House speakership fight puts Houston Republican Dan Crenshaw’s chairmanship dreams at risk

Congressman Dan Crenshaw is fighting to chair the House Homeland Security Committee. Two House Freedom Caucus members, so far backing Kevin McCarthy for speaker, also want the job.


The fight over the speakership of the House is keeping two Houston Republicans from taking up leadership posts. The contest could cost one of them a desired and high-profile committee chairmanship.

Congressman Michael McCaul is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He's likely to get that chairmanship whether or not Congressman Kevin McCarthy wins the speakership. McCaul joined two other chairmen-in-waiting – Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers of the House Armed Services Committee and Ohio Rep. Mike Turner of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence – in issuing a statement backing McCarthy for speaker and calling on Republican holdouts to fall in line.

"As the incoming chairs of the national security committees, we strongly support Kevin McCarthy for speaker," the statement said. "The Biden administration is going unchecked and there is no oversight of the White House, State Department, Department of Defense, or the intelligence community. We cannot let personal politics place the safety and security of the United States at risk."

Under Republican leadership, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to hold hearings investigating the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, as well as the White House's China policy.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw is in a more vulnerable position. Crenshaw, also a staunch supporter of McCarthy for speaker, is vying for the chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee. That committee is expected to hold hearings investigating the Biden administration's immigration and border security policies. It would also play a key role if the Republican-led Congress moves to impeach Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The problem?

"There is a member of the (House) Freedom Caucus who wants that chairmanship as well and is bargaining with McCarthy over that chairmanship in exchange for his vote," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. "Crenshaw has been waiting his turn, being the good soldier, and if he were to lose it to someone who jumps the queue because they are threatening McCarthy's speakership, that would estrange him, perhaps, from McCarthy for quite some time."

There are actually two Freedom Caucus members seeking the Homeland Security Committee chairmanship: Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins and Tennessee Rep. Mark Green. Higgins is currently the third-ranking Republican on the committee. Both he and Green have voted for McCarthy for speaker up to now.

Texas fields the largest Republican House delegation of any state, and the delegation stands to wield considerable power once the party actually chooses a speaker and organizes the House. That makes it particularly frustrating for McCaul and Crenshaw that three of the members opposing McCarthy are fellow Texans.

"One of those three is a freshman member, Keith Self from Plano, Texas," Jillson said. "And you've got senior members who are supporting McCarthy who can't quite believe that guys who can't find the bathroom are willing to stand in the way of the organization of the Republican majority in Congress."

The other two Texans opposing McCarthy for speaker are Congressman Michael Cloud of Victoria and Congressman Chip Roy of Austin.

"(Roy) is a very interesting guy, oftentimes erratic, sometimes part of the solution in Congress, but oftentimes part of the problem," Jillson said. "He is one of the spokesmen for the Freedom Caucus 20 that are refusing to seat McCarthy as speaker."

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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