Texas has given the country many things, not least the 36 (soon to be 38) members of our House caucus. Whether you are from here or not, if you’re American, you’re subject to their lawmaking, so here’s a roundup of the doings and happenings of those legislators whom Texas has launched to the national stage.

Louie, Louie, take us where you gotta go

Louie Gohmert is now a lame duck. We should clarify: that’s not to say he’s the type of bird he claims solar farms in California are maiming, but rather that he is retiring. Gohmert could have cruised to reelection this year, but he was tired of fighting the federal government from within, and he ran to fight it from without, losing a bid to be a Biden administration heel (Texas attorney general). Them’s the breaks.

In the past, some politicians have treated the lame-duck period as an opportunity for reinvention—to push for all the things they secretly wanted without fear of electoral reprisal. Gohmert, to his credit, has never been afraid to share what he believes, so he’s treating his final months in office as a chance to replay the hits: focusing on loosely defined terrorist threats in the United States. Late last month, Gohmert filed what might be his last-ever bill, the soberly named “Domestic Terrorist Murder Act.”

The legislation would make either life imprisonment without parole or a death sentence the punishment for anyone convicted of a murder who is also part of a street gang or is a “covered individual.” How Gohmert defines that term exposes whom exactly he has in mind: “ ‘covered individual’ means an individual who is or has been associated with an organization or group that has caused more than $500,000 in damages by virtue of protests, riots, or other destructive actions.” Gohmert’s language is vague—and he didn’t even issue a press release announcing the bill and explaining his motivations. But given his past calls for the Department of Justice to pursue RICO charges against those who have protested in favor of racial justice, it’s likely he’s seeking to increase potential punishments for anyone who participated in Black Lives Matter protests last year, and not, say, those who might have rioted and caused $1.5 million in property damages at the Capitol on January 6. Fortunately, Gohmert doesn’t have to worry about unforeseen targets of his bill: he only passed one piece of legislation in his U.S. House career, and given that the House will remain under Democratic leadership until the new crop of representatives are sworn in in January, when Gohmert leaves, this doesn’t figure to be number two. 

Al Green’s constituent services

In August, Houstonite Jaime Avalos, a DACA recipient who is married to a U.S. citizen and has an infant son, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border for an immigration interview at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez. Avalos wanted to obtain permanent residency in the U.S., and his lawyers advised him to apply in Mexico, apparently not realizing that his DACA status made him eligible to do so in the U.S. That error proved costly. In the course of his interview, Avalos revealed information that was used to deny him reentry to the U.S. because of a quirk in immigration law: after his initial entry into the U.S. as an infant, his family took him briefly to Mexico to register his birth—an exit from the country before he turned eight, which now makes him ineligible, decades later, for reentry for ten years.

Avalos’s representative in the House, Democrat Al Green, heard about his case and filed two bills this month to readmit him and change the law to create an exception for those in similar situations. Neither has yet proceeded in committee.

Read my lips: The federal government should not spend money . . .

The 2022 midterm elections are in our rearview mirror. No rest for the wicked political junkies, however: the 2024 election is already upon us. Casual observers might pin its start to Donald Trump’s November 15 announcement of a 2024 presidential run. But the 2024 election actually started on November 3, when Chip Roy, a Republican who represents a district in the Hill Country, filed a bill to prohibit certain campaign fund-raising in any fiscal year until Congress passes a balanced budget. “It’s long past time for Congress to do its job, and for its members to face consequences if they don’t,” Roy said when announcing his bill. The national debt currently stands at more than $31 trillion; that didn’t stop Roy from raising more than $2 million for his reelection bid this year. The national debt stood at $27 trillion in 2020; Roy raised $5 million that year.

Roy isn’t alone in his calls to lower the national debt. Beth Van Duyne, a Republican from Irving, proposed a different strategy for tackling the debt. A bill she filed late last month would require an audit of government spending that would produce recommendations to eliminate duplicative government functions and “drastically reduce the wasteful spending that’s been lost in the bog of our bloated federal government.”

Fair enough. But there are a few things Van Duyne does believe the federal government isn’t spending enough on, which brings us to our next set of Texas-born legislation.

. . . Unless it’s to pick up Texas’s tab

Van Duyne filed a bill late last month, cosponsored by Republicans Mayra Flores (Los Indios) and Randy Weber (Friendswood), to reallocate $240 million the Department of State was spending on refugee assistance to the Department of Homeland Security to reimburse Texas and Arizona for their projects to secure the southern border. The bill came on the heels of one filed by Austin Pfluger, a Republican from San Angelo, to reimburse Texas for the more than $4 billion it has spent on Operation Lone Star, Greg Abbott’s border enforcement initiative designed to bypass federal immigration authority. Pfluger’s bill, in turn, came just months after Pat Fallon, a Republican from Sherman, filed a similar bill cosponsored by eleven Texas Republican representatives, including Pfluger.

The Texas GOP argues the Biden administration has not been enforcing the border, where apprehensions of migrants have spiked in recent years, leaving Texas to pick up the tab. (Many in the state agree, and Republicans had great success campaigning on the border this year.) As for getting the feds to pay us, well, no dice. Biden’s 2023 budget allocated more than $97 billion to the Department of Homeland Security, the agency in charge of border security, of which around $57 billion is for discretionary spending. No allocation has yet been made to the Texas Department of Public Safety for its initiative.