Pete Sessions

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Pete Sessions
Pete Sessions.jpg
Chair of the House Rules Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by David Dreier
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 32nd district
Assumed office
January 3, 2003
Preceded by Constituency established
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by John Bryant
Succeeded by Jeb Hensarling
Personal details
Born Peter Anderson Sessions
(1955-03-22) March 22, 1955 (age 61)
Waco, Texas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Juanita (1984–2011)
Karen Diebel (2012–present)
Alma mater Southwestern University (BS)

Peter Anderson "Pete" Sessions (born March 22, 1955) is an American politician. He represents Texas's 32nd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the Republican Party. He is the current chairman of the House Rules Committee and a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.[1]

Early life, education and career[edit]

Sessions was born in Waco, Texas, the son of Alice June (née Lewis) and William Steele Sessions, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[2] He grew up in Waco and in the suburbs of Washington, DC. He graduated from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas in 1978, where he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He worked for Southwestern Bell for 16 years and rose to the rank of district manager for marketing in Dallas, supervising 435 employees and managing a $16 million budget.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


In his 1991 election bid, Sessions finished third in a special election for the House of Representatives.

In 1993, he left his job with Southwestern Bell to again run for Congress, against 5th District incumbent Democratic Congressman John Bryant. He toured the district with a livestock trailer full of horse manure, claiming that the Clinton Administration's health care plan stank more than the manure.[3] He lost by 2,400 votes. He subsequently became vice president for public policy at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), a Dallas-based conservative public policy research institute.

Sessions at the Capitol in 1998

In 1996, when Bryant decided to seek a Senate seat, Sessions was elected to succeed him in the 5th District, defeating Democratic candidate John Pouland with 47 percent of the vote.

He was re-elected in 1998, defeating schoolteacher Victor Morales with 56 percent of the vote.

In 2000, he ran against Regina Montoya Coggins, and was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote.

When redistricting after the 2000 Census made the 5th slightly more Democratic, he moved to the newly created 32nd District for the 2002 election, in which he ran against Pauline Dixon and won the district with 68 percent of the vote.

In 2004, Sessions defeated 13-term, Democratic incumbent Congressman Martin Frost, who had moved to the 32nd after the redistricting in 2003 eliminated Frost's former district. He won 54–44%, in what was considered the most expensive U.S. House race in the nation. According to the Associated Press, "The race also was one of the nastiest, with Frost unearthing a decades-old streaking incident by Sessions in his college days and questioning his commitment to security with an ad featuring the World Trade Center towers in flames. In response, he criticized Frost for booking Peter Yarrow of the 1960s group Peter, Paul and Mary for a fundraiser. Yarrow had faced an indecency with a child charge years earlier."

In 2010, he faced Dallas businessman and attorney Grier Raggio and Libertarian John Jay Myers. The election was initially considered one of the top dark horse battles in the country, but Sessions won re-election.[4]

In 2012, he faced the Democratic candidate, Katherine Savers McGovern, and independent, Seth Hollis. He was endorsed by the Dallas Morning News and won re-election.

In the 2014 Republican primary, Sessions defeated conservative Katrina Pierson, an African American and a favorite of the Tea Party movement. He polled 28,954 votes (63.6 percent) to her 16,560 (36.4 percent).[5] Pierson, originally allied with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, later joined the Donald Trump presidential campaign staff.

In 2016, Sessions polled 49,632 votes (61.4 percent) to gain re-nomination in the Republican congressional primary, which had a much greater turnout than in 2014. The runner-up, Russ K. Ramsland (born c. 1952) of Dallas, received 19,105 votes (23.6 percent). Two other contenders held the remaining 14.9 percent of the ballots cast.[6]


On March 14, 2016 Representative Sessions introduced H.Res.642 Recognizing magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure. [7]

Sessions supported the North Texas Invasive Species Barrier Act of 2014 (H.R. 4032; 113th Congress), a bill that would exempt the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) from prosecution under the Lacey Act for transferring water containing invasive species from Oklahoma to Texas.[8] The Lacey Act protects plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for various violations, including transferring invasive species across state borders.[8] Sessions argued that the bill was necessary to prevent "more than 1.5 million customers of the North Texas Municipal Water District" from facing "restricted access to water as a result of the discovery of invasive species in Lake Texoma."[9]

