The Texas Republican congressional delegation, which grew to 27 members after last week’s elections, celebrated its size and clout Thursday with the rise of Texas Sen. John Cornyn as majority whip.
Cornyn, who worked hard to secure a GOP takeover of the Senate, was self-effacing about his more powerful role after being minority whip for two years. But he was clearly enjoying the prospect of being in the majority for the first time since 2008.
“It’s an honor, but now the hard work begins — to demonstrate to the country we can be a responsible alternative to the president and his policies,” Cornyn told McClatchy as he was about to attend the weekly Texas Republican luncheon, held when Congress is in session.
He accompanied Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who was in Washington for meetings.
Cornyn was chosen unanimously by fellow Republican senators in the incoming 114th Congress and received a standing ovation. The majority whip is the chamber’s second-in-command and is tasked with counting votes and helping communicate the majority leader’s position.
Cornyn, who will assume the post in January, will be the first Texan to serve as Senate majority whip since Democrat Lyndon Johnson in 1951-53, according to the Senate website.
On Wednesday, Cornyn happily posed for a class photo with 10 new GOP senators, a number that increased by one with the arrival Thursday of newly declared Alaskan victor Dan Sullivan.
In a statement, Cornyn said, “I’m humbled to have been chosen by my colleagues to help lead the new majority in the U.S. Senate, and I pledge that those fundamental Texas values of personal liberty and limited government will continue to be my guide.”
The Texas Republican delegation — 25 House members and two senators — includes three new congressmen-elect. Will Hurd, the state’s first African-American GOP House member, beat a Democrat in Southwest Texas to net the Republicans one more seat.
John Ratcliffe of Heath in North Texas beat U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall in a primary runoff and had token opposition in the general election. Brian Babin of Woodville easily succeeded retiring U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, a Republican.
Hurd and Ratcliffe walked together much of the day during orientation for new members and spoke with McClatchy about their first day as members-elect as they headed into the Texas GOP luncheon.
“I’m glad I have a partner-in-crime,” joked Hurd, a former CIA officer. “I’m glad to be able to come up here and do my part. People are ready for something new and for us to do our jobs.”
Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney, said, “We’ve literally gotten closer from the campaign trail, and we’re lucky to come forward on the heels of an historic election.”
Members-elect are learning the basics of how to set up an office and how to manage an annual office budget. Asked how they were being received, Ratcliffe said, “Everyone’s been very welcoming.”
Texas Republicans were almost giddy about their new colleagues.
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth said: “It’s great. It’s fantastic.”
U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant of Coppell, a veteran of the Texas Legislature, said, “I’ve never been in a majority this big.”
Republicans have gained at least 12 House seats, with some races still undecided, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The Texas Democratic delegation, reduced to 11 from 12, was a little downcast — but determined — said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.
“I’m grateful that constituents re-elected me, but losing Pete was a huge, huge loss for our delegation and it hurt,” Veasey said.
Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego lost a close race to Hurd in the 23rd District, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso.
“The caucus will rebound,” Veasey said. “I want to have a positive attitude going into next year.”
For Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, it’s time to be reflective.
“Everything’s a cycle,” he said, looking back at years when Republicans were in disfavor. “People are in good spirits. We are tough, but we understand the reality.”
This report includes material from The Texas Tribune.