House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions On The GOP Leadership Race
HH: A great supporter of the military joins me now, Congressman Pete Sessions from the great state of Texas. Pete Sessions, welcome, I was hoping to be talking to you as a candidate for House leader.
PS: You know, me, too. The bottom line to the whole thing is, is that the successful rain dance has a lot to do with timing, and the factors when both Jeb and I, the great Jeb Hensarling and I, both toyed with and thought about the idea, I tried to get in. We really alter each other’s votes. This opportunity by Raul, though, is really good. He is a smart, great, young conservative leader in our country, and I hope he uses this as a messaging element to talk about the things that directionally, we need to include in a conservative agenda.
HH: He just hit a home run on this show, Pete, except for the last question. I was hoping he’d say he needed to plus up Defense spending, but I can’t have everything, and I knew you were going to be my hawk in the race. You’re Mr. Defense. So have you made up your mind, yet between Kevin and Raul?
PS: You know what? I’m going to next Thursday. But what I would tell you is that Raul is a very thoughtful, savvy guy. Do you know what else we have in common? He’s an Eagle Scout. He is an Eagle Scout with a guy who understands that our country and the values of this country must be understood and protected. He is an awesome young man, and you’re going to learn more about him. I will have another chance, Hugh Hewitt. I will have another chance. And we’ll take that chance, and what we’ve got lying ahead is an opportunity in November, and conservatives need to understand we’ve got to win the House, we’ve got to win the Senate, and that will propel us with this messaging just like Raul will have about making sure we transfer power back home, we pay attention to our border, and the border problems that we’ve got, and a conservative agenda that includes things like let’s take Medicaid, and let’s bloc grant it back to the states. Let’s take power away from Washington, D.C., and move it where states can manage it. There are a thousand ideas about how to get things done, but you hit on one of the key ones, and that is we must not let our military deteriorate, nor become second-rate. And the men and women who serve in the military are heroes to our country.
HH: Pete Sessions, I was hoping you’d get in so that there would be a big discussion between, you know, a newcomer like Labrador, a hawk like Pete Sessions, an institutionalist like Kevin McCarthy, but let’s go back to what started this. I know you’re a friend with Eric Cantor. I admire Eric Cantor. I had no idea this was coming. I was gob smacked. And so you tell me, what do you think happened?
PS: Well, let’s put it this way. I don’t know, but I know what I have read. And I, you remember, I have been through a battle of my own in the new world, and we’re in the new world. And in the new world, you have to stand up and let people know who you are, what you stand for, and meet with them, and define yourself. We can disagree on an issue, two or three or five, but you cannot not engage people, and I think Eric probably, in looking back, would say he spent a lot of time around the country helping our cause, our, really, conservative credentials, but I think on an issue or two, he became out of touch with what people were saying and wanting back home. That’s my guess.
HH: Now Pete Sessions, I understood you to say you’re not going to decide between McCarthy and Labrador until Thursday when you cast your vote. But my question is do you think it’s possible that Labrador could win?
PS: You know what I think is real possible is that if he talks about the things which are important to our country, people will strongly identify and know that this is what our agenda should be. That’s what I intended to do. What I did is I got crossways with the time elements. And the time elements of what you put together with a race in Washington, by and large, is hard after a day or two. It’s hard. It is hard to put it together when people immediately go and start working, and they make a quick decision. And Raul was not in that first window. I admire him a lot, and he is going to be very competitive for a lot of votes.
HH: Now talk to me a little bit about the Whip race, because obviously, a lot of people, you’re the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, and I don’t even know if you want to be Whip. But are you considering putting your hand up for that? Or is that also too late out of the gates?
PS: What I would say is that I ran for majority leader, because I wanted to be the majority leader. I felt like I could do a good job as majority leader. I felt like I could bring the team together. As you know, we’ve had problems getting votes for our bills. There’s a reason with the undercurrent there. I wanted to be the majority leader. I am not going to give up that hunt, but we also need to make sure that we’re including that where Americans are having problems, as they are having jobs and looking at the border, we need to focus on that, and I would have brought both into focus, those two issues. We’ve got worry about our border. It’s a national security issue. And we have drug cartels that are regularly overrunning not just our sovereignty, but private property in this great nation. And this administration needs to be taken to the woodshed on this issue, and I had hoped to do that. Obviously being from Texas, it’s easier for me to understand, but we’ve got to do these things. And I felt like as a majority leader, I could bring us together, I could hone and focus a message on jobs, and lastly, that we would aim for the border. And I felt like, and I still feel like, these are important issues. I haven’t heard them talked about, Perhaps Raul will in his own way.
HH: Pete Sessions, if the, whether it’s McCarthy who wins or Labrador who wins next Thursday, do you consider that to be a lock on the job come the November meeting after the election, which we hope sees a Republican Senate and a larger majority in the House? Do you think the door is wide open to a reshuffling, post-November?
PS: I think you heard me say that I still would like to be the majority leader.
HH: That’s what I thought you said. You bet.
PS: And I will say to you that we’re going to find out what kind of job gets done, both Congressman, Chairman Hensarling and I struggled for a little bit too long in the marketplace, and we had many of the same supporters, and we created some doubt about who was going to do it. And in that time, the vacuum picked up another way. So of course it’s not too late, and you do hear me say we’ve got to be concerned about all those three major jobs, and who’s in them, because our agenda has got to be successful.
HH: And a last question, absolutely last question, is it inevitable that John Boehner seek reelection? Or might he retire, do you think?
PS: You know what? That’s a big question. I think that the Speaker would be silly to answer that now. We need to win this election. He needs to be strong. And then he can make a decision about what he wants to do and present himself with any new ideas.
HH: Pete Sessions, it is always great that you’re always available. You set a model of accessibility for every member of the caucus, and I salute you for it. Thank you, Pete.
End of interview.