|Member of the|
U.S. House of Representatives
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2021
|Preceded by||Bill Flores|
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||John Bryant|
|Succeeded by||Colin Allred|
|Constituency||5th district (1997–2003)|
32nd district (2003–2019)
|Chair of the House Rules Committee|
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||David Dreier|
|Succeeded by||Jim McGovern|
Peter Anderson Sessions
March 22, 1955
Waco, Texas, U.S.
(m. 1984; div. 2011)
|Relatives||William S. Sessions (father)|
|Education||Southwestern University (BS)|
Peter Anderson Sessions (born March 22, 1955) is an American politician from Texas who is the U.S. representative for Texas's 17th congressional district. A member of the Republican Party, he has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 11 terms. He chaired the House Rules Committee from 2013 to 2019 and is a former chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He was defeated for reelection by Democrat Colin Allred in 2018. On October 3, 2019, Sessions announced that he was running for Congress again in 2020. He was elected to the 17th district congressional seat on November 3, 2020.
Early life, education, and business career
Sessions was born in Waco, Texas, the son of Alice June (née Lewis) and William Steele Sessions, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He grew up in Waco and in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. In 1978, he graduated from Southwestern University, 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.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1991, Sessions finished sixth 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 Representative 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. 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.
In 1996, when Bryant ran for a Senate seat, Sessions was elected to succeed him in the 5th District, defeating Democratic nominee John Pouland with 47% of the vote. He was reelected in 1998, defeating schoolteacher Victor Morales with 56% of the vote. In 2000, he defeated Regina Montoya Coggins with 54% of the vote. When redistricting after the 2000 census made the 5th slightly more Democratic, he moved to the newly created 32nd District, in which he ran in the 2002 election and defeated Pauline Dixon with 68% of the vote.
In 2004, Sessions defeated 13-term Democratic incumbent Martin Frost, who had moved to the 32nd after redistricting in 2003 eliminated Frost's former district. Sessions 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, Sessions 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 was reelected. In 2012, he faced Democratic candidate Katherine Savers McGovern and independent candidate Seth Hollis. Sessions was endorsed by the Dallas Morning News and was reelected. In the 2014 Republican primary, Sessions defeated conservative Katrina Pierson, an African American aligned with the Tea Party movement, polling 28,954 votes (63.6%) to her 16,560 (36.4%). Pierson, originally allied with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, later joined Donald Trump's presidential campaign staff.
In 2016, Sessions polled 49,632 votes (61.4%) to gain renomination in the Republican primary, which had a much greater turnout than in 2014. The runner-up, Russ K. Ramsland of Dallas, received 19,105 votes (23.6%). Paul M. Brown of Richardson received 9,488 (11.7%), and Cherie Myint Roughneen received 2,601 (3.2%).
In October 2019, Sessions announced his candidacy for the 2020 election in Texas's 17th congressional district, about 100 miles (160 km) from his former district. The district includes his boyhood home Waco, and Sessions bought a house there soon after announcing his candidacy. Sessions's bid received a chilly reception from some Republicans in the district, including the retiring incumbent, Bill Flores, but he led the field in a crowded 12-way Republican primary–the real contest in this heavily Republican district. He then defeated healthcare executive Renee Swann in a runoff, securing the Republican nomination and all but assuring his return to Congress.
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In November 1997, Sessions was one of 18 House Republicans to co-sponsor a resolution by Bob Barr that sought to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Bill Clinton. The resolution did not specify any charges or allegations. This was an early effort to impeach Clinton, predating the eruption of the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal. That scandal led to a more serious effort to impeach Clinton in 1998. On October 8, 1998, Sessions voted for legislation to open an impeachment inquiry. On December 19, 1998, he voted in favor of all four articles of impeachment against Clinton (only two of which received the needed majority of votes).
Republican Party leadership positions
In 2014, Sessions was originally a candidate for the post of House majority leader, to replace Eric Cantor, but withdrew from the internal House Republican Conference election, leaving the field clear for Kevin McCarthy of California.
- House Committee on Rules, chair
Party leadership and caucus memberships
- National Republican Congressional Committee, former chairman
- Results Caucus
- Malaysia Trade, Security and Economic Cooperation Caucus
- Republican Study Committee
- Congressional Hispanic Conference
- Tea Party Caucus
- Congressional Cement Caucus
- Congressional Western Caucus
In late 2001 and early 2002, Sessions 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 he believed that gambling is a local issue, falling under his long-held support for federalism.
In 2008, Sessions added a $1.6 million earmark for dirigible research to an appropriations bill. The earmark benefited a Chicago company, Jim G. Ferguson & Associates, that had no experience in government contracting or dirigible research. Former Sessions aide and convicted felon Adrian Plesha was a lobbyist for the firm. In September, Plesha sued Jim G. Ferguson & Associates for non-payment of fees and expenses connected with his lobbying effort on their behalf.
Sessions opposed allowing states to determine their own policies regarding the legality of cannabis and the regulation of legal cannabis markets. As chair of the House Rules Committee, he repeatedly stifled proposed amendments relaxing federal laws against cannabis, including one that would have allowed medical marijuana access to veterans in states where the drug is legal.
