Texas Reps. Jodey Arrington, Pete Sessions and Roger Williams are making moves to become U.S. House speaker

From left, U.S. Reps. Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, and Roger Williams, R-Willow Park. (The Texas Tribune, The Texas Tribune)

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WASHINGTON — Three Texas Republicans are making moves for U.S. House Speaker, hoping to fill a power vacuum left open after Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio dropped out of the race Friday.

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Waco, announced Friday afternoon he is running for speaker. U.S. Reps. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock and Roger Williams of Willow Park both said Friday they were considering a go for it but would take the weekend to consult with their families. Arrington and Williams said they had not yet made definitive decisions. All three had previously backed Jordan’s bid for speaker.

Arrington chairs the House Budget Committee and Williams chairs the House Small Business Committee. Sessions chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee, Republicans' House campaign arm, from 2009 to 2012 and the House Rules Committee from 2013 to 2019.

All the candidates expressed their interest after the House Republican Conference voted in a closed door meeting to drop Jordan as their nominee for speaker after he lost his third floor vote. Only members were allowed in the meeting, but Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Sherman, said the vote was 112 to 86 against Jordan. Jordan afterward said he would drop out of the race.

The House has gone without a speaker for over two weeks, paralyzing any legislation. Jordan was the second Republican nominee to drop out of the race after House Majority Leader Steve Scalise failed to secure enough votes last week.

Jordan’s loss leaves an open field of potential candidates. Whoever puts their name up will need to convince a wide ideological spectrum of often antithetical viewpoints at a candidate forum at 6:30 Eastern time Monday.

Congressman Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, at an America First Policies event in downtown Dallas on Feb. 17, 2018.

Congressman Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, at an America First Policies event in downtown Dallas on Feb. 17, 2018. Credit: Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minnesota, has been making calls to pursue the job, according to a source familiar with his plans. Emmer is the third ranking House Republican and also a former chair of the NRCC.

Sessions, Arrington and Williams, however, have not drawn quite as much attention. Members who wanted to vote against Jordan's speaker bid on the House floor offered a range of alternative names instead. Emmer's name came up a handful of times. No one voted for Sessions, Arrington or Williams.

Arrington appeared clear eyed about the challenges.

“Why would somebody run when we've witnessed this seemingly tragic process play out,” Arrington said. “But, you know, somebody's got to run. We have to coalesce around somebody or we’re going to squander this historic opportunity.”

U.S. Representative Jodey Arrington (R-TX) speaking at a House Budget Committee hearing Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 in Washington D.C..

U.S. Representative Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, speaks at a House Budget Committee hearing Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023 in Washington D.C. Credit: Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via REUTERS

When asked if that person was him, Arrington said, “Could be.”

Arrington said he has his family’s support, but needs to “talk as a Texas family” with the rest of the state’s Republicans. Texas sends more Republicans to Congress than any other state, and the unified support of the state’s delegation would be a major boost to any candidate. Scalise and Jordan failed to win the support of the entire delegation.

Sessions staked his pitch on his performance leading the Rules Committee and the NRCC. While he was chair, the NRCC netted 63 seats in 2010 for Republicans, handing them control of the House. He wound up losing his seat in a competitive 2018 race to Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, before winning a different seat in 2020.

"Congressman Sessions believes he can forge a positive path as a conservative leader who can unite the Conference. During his congressional career, he has played a vital role in the Republican Party, in Texas and nationally, including a decade in Party leadership," his office said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, during a voting event in Bee Cave in 2018.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Willow Park, during a voting event in Bee Cave in 2018. Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Williams said Friday he would “take a look at” running. He has been in the House for over 10 years and is well liked in the chamber and he said unprompted that a number of members approached him about putting his name in.

“It would have to be the right circumstance for me with my family and my business and so forth,” Williams said.

In interviews, both Williams and Arrington stressed the need to find a speaker, even if it’s not them, quickly. Both Texans voted against ousting former Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month and voted to support Jim Jordan in all three floor votes.

Federal funding runs out in less than a month and both Israel and Ukraine are requesting major defense aid packages. None of those priorities can move without a speaker.

“We need a speaker for crying out loud. We’ve got so much happening in the world,” Williams said.