Mac Thornberry

Mac Thornberry


Thornberry introduces bill to rein in EPA overreach


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) introduced the Federal Regulatory Certainty for Water Act, H.R. 2705, to clarify the definition of “navigable waters” in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to help protect private property owners from regulatory expansion by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). 

“Those who live and work in our part of Texas, especially the farmers and ranchers, understand the importance of clean water and work hard to be good stewards of the environment, but we also understand that personal property and water rights are fundamental to the American way of life, a family’s business, and many people’s livelihoods,” said Thornberry.

For decades, the courts and the EPA have grappled over the scope of the CWA, which simply defines “navigable waters” as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” In May 2015, the EPA and Corps finalized the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which could allow the regulation of almost any wet area on private land that has some arbitrary connection to a navigable body of water. In addition to repealing the misguided EPA/Corps WOTUS rule, Thornberry’s bill redefines “navigable waters” in the CWA as waters that are navigable-in-fact or are permanently flowing bodies of water that physically connect to navigable waters. H.R. 2705 also clarifies what types of waters are excluded from federal jurisdiction. 

“This Administration, the EPA in particular, has shown total disregard for the rights of private citizens. No landowner should have to worry about whether the federal government will get in the way of their business because of the bar ditch behind their house. Since 2013, I have introduced and the House has passed two bills that offered simple, commonsense ways to protect private landowners from regulatory overreach by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Thornberry.

Thornberry has recently supported and the House has passed three other bills that would help rein in EPA regulatory overreach:

H.R. 2028, the “FY 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations bill,” with a provision that would bar the Corps from developing, adopting, implementing, or enforcing any change to rules or guidance pertaining to the CWA definition of WOTUS.

H.R. 1732, the “Regulatory Integrity Protection Act,” which would require the EPA and the Corps to develop a new WOTUS rule by consulting with state and local officials and taking into actual consideration the public comments on the 2014 proposal and supporting documents.

H.R. 2042, the “Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015,” which would delay the compliance date of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for existing power plants until all judicial and administrative reviews are final and no longer eligible for appeal. The bill would also allow states to opt out of compliance if the governor determines that the rule would have an adverse effect on rate-payers or have a significant adverse effect on the reliability of the state's electricity system. Read More

Thornberry supports full repeal of Country of Origin Labeling


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) yesterday voted in favor of a bill to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling, also known as “COOL,” for beef, pork, and poultry.  Thornberry was an original cosponsor of the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015 (H.R. 2393) that passed the House by a vote of 300 to 131.

“After several years of implementation, this rule has done little more than increase costs and decrease profits for farmers, ranchers, and producers along the supply chain,” said Thornberry. “It has been ruled to be a trade violation against two important trading partners, Canada and Mexico.”

COOL was implemented in 2008 as a mandatory marketing program.  An economic study, mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill, found that it has had little effect on the demand for covered commodities. Yet, it has unnecessarily cost producers, packers, and processors hundreds of millions of dollars. 

In 2011, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the U.S. COOL requirement violated international trade obligations by discriminating against livestock from both Canada and Mexico, creating loses solely based on their origin. According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Canada and Mexico are two of the top three export destinations for U.S. beef, accounting for more than $2 billion in sales and nearly one-third of total U.S. beef exports.

“If the U.S. does not comply with the WTO ruling, Canada and Mexico will have the authority to impose retaliatory tariffs on our agriculture and manufactured goods,” said Thornberry.  “These tariffs won’t just affect our farmers and ranchers who spend their lives providing safe food for people all around the world. They have the potential to severely harm our entire economy.”

Thornberry represents the 13th District of Texas, which encompasses the Texas Panhandle and parts of North Texas. The area is the largest cattle and pork-producing district in the State. His family has raised cattle for several generations.

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Thornberry Op-ed: We need trade agreements with American rules