Military and police
Sessions supported the 1033 program, under which the U.S. military transfers surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies; the program is controversial because of its association with militarization of police. In 2015 and 2017, he cosponsored Republican legislation to reverse the Obama administration's restrictions on the 1033 program.
In 2012, Sessions voted against disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. In August 2017, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of Texas, he called for disaster relief for its victims.
Office of Congressional Ethics
In 2016, Sessions criticized the independent, nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), calling it "a political witch hunt" and "an outside process that's very controversial, is not working well and is highly unpopular because of its original mandate and jurisdiction is hugely flawed." In 2017, he publicly defended a House Republican plan to dismantle the OCE; the plan was abandoned after a public uproar.
In 2017, Sessions sponsored a bill to delay for nine years the full implementation of 2015 ozone standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration; the bill passed the House, largely on party lines.
Sessions supported the North Texas Invasive Species Barrier Act of 2014, 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. The Lacey Act protects plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for various violations, including transferring invasive species across state borders. 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."
Sessions favors repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"). He supported the March 2017 version of the American Health Care Act, the House Republicans' replacement for the ACA. On May 4, 2017, he voted to repeal the ACA and pass the American Health Care Act.
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 called inappropriate by New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell.
Less than two weeks after his "white guys" comments, Sessions 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."
Immigration and citizenship
Sessions supported Trump's 2017 executive order imposing a temporary ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations, saying, "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."
In 2017, Sessions suggested that Congress could appropriate funds for part of construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall demanded by Trump as part of "a Republican-only bill" to continue funding the government.
Ties to Allen Stanford
Sessions came under scrutiny for his personal ties to disgraced banker Allen Stanford, who in 2012 was convicted of orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Sessions received over $44,000 in political contributions from Stanford and his associates. He also took multiple trips to Fire Island and to the Caribbean to attend Stanford-sponsored events; these trips included private travel on Stanford's fleet of jets and accommodations. In 2014, VICE News obtained records from Stanford's internal files that indicated that in 2007 and 2008, before the scandal came to light, Sessions had intervened on Stanford's behalf with the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, allowing Stanford to bypass certain Cuban embargo restrictions. Also, in 2004, Sessions and two other Republican representatives, Bob Ney and John E. Sweeney, wrote to Venezuelan banking regulators, "vouching for Stanford's character when Stanford was trying to obtain a charter to open a bank in the country, at a time when regulators there were reluctant because of reports they had received that Stanford was running a Ponzi scheme and engaged in money laundering."
Sessions and Rudy Giuliani were involved in back-channel talks attempting to persuade Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to leave office in 2018. The effort was backed in part by private interests. The negotiations were opposed by White House officials including then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, The Washington Post reported.
In 2017, Sessions, as chair of the House Rules Committee, stalled a bill imposing additional sanctions against Russia and Iran from moving to the floor, saying that some parts of the bill, which passed the Senate on a 98–2 vote, could create "huge problems to companies in Dallas, Texas, that I represent" and place them at a competitive disadvantage.
In July 2018, Sessions argued that it was unnecessary to increase federal funding for election security. The U.S. intelligence community had concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and that it was continuing to interfere in election systems as of July 2018.
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. And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes." 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 front-line 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."
Countrywide Financial loan
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, which was granted at a lower interest rate than was 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. Sessions received a $1 million loan from Countrywide at below-market rates, which he never declared in financial disclosures. His name and those of other legislators who received similar loans subsequently appeared in a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's ethics investigation into improper gifts. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform when its investigation found he did not receive any preferential treatment or a below-market interest rate on his mortgage from Countrywide.
Implication regarding the French
During the 2013 government shutdown, after being questioned about 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, "We're not the French; we don't surrender." As chair 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; he voted for the bill.[non-primary source needed]
In 2022, Sessions was one of 39 Republicans to vote for the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2022, an antitrust package that would crack down on corporations for anti-competitive behavior.
In 2008, Sessions introduced legislation that created a commemorative silver dollar coin celebrating the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America. The bill passed the House on a 403–8 vote and the Senate unanimously; it was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Connection to Ukraine influence investigation
On October 10, 2019, the Texas Tribune, among other news outlets, reported that Sessions was identifiable as "Congressman-1" in an indictment by the Southern District of New York charging Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with illegal campaign contributions aimed at removing former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch. In 2018, after meeting with Parnas and Fruman, Sessions authored a letter in his capacity as House Rules Committee chair calling for Yovanovitch's removal. On October 15, The Washington Post reported that the grand jury investigating the matter had issued subpoenas to Sessions, with which his spokesperson said he would cooperate. Sessions denied that he took any action as a result of his meetings with Parnas and Fruman.
In February 1984, Sessions married Juanita "Nete" Diaz; the couple had two sons. In August 2011, they divorced after 27 years of marriage. In August 2012, Sessions married Karen Diebel, a 2010 congressional candidate in Florida and a Trump Administration appointee to the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
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