Pete Sessions

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Pete Sessions
Pete Sessions official photo.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 62)
Waco, Texas, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Juanita (1984–2011)
Karen Diebel (2012–present)
Father William S. Sessions
Education Southwestern University (BS)

Peter Anderson 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 business 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.

The Boy Scouts of America 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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).[6] 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 of Dallas, received 19,105 votes (23.6 percent). Two other contenders held the remaining 14.9 percent of the ballots cast.[7]

Republican Party leadership positions[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.[8]

In 2014, Sessions was originally a candidate for the post of House majority leader, to replace Eric Cantor.[9] However, Sessions withdrew from the internal House Republican Conference election, leaving the field clear for Kevin McCarthy of California.[10][11]

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.[12]

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.[13] "And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes."[14] 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."[15]


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.[16][17]

In September, Adrian Plesha sued Jim G. Ferguson & Associates for non-payment of fees and expenses connected with his lobbying effort on their behalf.[18]

Ties to Allen Stanford[edit]

Sessions came under scrutiny for his personal ties to disgraced banker Allen Stanford,[19] who in 2012 was convicted of orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.[20] Sessions received over $44,000 in political contributions from Stanford and his associates.[19] Sessions 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.[19][20] 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 with the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, on Stanford's behalf, allowing him to bypass certain Cuban embargo restrictions.[20] Additionally, in 2004, Sessions (along with two other Republican congressmen, 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."[20]

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.[21]

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."[22][23]

Pete Sessions was a leader of the Republican shutdown of the United States federal government (October 1 to October 16, 2013). During a pre-shutdown 'negotiation' meeting with President Obama, Rep. Pete Sessions racistly "told the president: 'I cannot even stand to look at you.'"[24]

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.[25][26] 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.[27]

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."[28] 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.[29][30]

Orlando shooting[edit]

Sessions drew controversy in 2016 when he asserted that the site of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the scene of a mass shooting attack, was not a gay club.[31][32]

Political positions[edit]

As of August 2017, Sessions voted with his party in 98.8% of votes so far in the current (115th) session of Congress and voted in line with President Trump's position in 97.5% of votes.[33][34]


Sessions opposes abortion.[35] He opposes embyronic stem cell research.[36]

In March 2016, Sessions introduced a House resolution to "recognize magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure."[37][38]

Civil rights and liberties[edit]

He has voted in favor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag desecration.[36] The American Civil Rights Union gave him a 7% rating in 2002.[36]

Sessions is a supporter of 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, Sessions cosponsored Republican legislation to reverse the Obama administration's restrictions on the 1033 program.[39]

Disaster aid[edit]

In 2012, Sessions voted against disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.[40] In August 2017, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of Texas, Sessions called for disaster relief for the victims of Harvey.[40][41] Sessions and other Texas Republicans came under criticism for calling for similar relief for their own constituents that they had opposed a few years before when it involved victims outside of the state of Texas.[40]


He voted against the Economic Stimulus Act of 2009, which was developed in response to the Great Recession and sought to save existing jobs and create new ones as soon as possible.[36]

He favors a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[36] He favors auditing the Federal Reserve.[36] He voted against trade adjustment assistance for workers who lose jobs due to globalization.[36]


In 2016, Sessions criticized the independent, nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), saying that the office was "a political witch hunt" and calling it "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."[42] In 2017, Sessions publicly defended a House Republican plan to dismantle the OCE; the plan was abandoned after a public uproar.[43]


Sessions opposes federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.[35] In February 2017, he voted to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, a regulation that required coal companies to restore streams and mined areas to their pre-development conditions.[33] In February 2017, he voted in favor of repealing a rule that required energy companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.[33] Also 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.[44]

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.[45] The Lacey Act protects plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for various violations, including transferring invasive species across state borders.[45] 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."[46]

Health care[edit]

Sessions favors repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare").[35][47] Sessions supported the March 2017 version of the American Health Care Act, the House Republicans' replacement plan for the ACA.[48] On May 4, 2017, he voted to repeal the ACA and pass the American Health Care Act.[49][50]

Sessions voted against extending the benefits of the State Children's Health Insurance Program to 2-4 million children in 2007 and 6 million children in 2008.[36]

Immigration and citizenship[edit]

He has voted in favor of legislation to require all government services to be in English only and to declare English as the official language of the United States.[36] He favors repealing the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would end birthright citizenship.[36] Sessions voted against the DREAM Act in 2010.[51]

Sessions supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order imposing a temporary ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations. 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.”[52]

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.[53]

LGBT rights[edit]

Sessions opposes same-sex marriage.[35] He voted in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.[36] He voted to ban homosexuals from adopting children in the District of Columbia.[36]

Parental leave[edit]

Sessions has voted against four weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees.[36]


In March 2017, Sessions voted to reverse a Federal Communications Commission privacy rule that prevented internet service providers from selling their customers' browsing data.[33]


In 2017, Sessions, as chairman of the House Rules Committee, stalled a bill imposing additional sanctions against Russia and Iran from moving to the floor; Sessions expressed the view 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.[54]

Women's rights[edit]

In 2013, Sessions voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.[36] He voted against legislation to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation.[36]


In 2008, Sessions introduced legislation that created a commemorative silver dollar coin celebrating the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America.[55] The bill passed the House on a 403-8 vote and passed the Senate unanimously; it was signed into law by President George W. Bush.[56]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2011, he and Juanita divorced after 27 years of marriage. They have two sons, Bill and Alex.[57] In August 2012, he married Karen Diebel.[58]


  1. ^ [1] Archived June 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
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  12. ^ Gillman, Todd J. (2006-01-06). "Sessions, others in casino crusade got tribal cash". The Dallas Morning News. 
  13. ^ Becker, Bernie (February 5, 2009). "Sessions, Stimulus and the Taliban". 
  14. ^ "Learning from the Taliban". The Economist. February 5, 2009. 
  15. ^ Thrush, Glenn (February 5, 2009). "Pete Sessions: House GOP learning from Taliban". Politico. 
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  29. ^ website retrieved 11 October 2016
  30. ^ GovTrack website retrieved 11 October 2016
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  32. ^ Marcos, Cristina (2016-06-14). "House GOP leaders block LGBT vote after Orlando shooting". The Hill. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  33. ^ a b c d Bycoffe, Aaron (2017-01-30). "Tracking Pete Sessions In The Age Of Trump". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved August 30, 2017. 
  34. ^ Willis, Derek. "Represent". ProPublica. Retrieved August 30, 2017. 
  35. ^ a b c d "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Pete Sessions on the Issues". Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
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  38. ^ Davis, Susan (10 June 2016). "David Copperfield Wants Congress To Believe In Magic". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  39. ^ Kevin Krause & Caroline Kelly, Trump allows local police to stock up on high-powered military vehicles and gear, Dallas News (August 28, 2017).
  40. ^ a b c Swanson, Ian (2017-08-28). "Lawmakers vow Harvey aid package, but there's no plan yet". The Hill. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  41. ^ Fuller, Matt; Subberwal, Kaeli (2017-08-28). "Hurricane Harvey And The Potential Hypocrisy Of Texas Republicans". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-08-30. 
  42. ^ Rema Rahman, Congressman Takes Aim at Ethics Agency, Roll Call (June 9, 2016).
  43. ^ Cameron Joseph & Adam Edelman, House Republicans cancel plan to dismantle ethics watchdog after backlash, opposition from Trump, New York Daily News (January 3, 2017).
  44. ^ Caroline Kelly, House approves Texan's bill to delay Obama-era ozone standards for reducing pollution, Dallas News (July 18, 2017).
  45. ^ a b "H.R. 4032". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  46. ^ "Pete Sessions Applauds Passage of the North Texas Invasive Species Barrier Act of 2014" (Press release). Office of U.S. Representative Pete Sessions. 28 April 2014. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  47. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
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  49. ^ "How the House voted to pass the GOP health-care bill". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-05-04. 
  50. ^ "Health care vote puts pressure on dozens of vulnerable GOP reps". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-05-04. 
  51. ^ House Vote 625 - Approves DREAM Act: H.R.5281, Represent, ProPublica.
  52. ^ Blake, Aaron. "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump's travel ban; here's where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  53. ^ Mallory Shelbourne, GOP rep: Funding bill could include Trump's border wall, The Hill(April 24, 2017).
  54. ^ Deirdre Walsh & Jeremy Herb, Russia sanctions bill still stuck in Congress before Trump-Putin meeting, CNN (June 29, 2017).
  55. ^ [2], Coin News (April 28, 2008).
  56. ^ H.R.5872 - Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Act: 110th Congress (2007-2008),
  57. ^ Zeller, Shawn (2012-03-18). "Pete Sessions' Divorce Is Final". Roll Call. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  58. ^ Bresnahan, John (August 5, 2012). "Pete Sessions weds". Politico. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 

External links[edit]

U.S. 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
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Bill Pascrell
D-New Jersey
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Brad Sherman