Since mankind’s earliest days, we have traded.  Exchanging a goat for some wood or stone was an essential means of survival.  Some groups or individuals have always been better at some tasks than others. 
The same is true among nations today.  Whether it is differences in climate, natural resources, or stage of economic development, some countries are better able to produce certain goods than others.  Buying and selling goods among them helps raise the living standards of everyone.
In the U.S., we do a lot of things well.  Americans are getting more efficient at producing everything from agricultural commodities to manufactured goods.  Yet, over 90 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our shores.  To create jobs and improve our quality of life, we have to sell American products and services overseas.
Those sales are usually governed by trade agreements, and there has been a flurry of them in recent years.  The problem is that the U.S. has largely been left out.  In the first decade of this century, the countries of East Asia negotiated 48 trade agreements.  The U.S. was only involved in two.  Over that time, America’s share of exports to that region fell by 42 percent, the worst record of any major exporting country.
A big part of the reason we have been left behind is that the authority to negotiate trade agreements within congressional rules has been allowed to lapse.  A president can negotiate a trade deal at any time, but other countries, knowing how our system works, will not negotiate with us if Congress can go back in after the agreement is signed to change the individual provisions.  Instead of letting a president negotiate alone in secret, it is more beneficial for Congress to insert itself in the beginning of the process with the final approval authority.     
The House will soon vote to authorize and set the rules for presidents over the next five years to negotiate on trade, known as Trade Promotion Authority.  That authorization will require any agreement to meet certain conditions, and it will require that any agreement be made public for 60 days before being signed.  Congress will then have the chance to vote to approve or disapprove of it.
Two points to keep in mind:  Trade is very important to our part of Texas.  About 25 percent of the pork, 50 percent of the wheat, 90 percent of the cotton, and 90 percent of the harvested sorghum produced in our congressional district is sold overseas.  Many other kinds of businesses depend heavily on overseas sales as well.
Secondly, China is busily working to be a dominant power – militarily and economically.  They aim to write the rules for international affairs in a way that benefits them.  And they may well be successful if the U.S. continues to sit on the sidelines. We need trade agreements with American rules to hold other countries accountable to our standards and to sell American products and services to the world on a level playing field.  We have to get in the game.

U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He serves as the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He serves as the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

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Thornberry responds to EPA's final water regulation


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized the “Waters of the United States” regulation, which may have serious consequences for private landowners:

“My staff is conducting a thorough review of the final rule, but I have little confidence that the EPA has addressed the concerns that many people, businesses, and other organizations have raised with this particular regulation. Folks who live and work in our part of Texas, especially the farmers and ranchers, understand the importance of clean water and work hard to be good stewards of the land, but we also understand that personal property and water rights are fundamental to the American way of life, a family’s business, and many people’s livelihoods.

“This Administration, the EPA in particular, has shown total disregard for the rights of private citizens. No landowner should have to worry about whether the federal government will get in the way of their business because of the bar ditch behind their house. Since 2013, I have introduced and the House has passed two bills that offered simple, commonsense ways to protect private landowners from regulatory overreach by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.” 

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Defense bill passes House


The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the annual defense policy bill that authorizes spending for military personnel, weapons systems, national security programs, and foreign military operations by a vote of 269 to 151. This is the first National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be passed under local U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry’s (R-Clarendon) chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee, and it includes funding for Sheppard Air Force Base, the Pantex Plant, and the V-22 Osprey program at Bell Helicopter’s Military Aircraft Assembly Center in Amarillo.

The bill authorizes nearly $612 billion in spending for national defense. The funding in the bill is consistent with the House Budget Resolution that balances the federal budget and reduces government spending by $5.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

“The first job of the federal government is to provide for the nation’s defense, and the threats we face today at home and abroad are more varied, widespread, and dangerous than at almost any other time in our history,” Thornberry said. “For too long, the American military has shouldered a disproportional amount of the mindless budget cuts under sequestration, and our military leaders have warned us of the serious consequences we will face if that continues. This year’s NDAA seeks to reverse that dangerous trend.”

Locally, the bill also includes funding for national security facilities, including training missions at Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls. In addition, it includes about $2.7 billion total for Bell’s V-22 Osprey and helicopter programs, including the procurement of 19 new Ospreys and 28 new AH-1Z / UH-1Y helicopters for the Marine Corps. Much of the work for those aircraft will be performed in Amarillo.

It also provides $9.1 billion in funding for nuclear weapons activities—including those performed at Pantex. To help address the severe backlog of maintenance on physical infrastructure across the National Nuclear Security Agency, the bill provides $150 million specifically for recapitalization projects and an additional $24 million for preventative maintenance. The bill also includes $632 million for defense nuclear security and $245 million to accelerate much needed efforts to improve emergency response at Pantex and other nuclear weapons facilities.

A key compensation reform in the bill will provide a new retirement system for future military service members. The system would allow new service members to contribute to a portable 401(k)-style retirement plan with matching contributions from the government of up to 5 percent of basic pay. Eighty-three percent of service members leave the military before the current 20-year mark to qualify for retirement. Current members will have the option of being grandfathered into the old system or choosing the new 401(k)-styled system, and the provision would not affect veterans who are already retired. The bill does not make any significant changes to current TRICARE benefits.

“Many of the men and women who honorably serve our nation, often risking their lives in combat, do not receive any type of retirement benefit right now because of the current 20-year, all-or-nothing plan,” Thornberry said. “This reform would reflect the value of their service to the country, while also helping us to continue recruiting the best and the brightest for our Armed Forces.”

The NDAA incorporates H.R. 955, the bipartisan legislation Thornberry introduced earlier this year to authorize assistance to the military and national security forces of Ukraine, which specifically includes defensive weapons to help the Ukrainians defend themselves from Russian-backed rebels. It also supports military operations in Afghanistan and against terrorist organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda.

Legislation to reform the Department of Defense’s (DoD) broken acquisition system, H.R. 1597, is also incorporated into the defense authorization bill. Thornberry and other members of the Armed Services Committee engaged with experts at the DoD, in the defense industry, and within Congress for more than a year with a focus on reforming the DoD’s acquisition system to make it more agile.

The bill reauthorizes the bipartisan prohibitions against transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. and against building detention facilities in the U.S. Since January of 2014, the Obama Administration has transferred 33 detainees to other countries. Thornberry has expressed serious concerns about the circumstances of those transfers and of former detainees returning to the battlefield.

Local Highlights
• Military Personnel and Pay: The bill supports a 2.3 percent pay raise for the military.
• Joint Prescription Formulary: Creates a joint uniform formulary between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs for medications to treat psychiatric conditions, sleep disorders, and pain management to ensure transition veterans continue to receive the best care when they leave military service.
• BRAC: Prohibits another round of base closings.
• Pantex: Increases funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons activities including Pantex. The bill also provides $37.4 million specifically for recapitalization projects at Pantex.             
• Bell: Includes about $2.8 billion total for Bell V-22 and helicopter programs, much of which is done in Amarillo, including procurement of 19 new Ospreys and 28 new helicopters for the Marine Corps.           
• Sheppard AFB: Includes funding for activities at Sheppard AFB in the personnel account and operations and maintenance account.
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Thornberry, Larsen introduce bill to improve transportation options for rural veterans


U.S. Congressmen Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) and Rick Larsen (D-Everett) today introduced “The Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2015,” H.R. 2291, that would reauthorize the Veterans Transportation Services program for five years and provide mileage reimbursement for combat veterans traveling to receive counseling and care from veterans centers.

“We have a responsibility to the men and women who sacrificed so much for our nation with their selfless service,” said Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “We will never know the full extent of their sacrifice, but we would not know freedom without it. That is why programs and legislation like this one are so important in our work to better serve them.”

The Veterans Transportation Service program provides funding to local VA facilities to hire transportation coordinators and purchase vehicles that VA-trained staff can use to connect more veterans to the care they need. Amarillo transported 6,047 Veterans to appointments between Oct 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. The program is a cost-effective way to help veterans access health care by saving money on ambulance costs and mileage reimbursements.

“Access to health care does not just mean having enough doctors. It means making sure veterans can get to appointments with their doctors. My bill will help break down travel barriers so veterans don’t have to wonder how they will get to their next healthcare appointment,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act will:

  • Reauthorize for five years the Veterans Transportation Services program;
  • Provide mileage reimbursement for veterans traveling to receive counseling and care from Veterans Centers like the one in Amarillo; and
  • Reauthorize a grant program to provide transportation options to highly rural veterans seeking medical care.

A companion bill in the Senate was introduced by Sens. Jon Tester (R-MT) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

Thornberry’s office is available to assist veterans who need help accessing resources. Call his Amarillo office at (806) 371-8844.

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Local Student Wins 2015 National Congressional Art Contest


A Caprock High School student has been selected to represent the 13th Congressional District of Texas in the nationwide 2015 Congressional Art Contest. A pastel portrait submitted by Michael Alvarez, son of Olivia Alvarado of Amarillo, will be displayed in the hallways of the United States Capitol for an entire year. 

The portrait of his grandfather, entitled “Tito,” was selected as the winning entry from the 13th District of Texas. "My grandfather has been an instrumental figure throughout my life,” Michael said of his winning artwork. “I find that when I have a connection with the person I am describing in my artwork, a spiritual experience is made visual. Portraying him through my art was an honor.”

Winners of the competition are invited to Washington, D.C., for a special reception to honor the winners. Michael and his mother, Olivia, plan to attend the event this year and visit with U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry while they are there. 

