Politics & Government

2 Texans passed over for spots in Donald Trump’s Cabinet

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill. McCaul had been under consideration to become secretary of Homeland Security under President-elect Donald Trump.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill. McCaul had been under consideration to become secretary of Homeland Security under President-elect Donald Trump. AP

Donald Trump continues to name Cabinet appointments, and so far Texans have come up short.

On Thursday, Trump nominated Gen. John Kelly to be secretary of homeland security and tapped Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, passing over U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul and environmental policymaker Kathleen Hartnett White.

The Austin-based McCaul, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has been subject to criticism from some conservatives over his immigration record.

Conservative author Ann Coulter railed against McCaul’s nomination, calling him “Rubio in a dress” in an email to a reporter from The Hill.

Last week, sitting DHS secretary Jeh Johnson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, praised McCaul during a forum.

McCaul recently penned an op-ed at Fox News outlining how he’s proposing to put Mexico on a “payment plan.”

“There are many reasonable ways to do this,” he writes. “For starters, we can put in place new immigration fees from Mexico, institute a security toll at border crossings, ‘seize and freeze’ drug cartel assets, and more.”

Trump selected McCaul to speak on his behalf this summer at the Republican National Convention, where he heaped scorn on Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Today, our allies no longer trust us, our adversaries no longer fear us and our enemies are plotting against us. This did not happen by accident; it happened by design,” McCaul said. “It is the work of Barack Obama and the architect of his failed foreign policy, Hillary Clinton. For years they presided over America’s retreat.”

Before the second presidential debate, McCaul advised Trump that Russia was using hacked information to influence the election, but Trump didn’t believe him.

“I think he has in his mind that there’s not the proof,” McCaul said during a Texas Tribune event. “Now he hasn’t had the briefing I had, but I made it clear that in my judgment it was a nation-state.”

Trump and McCaul have one thing in common – both are personally wealthy.

McCaul is the second-wealthiest member of Congress, with a net worth of at least $107 million according to Roll Call. Most of the wealth is listed as investments in the name of McCaul’s wife, Linda, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications founder Lowry Mays.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry reportedly encouraged McCaul to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, but that was before Trump won the White House.

White, who served as an adviser to the Trump campaign, has experience as an environmental regulator. She was chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from 2001 to 2007 under Perry.

“An easy way to address major problems with the EPA is to actually reinstitute an amount of authority,” White said in an interview. “The EPA sets federal standards that were mandatory across the country but states figured out how to ... execute and get the job done.”

But White’s vision of turning over the bulk of environmental regulations to states is vehemently opposed by environmental groups.

“I think she’s worked for an industry-funded think tank attacking clean energy, trying to put a moral sheen on fossil fuels and ignoring the public health problems she had in Texas,” Environment Texas director Luke Metzger said.

During the campaign, Trump expressed a desire to eliminate the EPA, an opinion shared by some conservative members of Congress.

“We will also scrap the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan which the government estimates will cost $7.2 billion a year,” Trump’s campaign website said.

White is mum on eliminating the EPA, she said it’s up to Congress and Trump to decide the agency’s future.

A few Texans remain under consideration for Cabinet posts, notably Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Texas Agriculture Secretary Sid Miller and Perry.

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty