Texas Congressional Democrats, celebrated by the national party for breakthrough victories in November that sent the first two Latinas in Texas history to Congress as well as helped secure a Democratic majority in the U.S. House, were rewarded this week with influential committee assignments.
The four freshmen—Veronica Escobar of El Paso, Sylvia Garcia of Houston, Colin Allred of Dallas, and Lizzie Fletcher of Houston—represent a new brand of diversity for Texas. Escobar and Garcia are Latinas who worked their way up in local politics; Allred is African American, a former NFL player, and a civil rights lawyer; and Fletcher is an attorney and champion of women’s rights.
In an unusual move, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put both Escobar and Garcia on the House Judiciary Committee, a high-profile panel that, led by representative Jerrold Nadler, D–New York, will be investigating President Trump’s legal challenges to immigration and voting rights and would be the forum for impeachment hearings.
“The benefit Texas gets is of having two very experienced members who are Latinas,” said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a D.C.-based Democratic PAC and a former congressional staffer to U.S. representative Martin Frost of Dallas. “This goes beyond ethnicity. This goes to the confidence the Speaker has in these women.”
In announcing the nine new members for the judiciary panel, Pelosi said, “These outstanding members of Congress will bring bold vision, great integrity, and extraordinary energy to these critical committees and to Democrats’ mission to deliver for the people.”
“I couldn’t be more honored to have been named to serve on the House Judiciary Committee by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee,” said Escobar. “I stand ready to work under the leadership of Chairman Jerrold Nadler to defend our constitution and be a voice for El Paso, the border region, and the American people.”
The Texans were also part of a power play Pelosi made to keep an opponent to her speakership off of the committee. According to Politico, Pelosi blocked a move by New York Democrat and former prosecutor Kathleen Rice to get on the panel. Rice was a leader of a rebellion against Pelosi, which succeeded in the Speaker promising to limit her leadership tenure, but the New Yorker still voted against her. U.S. representative Filemón Vela Jr., D-Brownsville, who was also a ringleader in the revolt, ended on a more cordial note with Pelosi and was rewarded this week with an appointment to the House Armed Services Committee. Escobar, a former El Paso county judge, also was appointed to the armed services committee, which is is critical for her district, which includes Fort Bliss.
Garcia, a former Texas senator who is a lawyer, also won a spot on the House Financial Services Committee, another high-profile panel that oversees banking and financial agencies.
Allred is a breakout star among the Democratic freshmen who was elected copresident of the Democratic freshman class of 67. He defeated Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, the highest ranking GOP member of the House. Allred is being rewarded with three committee assignments: Veterans’ Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation and Infrastructure.
“North Texans face unique challenges every single day, and it is my honor to serve on these committees and work to improve the lives of everyday folks and keep Texas on the right track,” said Allred. “We have so much to do for the American people, such as creating good paying jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, working to provide security and stability at home and abroad, and caring for our veterans to ensure they have the resources and quality services they need.”
Fletcher, who also defeated an incumbent, John Culberson, has been named to Transportation and Infrastructure as well. The committee is critical for lawmakers representing urban areas.
“I sought to serve on this committee because of its jurisdiction over issues of critical importance to Texas’s Seventh Congressional District, including flood control and oversight of the Army Corps of Engineers; federal management of emergencies and natural disasters; and transportation infrastructure including roads, railroads, pipelines, and the agencies that regulate them,” said Fletcher.
Both Escobar and Garcia won in Democratic districts left open because of the retirements of Beto O’Rourke, who ran for U.S. Senate, and Gene Green, respectively.
In other committee assignments, U.S. representative Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, a longtime member of the Ways and Means Committee, made a surprise choice to chair the Health subcommittee instead of the Tax subcommittee, now known as the Select Revenue Measures subcommittee. “As chair, I will put patients first, working to lower Big Pharma monopoly prices, cut out-of-pocket costs, and reverse Republican sabotage of our health-care system,” said Doggett.
And representative Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, was reappointed to the House Appropriations Committee, making him the only Texas Democrat on the powerful budget-writing committee.