog in a potential conservative law-making machine.
For the next two years, Trump will have a Republican majority in Congress.
How much he is able to get done with that majority will depend on lawmakers from the nation’s largest conservative state.
Texans control seven congressional committees, more than any other state, where they are able to influence the levers of legislation and get bills onto the House floor.
Texans lead the Armed Services, Financial Services and Homeland Security committees, and all three could help implement key portions of Trump’s legislative agenda, such as building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
And Texans have a pulse on the tone of the country. Conservatives like Rep. Louie Gohmert and Sen. Ted Cruz built a national following on discontent with Washington long before Trump ascended to the presidency.
Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis is the longest-serving Texas congressman and a Trump supporter. He’s held office since 1985 and served as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee from 2004 to 2007.
Replacing Obamacare is one of Barton’s main goals, and it could come to fruition early next year. “I think it’s obvious the American people want real change, and they gave the authority to the Republican Party to do that,” Barton said.
Barton plans to run again for the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship. If he wins, he’ll have a significant role in shaping policy in tandem with the Trump administration.
“If I’m fortunate enough to get elected, I’ll have jurisdiction in health care, the internet and jurisdiction over energy and environmental policy,” Barton said.
If Trump wants to loosen the regulations on banks, he’ll need the support of Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a Republican from Dallas.
If Trump wants to slash corporate and personal income taxes, he’ll need Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, a Republican from The Woodlands.
And if Trump wants to build that wall, he must work with Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, a Republican from Austin.
Trump’s legislative agenda runs through Texas.
Barton said Trump would need to work with powerful Texans in the House to achieve his legislative goals on issues like banking revisions, a tax overhaul and immigration.
“We’re going to try to do it very quickly and very openly and transparently,” Barton said of lawmaking efforts in the House.
If congressional Republicans are unified, then repealing Obamacare, opposing international trade deals and enacting large tax cuts could happen quickly under a Trump presidency.
“We’re going to hit the ground running,” Ryan said during a speech Wednesday morning. “Donald Trump heard a voice out in this country that no one else heard. Donald Trump will lead a unified Republican government.”
Republican Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville said he’d met with Trump’s transition team last week and was convinced Trump was ready to roll back Obamacare, revamp the Veterans Affairs system and shrink the size of federal agencies.
“I wish the candidate would have talked a little bit more about his vision for the first 100 days, but he was focused on winning the election and that turned out to be the correct decision,” Burgess said.
Burgess said Trump’s running mate, former Indiana Rep. and current Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, would be integral to Trump’s efforts in Congress because “there was no more thoughtful person in the Republican Conference.”
Republicans lost six seats in the House nationwide, although that was a better result than expected. Four seats have yet to be finalized.
Anti-Trump incumbent Republican Will Hurd won Texas’ only competitive race on Tuesday, as he defeated former Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego in the state’s 23rd District.
But Democrats could prove pesky if Republicans aren’t unified in Congress, especially if Republicans who disavowed Trump, like Hurd, don’t enthusiastically embrace the new president.
Republicans hold a slimmer advantage in the House and Senate after Tuesday’s results than Democrats did after the 2008 election.
But Barton said anti-Trump Republicans wouldn’t be an issue in Congress.
“The American people took care of that last night,” Barton said. “If you were an anti-Trump Republican yesterday you’re not going to be one today. Winning does amazing things. You aren’t going to have anti-Trump Republicans from Texas.”
There’s also the lingering issue of ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus members who do not like Ryan, although their furor could be tempered by Trump’s victory. The majority of the Texas delegation endorsed Trump during the election.
Democrats are less sure of Trump’s legislative mandate.
“No one really knows how a president Trump will govern,” said Democratic Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, one of 11 Texas representatives in the minority.
“If you talk to Republican members of Congress on the Hill privately, they’ll tell you they have no idea,” Veasey said. “It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and the role Republican Texans are going to play in dealing with issues like tax reform, trade, things of that nature.”
Veasey said Democrats would work with Republicans in the coming weeks to keep the government open during the lame-duck session and that he would continue to fight for his constituents on issues such as curbing voter identification laws.
“Today what it means to be a Republican and conservative is a lot different than what it meant yesterday,” Veasey said. “I’m not sure that we can say how things are going to end up shaking up.”
Barton is sure how things will shake up. He said Trump and the Texas delegation would work seamlessly to enact a new conservative agenda.
“Trump’s not from Texas. Paul Ryan’s not from Texas. But they need Texas, and Texas needs them,” Barton said.