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Congressman Pete Sessions wants to be House speaker. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the vote.

Congressman Pete Sessions is the only Texan running for the GOP House speaker nomination.
Christopher Connelly
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KERA News file photo
Congressman Pete Sessions is the only Texan running for the GOP House speaker nomination.

UPDATE: Congressman Pete Sessions is no longer running for speaker of the U.S. House after failing to secure enough conference votes to advance to the second ballot.

Congressman Pete Sessions, R-Waco, has been in Congress for nearly 30 years.

Now, he wants to be speaker of the House of Representatives.

Sessions is one of nine Republicans vying to secure the speakership nomination, nearly three weeks after a group of GOP lawmakers successfully ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Since then, Republicans have failed to garner enough votes to elect a speaker.

So, why does Sessions want to be speaker of the House now?

In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Sessions said it was all about “timing.” He said Republicans have to ensure the voters know they work “in the best interest not only of American exceptionalism but also of capitalism, and there’s a lot of doubt right now across the country.”

“I think our leading players that have for years been a part of the success know this town, know how to make things happen,” he said. “That is why I put my name in the hat.”

Sessions has served in multiple GOP leadership positions, including as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Under his tenure in 2010, the Republican Party was able to gain control of the House.

Sessions told Fox News he brings experience fundraising and pledged to raise $50 million in conjunction with the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Each of these things puts me in the position to prove that we can get us together – and we can be prepared and win next year,” he said.

Uphill battle

Despite Session’s credentials, he’s not the favorite in the nine-person race.

Congressman Tom Emmer, R-Minn., was endorsed by McCarthy. Emmers currently serves as the House majority whip.

Emmer does have something big standing in his way, though: tension with former President Donald Trump and his allies. Emmer has crossed Trump on multiple occasions, including when he ultimately voted to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election where President Joe Biden won.

Sessions’ voting record, on the other hand, could be helpful in his quest for the gavel, said Pat Flavin, a professor of political science at Baylor University.

“He’s sort of threading the needle in the middle and to me that would give him some credibility in a way,” Flavin told The Texas Newsroom on Monday.

Flavin points to this summer, when Sessions voted against raising the debt ceiling, joining forces with right-wing Republicans such as Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

But more recently, Sessions voted for a bill that temporarily funded the federal government, averting a shutdown.

That measure — supported by McCarthy — was the reason Gaetz moved to knock McCarthy off the speakership.

How Texas could benefit

The U.S. House hasn’t had a speaker from Texas in more than three decades. In fact, only three Texans have ever held the job — John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn and Jim Wright. All of them were Democrats.

If Sessions were to be elected speaker, he would be the first Texas Republican to hold that leadership role, something even the state’s non-Republicans could count as a win.

The job also comes with a lot of power. Texas could benefit in several ways, especially because the speaker can prioritize legislation and direct funds to congressional districts.

“It would bring a lot of notoriety, a lot of media attention,” Flavin said. “Texas has the largest Republican Congressional delegation and this would add even more heft to them.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the Texas Capitol Reporter for The Texas Newsroom. Got a tip? Email him at smb@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel.
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