Texas clout grows in U.S. House

Texas is gaining clout in the incoming Republican-controlled House.

In selections by the House Republican Steering Committee that were announced Tuesday, Texans will chair two additional committees starting in January: Rep. Mike Conaway of Midland will lead the Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Mac Thornberry of Amarillo will chair the Armed Services Committee. Texans already lead four panels.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 50th chairman of the storied House Committee on Agriculture,” Conaway said. “The work that farmers and ranchers do is part of our country’s foundation. They feed, fuel and clothe our nation. I look forward to building on the bipartisan work of the chairmen who have led this committee for the past two centuries.

Thornberry said in a statement that “defending the country is the first job of the federal government, and that job may be more challenging now than it has ever been.”

One Texan failed in a long-shot bid to lead the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands mounted a strong challenge to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, but despite being next in seniority, he could not overcome the strong support the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee held among the leadership.

“I congratulate Paul, who is a terrific leader and friend, and I predict he will be an extraordinary Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee,” Brady said in a statement.

The four current chairmen from Texas retained their positions in the next Congress: Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas at Financial Services, Rep. Mike McCaul of Austin at Homeland Security, Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio at Science, Space and Technology, and in an announcement made Friday, Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas, at Rules.

The Rules Committee, which determines when and how legislation reaches the floor for a vote, is under the direct control of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who appoints the chairman.

Texas has 25 Republican House members, the largest GOP delegation in Congress, a number that increased by one in the incoming Congress. Former CIA operative Will Hurd of San Antonio, the first African-American Republican from Texas, defeated Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, in the 23rd Congressional District.