“We had many impressive pieces of art submitted by students from across our part of Texas for this year’s Congressional Art Competition,” Thornberry said. “Michael’s portrait of his grandfather demonstrates a great deal of artistic talent. I am proud to have it represent our district in the Capitol building for the next year.”

Michael’s art teacher, Shawn Kennedy, said, “Michael is an incredibly talented artist.” He continued, “The level of virtuosity he emanates upon his portraits are exceptional and far beyond a typical advanced student. His work captures the essence of the individual in a manner equivocal to any professional.” Michael is a senior at Caprock High School. 

The Congressional Art Contest is a national competition that selects one piece of artwork from all 435 U.S. congressional districts and territories for a year-long exhibit in Washington, D.C. The annual contest for high school students has taken place since 1982.

To download a high resolution copy of the photo, please click here: Tito by Michael Alvarez

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Thornberry, Cornyn introduce bills to resolve Red River land dispute


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced legislation today in the U.S. House and Senate, H.R. 2130 and S. 1153 respectively, to protect private property rights along the Red River from federal ownership claims. By providing legal certainty to landowners, the Red River Private Property Protection Act seeks to end questions about the federal government's ownership of disputed land along the Red River. 

“Private landowners deserve absolute clarity from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a fair resolution to this issue. Until that happens, we will not let up in our efforts to assure landowners that their private property rights along the Red River will be protected,” Thornberry said. “Our bills should be a signal that Republicans in the House and Senate will continue to fight the federal government’s intrusion into people’s private property. This type of overreach seems to be happening more often, but we will fight it every step of the way.” 

Many landowners and other public officials are alarmed that BLM actions might result in disputed claims of ownership. Since concern first arose in December 2013, Thornberry’s and Cornyn’s offices have held multiple meetings, phone calls, and other correspondence with landowners, as well as local and state officials, to coordinate action. The legislation they introduced this week has been adjusted from the bill they introduced in the last session of Congress. The new legislation reflects the input they received by listening to landowners, the Texas General Land Office, and many others.

“Many of these affected Texans have owned land along the Red River for generations, but are now caught up in the confusion and clouded titles due to the BLM’s claims. This commonsense legislation establishes a process to resolve the uncertainty, and protects these taxpayers’ property rights from improper federal claims,” Cornyn said.

Thornberry and Cornyn have been pressing the case with BLM locally and with the agency’s leadership in Washington. In 2013, the agency said there are thousands of acres along the Red River on the border between Texas and Oklahoma that may be considered public domain. The stretch of land is located in Wilbarger, Wichita, and Clay counties.

"Strong property rights are a cornerstone of our most basic freedoms. Unfortunately, BLM continues to seek control of privately-owned lands along the Red River. We must protect landowners from federal overreach, and I am proud to once again join Sen. Cornyn and Congressman Thornberry in introducing legislation that will prevent the federal government from unlawfully encroaching upon private property rights,” Sen. Cruz said.

Original cosponsors of the bills include: Sen. Cruz, Reps. Carter, McCaul, and Gohmert.

The legislation will provide legal certainty to property owners along the Red River by:

• Commissioning a survey of the entire 116-mile stretch of contested area along the Red River using the gradient boundary survey method developed and backed by the Supreme Court to find the proper boundary between Texas and Oklahoma.  

• Ordering that the survey be conducted by Licensed State Land Surveyors chosen by the Texas General Land Office, and the final survey must ultimately be approved by the State.

• Allowing landowners who hold the proper right, title, and/or interest in the contested area to appeal any further public domain claims by BLM through an Administrative Law Judge.

• Preventing any contested land from being included in the Resource Management Plan until the survey is complete and private land is no longer subject to an appeal.

• Requiring BLM to sell off the surface rights of the remaining publicly owned land at fair market value after the proper boundary line is located and settled. The bill also explicitly states that the interest of the states and the sovereignty rights of the federally recognized Indian tribes north of the Texas State boundary line will not be affected.

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Shanna Peeples of Amarillo named 2015 National Teacher of the Year


Shanna Peeples, a high school English teacher at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, TX, was named the 2015 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) said, “Ms. Peeples is the type of educator all parents want teaching our children. She is a shining example of the best of her profession. The fact that she has already been recognized as the Teacher of the Year for Texas and has now become the Teacher of the Year for the entire country makes everyone in our area – and especially our teachers and school systems – very proud.”