Disability advocacy[edit]

Earlier in his career, he passed the Family Opportunity Act.[citation needed] In 2008, he joined his colleagues Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Patrick Kennedy, and Eleanor Holmes Norton in forming the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus to educate members of Congress and their staff, about Down Syndrome.[citation needed]

In 2011, he sponsored of the ABLE Act, which sought to amend Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986. It did not pass in the 112th Congress and was reintroduced in the 113th Congress[10] and in 2014.[11]

Boy Scouts[edit]

He was involved in the effort to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America by introducing a "100 Years of Scouting" commemorative coin, released in 2010.[needs update][12] In 2008, Pres. George W. Bush signed H.R. 5872 entitled, the "Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Act." [13] The BSA recognized him as a "Distinguished Eagle Scout." He holds a position on the Circle Ten Council of the BSA. Both of his sons are also active in scouting.[14]

National Republican Congressional Committee[edit]

In the 2010 election, during his tenure as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party gained control of the House with significant gains. They won a net gain of 63 seats and 89 new freshman members.[15]

Committee assignments[edit]

In 2012, he was named chairman of the House Rules Committee for the 113th Congress by Speaker of the House John Boehner. Sessions has retained his chairmanship into the 115th Congress.

Party leadership and caucus memberships[edit]


Connections to Abramoff[edit]

In late 2001 and early 2002, he cosigned letters to two Cabinet members asking them to shut down casinos operated by several Native American tribes. Within 18 months of sending the letters, he received a total of $20,500 from tribes associated with Jack Abramoff. In response to criticism, his office said that he wrote the letters because of his view that gambling is a local issue, falling under his long held support for federalism.[16]

Taliban comments[edit]

In early February 2009, Sessions made the following comment about the Republican Party legislative strategy in the House of Representatives: "Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban," he said, during the 60-minute sitdown.[17] "And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes."[18] He continued: "I'm not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban.... I'm saying an example of how you go about [it] is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with."[19]


In 2008, he added a $1.6 million earmark to an appropriations bill, for dirigible research. The earmark benefitted a Chicago company, Jim G. Ferguson & Associates, which had no experience in government contracting or dirigible research. Former Sessions aide and convicted felon Adrian Plesha was a lobbyist for the firm.[20][21]

In September, Adrian Plesha sued Jim G. Ferguson & Associates for non-payment of fees and expenses connected with his lobbying effort on their behalf.[22]

Ties to Allen Stanford[edit]

Sessions came under criticism for his personal ties to Allen Stanford. Records showed that he received over $44,000 in political contributions from Allen Stanford and his associates.[23] He also took multiple trips to Fire Island and to the Caribbean to attend Stanford sponsored events.[23] These trips included private travel on Stanford's fleet of jets and accommodations.[23]

Racial comments[edit]

In September 2010, Sessions remarked after watching the Princeton University men's basketball team, "How often can you go see a bunch of white guys play basketball?" He also reportedly said that the players stayed entirely below the rim. The comments were described as an allusion to the phrase "White Men Can't Jump", and were labeled as inappropriate by New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell.[24]

Less than two weeks after his "white guys" comments he made controversial comments about the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) giving money to and supporting, "African Americans like Sanford Bishop. And when you have to retreat back to ... your hard base you're having to make tough decisions."[25][26]

Countrywide Financial loan[edit]

In January 2012, it was reported that Sessions received a so-called "VIP" or "Friends of Angelo" loan in 2007 from troubled mortgage lender Countrywide Financial, in which loans were granted at lower interest rates than were available to the public. Former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo created the program to boost the company's standing with politicians, celebrities and well-connected business figures. He received a $1 million loan from Countrywide at below-market rates, which he never declared in financial disclosures. His, as well as names of other legislators who received similar loans were subsequently referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as part of an ethics investigation into improper gifts.[27][28] He was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform when their investigation revealed he did not receive any preferential treatment or a below market interest rate on his mortgage from Countrywide.[29]

Implication regarding the French[edit]

During the 2013 government shutdown, after being questioned by another individual regarding his position on the shutdown and his presence at the National World War II Memorial, which was open while other National Park Service monuments and parks remained closed, he replied that "we're not the French; we don't surrender."[30] As the chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions had in fact introduced HR 368 to a vote in the House which allowed the shutdown to take place; Sessions voted in favor of the bill and therefore the shutdown.[31][32]

