Texas has given the country many things, not least the 36 (soon to be 38) members of our House delegation. 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.

In philosophy, it’s a matter of debate whether a person can think multiple thoughts at the same time. In politics, it’s a settled matter. (Just ask Rick Perry.) Even if politicians could theoretically remember multiple things, that wouldn’t much matter, practically speaking. The second an elected official does one thing, he or she is hammered for not doing another—even if that thing was the very next thing on the docket. 

So it was no surprise this past winter, as Russia threatened to invade Ukraine, that President Biden was hit for thinking about intervention overseas, as if that would preclude action on matters closer to home. At a Donald Trump rally in January in Conroe, where Trump was firing up folks for the Texas primaries, the former president mostly stuck to well-rehearsed lines and attacks. But it was one of his new aphorisms, not yet focus-grouped at previous rallies, that drew the most raucous applause. “The most important border in the world right now for us,” Trump proclaimed, “is not Ukraine’s border; it’s America’s border.” 

Shortly thereafter, when Russia did invade Ukraine, it quickly became orthodoxy among a faction of right-wingers in Congress that the United States should not get too heavily involved. In May, ten members of the Texas House delegation, all Republicans, voted against a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. Months after the package passed anyway, with broad bipartisan support, Chip Roy, a representative from Central Texas, expressed hope that a prospective incoming GOP majority would “hip check” the White House on new spending on the war in 2023. Then-candidate, now-congressman-elect Wesley Hunt, of Houston, tweeted that “we should at least make them [Ukraine] the 51st state so they can start paying some federal income tax.”

So when the GOP did win a majority in the House on November 8, there was some question about how it would treat aid to Ukraine. Michael McCaul, the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who was endorsed by Trump—but did not attend the January rally, as many of his colleagues did—has put an end to that question. McCaul, who represents a district stretching from Austin to the west Houston suburbs, has vowed to keep guns and money flowing. “I think going with the amount of investment we’ve had is very small relative to destroying the Russian military,” he said on CBS News this past weekend. “And that’s what we’ve done without one American soldier being attacked, killed, or in country. To me, that’s a pretty good investment.” 

McCaul, unlike some in the Texas GOP, feels confident that he can think about two borders at once. And indeed, in early December, when Biden said “there are more important things going on” than the Southern border, McCaul was quick to join the GOP members of the Texas House delegation in denouncing the president. For Texas Republicans, the U.S.-Mexico border ranks as the most important issue, bar none. So the delegation put forward a “framework by Texans for Texans” to address increasing apprehensions of migrants in the state. Some of the plan’s elements are positively Trumpian: the legislators want to finish building the wall and reinstate the Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy, whereby asylum-seekers must wait south of the border for their hearings in U.S. immigration courts, and they seek to further restrict the asylum system. They also have some new ideas: making the federal government reimburse Texas for the state’s border-enforcement operations (we covered components of this plan last month) and restricting funds that flow to NGOs that support migrants—”defund the relief,” if you will. 

Of course, those plans require passing legislation, and while Republicans will control the House next year, they won’t have the votes in the Senate. Which means that most of their power on immigration will have to be wielded passively, by stopping immigration-reform efforts from proceeding. And Texas Republicans have been busy on that this winter, too. 

Earlier in the current Congress, Democrats, in control of both legislative chambers and the presidency, hoped to pass a bill codifying protections for Dreamers—migrants who came to the U.S. as children—by allowing them to apply for permanent residency. A bill passed the House in March 2021 without a single Texas Republican’s support (nine House Republicans across the country voted for it). But it stalled in the Senate, where there weren’t ten GOP senators who’d cross the aisle to allow the bill to overcome a filibuster. John Cornyn, Texas’s senior senator, appeared to be open to a deal, but he’s singing a different tune these days. This week he called finding a deal in the final stretch of the session “impractical.” Congress, after all, had other things to focus on. And (see above) we all know politicians can’t focus on two things at once. 

Louie Gohmert Is Still Cranking

Last month, we wrote about Louie Gohmert, who was facing his final weeks in office as an ineffective legislator—he only passed one bill in his nine terms in the House—before heading out to pasture in Tyler to live out his days as an effective crank. We naively assumed that Gohmert would go gentle into that good night, filing a few bills and riding off into a too-close-to-Earth sunset. 

But like a lame duck to water, Gohmert has actually become more prolific in his final days in office—and, dare we say, less provincial. In December, the America Firster, not content to try stopping drag shows across the United States, filed a bill to prohibit foreign aid money from being used to support drag performances overseas. (In September, the State Department made a $20,000 grant to a cultural center in Ecuador that hosts drag performances.) That legislation followed on the heels of four resolutions Gohmert filed on the last day of November: to hold vaccine manufacturers liable for injuries caused by federally mandated vaccines, to create a monetary prize of $500 million for a breakthrough in electricity storage, to limit certain penalties for late enrollment in Medicare, and to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow for civil actions against those who aid or abet violators of the law. 

Who knows what he’ll propose next, but rest assured, he’ll propose it. Whoever counted Louie Gohmert out, as we did, can’t count. We apologize and, like Louie, point to declining SAT scores by way of explanation. 

Republicans Beat the Old Drums as They Eye a More-Favorable House

A few months back, we wrote about a bill introduced by Congressman Austin Pfluger, of San Angelo, to prevent noncitizens from voting in local Washington, D.C., elections. The city council had passed legislation to allow the city’s 50,000 noncitizen residents to vote in elections for mayor, city council, and school board. Pfluger’s bill, which went nowhere, has been revived in spirit by Chip Roy, who introduced legislation this week to prohibit D.C. from using federal funds to allow noncitizens to vote. Once again, the logic is clear: noncitizens should not decide elections for D.C.; only Texans should do that.

Tony Gonzales, who represents a district that stretches from just east of El Paso to just west of San Antonio (and who is the lone Texas Republican representative to not sign on to the delegation’s border plan mentioned above), filed a bill to establish a task force to prevent the suicides of Customs and Border Protection officers. Fourteen CBP officers died by suicide this year, the highest total in more than a decade, and Gonzales said there could be bipartisan consensus on the bill even as the House gets ready for big fights over other border issues.

Joining forces with Roy, Ronny Jackson, who represents the Panhandle, introduced a bill to prevent the Department of Defense, which announced in October it would pay for service members stationed in states with abortion bans to travel to get the procedure, from doing just that. “The DoD should focus on the growing threats posed by China, Russia, and Iran instead of using military resources to push Democrats’ anti-life agenda,” Jackson said. Spending on weapons of war has never been so bravely identified as pro-life.