In addition to teaching, Peeples mentors, coaches, and works with her colleagues to improve the lives of children who come from diverse backgrounds. As she travels the nation over the next year, she plans to emphasize effective teaching methods for students in poverty or facing extreme challenges.

“The title of Teacher of the Year is a way for me to always talk about what teachers do for our kids. And I am exceedingly proud of the honor of representing men and women who pour themselves into this, the most important job there is,” said Peeples.

On Wednesday, all of the State Teachers of the Year will be honored by President Barack Obama at the White House, and Peeples will be recognized as the National Teacher of the Year. 

Click here to download a photo of Peeples and Thornberry.

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House passes bill to permanently repeal the death tax


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) voted today in support of a bill that permanently repeals the death tax. The “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015,” H.R. 1105, passed the House by a vote of 240-179.

The death tax, also known as the inheritance tax or estate tax, requires families to turn over portions of an inheritance to the government. Small business owners, farmers, and ranchers are often particularly vulnerable to this tax, making it more difficult for future generations to build upon their family’s hard work. 

Please follow the this link to download video of Thornberry speaking on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of the legislation. You can use all or some of the video for news purposes.

Thornberry has introduced or cosponsored a bill to repeal the death tax more than 20 times while serving in Congress. On the opening day of the 114th Congress this year, he filed the “Death Tax Repeal Act,” H.R. 173, which had 79 cosponsors and would permanently repeal the federal estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes. He was a cosponsor of the bill that passed today, H.R. 1105, introduced by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). Read More

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Contact Information

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Committee Assignments

Armed Services

A fifth generation Texan, Mac Thornberry has strong ties to the people he serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mac is a lifelong resident of the 13th District of Texas. His family has been ranching in the area since 1881 – a family business in which Mac remains actively involved.

Mac shares the values of the people he represents and continues to fight for the things that are important to them. He is a longtime advocate of lower taxes and limited government. Boosting domestic energy production, protecting private property rights, and reforming health care are top priorities for Mac. He strongly supports cutting government spending and creating the kind of policies that encourage economic growth, rather than suffocating it.  Additionally, as one of the few Members of Congress personally involved in agriculture, Mac understands the challenges agricultural producers face and has been a key player in efforts to support producers in the 13th District.

Mac has established himself as a leader in national security, an area in which he continues to be given new responsibilities and opportunities to help advance the security of our nation.  He serves as the Vice Chairman of the Armed Services Committee where he also leads the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats, and Capabilities.  He also continues to serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
In early 2011, Mac was tapped by the Speaker of the House and Majority Leader to spearhead a Cybersecurity Task Force to guide House legislative action on this growing national security and economic threat. Well-respected by Members on both sides of the aisle for his insight and leadership, they asked Mac to chair a group of lawmakers representing nine major committees of jurisdiction. The charge was to make recommendations in a number of areas including updating existing laws, protecting critical infrastructure, and sharing cybersecurity information. On October 5, 2011, the Task Force released its recommendations, which have received a favorable response from Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, as well as the White House, private businesses, and other outside organizations.
Mac is also widely respected as an innovator and strategic thinker.  He was one of the first in Congress to recognize the need to confront the threat of terrorism. Six months before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Mac introduced a bill to create a new Department of Homeland Security, which formed the basis of legislation signed into law by President Bush 20 months later. He has also played a major role in shaping national policy on transformation of the military and strategic nuclear issues. In addition, he is at the forefront of efforts in Congress to protect the country from threats ranging from terrorist attacks to nuclear proliferation.
Born in Clarendon and raised on the family ranch in Donley County, Mac graduated from Clarendon High School before continuing his education at Texas Tech University. After obtaining a B.A. in history from Tech in 1980, he went on to the University of Texas Law School where he graduated in 1983. For the next several years, he worked in Washington, including serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs in the State Department under President Reagan.In 1989, Mac joined his brothers in the cattle business and practiced law in Amarillo.  He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994.

Mac’s wife, Sally, is also a native Texan. They have two children.

Serving With

Louie Gohmert


Ted Poe


Sam Johnson


John Ratcliffe


Jeb Hensarling


Joe Barton


John Culberson


Kevin Brady


Michael McCaul


Michael Conaway


Kay Granger


Randy Weber


Bill Flores


Randy Neugebauer


Lamar Smith


Pete Olson


Will Hurd


Kenny Marchant


Roger Williams


Michael Burgess


Blake Farenthold


John Carter


Pete Sessions


Brian Babin


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