Political stances[edit]

National security[edit]

Sessions supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to temporarily curtail immigration from 7 predominantly Muslim nations until better screening methods are devised. He stated that “Just as President Obama suspended the refugee program in 2011 for six months, the Trump Administration is working to protect national security by making adjustments in the refugee vetting process. It is critical that we address the threat of individuals who come to our country to create chaos and threaten our freedom.”[33]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2011, he and Juanita divorced, after 27 years of marriage. They have two sons, Bill and Alex.[34] In August 2012, he married Karen Diebel.[35]


  1. ^ [1] Archived June 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "sessions". Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  3. ^ McCutcheon, Michael; Barone, Chuck (2013). 2014 Almanac of American Politics. The University of Chicago Press. 
  4. ^ Blake, Aaron (2009-07-06). "Dark horse races to watch in 2010". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  5. ^ "Republican primary election returns, March 4, 2014". Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Republican primary returns". Texas Secretary of State. March 1, 2016. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Recognizing magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure". 14 March 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "CBO – H.R. 4032". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Pete Sessions Applauds Passage of the North Texas Invasive Species Barrier Act of 2014". House Office of Pete Sessions. 28 April 2014. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  10. ^[dead link]
  11. ^ "The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is Elated to Announce that a Bipartisan Agreement Has Been Reached to Move the ABLE Act Forward for a Floor Vote When Congress Returns", NDSS press release, September 19, 2014. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
  12. ^ "Boy Scouts of America's Centennial Commemorative Coin Receives Presidential Approval". Boy Scouts of America. 2008-10-16. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  13. ^ "Boy Scouts of America Silver Dollar Centennial Commemorative Coin". Coin News. 2008-04-28. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  14. ^ Lovley, Erika (2008-09-17). "Pols discuss raising special-needs kids". Politico. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  15. ^ Parkinson, John R., "Exclusive: Sessions Not Running for Majority Whip, Seeks Reelection at NRCC", ABC, Nov. 8, 2010. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  16. ^ Gillman, Todd J. (2006-01-06). "Sessions, others in casino crusade got tribal cash". The Dallas Morning News. 
  17. ^ Becker, Bernie (February 5, 2009). "Sessions, Stimulus and the Taliban". 
  18. ^ "Learning from the Taliban". The Economist. February 5, 2009. 
  19. ^ Thrush, Glenn (February 5, 2009). "Pete Sessions: House GOP learning from Taliban". Politico. 
  20. ^ Bresnahan, John. "Pete Sessions's blimp flies into storm". Politico. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  21. ^ Kuffner, Charles (2006-04-19). "CREW goes after Sessions". Off the Kuff. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  22. ^ Bresnahan, John. "Lobbyist sues in wake of blimp pork". Politico. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  23. ^ a b c Sallah, Michael. "Feds probe banker Allen Stanford's ties to Congress – Business". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  24. ^ "NRCC chief jokes about 'white guys'". POLITICO. Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  25. ^ "NRCC Chair Makes Racially Insensitive Remarks". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Democrats & African-Americans". Roll Call. Retrieved October 7, 2010. [dead link]
  27. ^ Bresnahan, John (2012-01-17). "Sessions got Countrywide VIP loan". Politico. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  28. ^ Emshwiller, John (2012-01-18). "Mozilo Tied to Loan to Top Lawmaker". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  29. ^ Pelham, Victoria (2012-07-05). "Pete Sessions cleared of wrongdoing in Countrywide loan scandal". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  30. ^ Weigel, David (October 7, 2013). "GOP Congressman on Shutdown: "We're Not French. We Don't Surrender."". Slate. 
  31. ^ website retrieved 11 October 2016
  32. ^ GovTrack website retrieved 11 October 2016
  33. ^ Blake, Aaron. "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump's travel ban; here's where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  34. ^ Zeller, Shawn (2012-03-18). "Pete Sessions' Divorce Is Final". Roll Call. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  35. ^ Bresnahan, John (August 5, 2012). "Pete Sessions weds". Politico. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Bryant
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Jeb Hensarling
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 32nd congressional district

Preceded by
David Dreier
Chair of the House Rules Committee
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tom Cole
Chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee
Succeeded by
Greg Walden
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Bill Pascrell
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Brad Sherman