WASHINGTON — There are no quiet days in the nation's capital, but that maxim proved particularly true in 2016 for the Texas congressional delegation, thanks to its 38 members, seven chairmen, a presidential candidate and loads of drama.
The presidential contest incited both excitement and angst in the delegation, but so did these members’ own re-election efforts and their bids for power and prestige at that other dome.
Here are the 10 most consequential moments of the year:
March 1: No incumbents lose their primaries
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd didn’t lose re-election, but neither did anyone else in the Texas delegation.
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Like no other presidential cycle in modern history, anti-establishment rage snuffed out conventional wisdom and the ambitions of politicians across the spectrum.
But that sentiment was no match for the power of incumbency in the U.S. House — particularly in Texas.
Of the 34 Texas members of Congress who sought re-election in 2016, all will return to Washington, and for most, that outcome was largely decided when they won their district's Republican or Democratic primaries.
Of the handful of members who seemed in trouble with their party's base — Republican U.S. Reps. Kevin Brady of the Woodlands, John Culberson of Houston, Pete Sessions of Dallas and Lamar Smith of San Antonio and Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Green of Houston — all secured majorities on primary day.
For all the national angst, Texas did not even find itself with a single congressional primary runoff this year.
June 6: U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela tells Trump to shove border wall up his derriere
Until June, this Democratic sophomore from Brownsville was largely unknown.
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And then he put pen to paper. Vela fired off a viral missive, telling the presumptive GOP nominee that “you’re a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass.”
Now when Vela writes, people in the halls of Congress stop and read it.
July 6: U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro moves up the ranks
Certainly, it was merely a single committee assignment.
But when U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed Castro to the House Intelligence Committee, the gravest post in Congress, it was one of a succession of Democratic signals of confidence in the sophomore from San Antonio.
In 2015, U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer appointed Castro to serve as one of his deputies. And heading into his third term, Hispanic colleagues voted Castro as a leader in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
His name often floats for a Senate run, but it would be a gamble — Castro would be leaving a great deal of influence behind in the U.S. House.
July 13: U.S. Rep. Ted Poe announces he has leukemia
Perhaps the hardest news all year came in July: Poe, a Republican from Humble, announced he was in a battle with cancer.
A bipartisan contingent of the delegation — including U.S. Reps. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston — took the news hard and rallied behind their friend.
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Poe returned to the Capitol for votes in September in high spirits, ready to battle cancer physically and legislatively. Even so, he has been mostly absent from votes during this year's lame-duck session.
"Congressman Poe's condition is continuing to improve thanks to the Good Lord and the treatment he has received from the best physicians in the world at M.D. Cancer Center," a spokeswoman said of his status in December. "It has been a long year, but he is beating cancer and he is very much looking forward to being sworn in for the 115th Congress in January."
July 20: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is booed at the Republican National Convention
There was no more dramatic moment in Texas politics this year.
Just months earlier, Cruz was flying high — at times he even seemed within striking distance of the GOP presidential nomination. And even after conceding defeat to Donald Trump, Cruz still had some political juice.
And then it all fell apart in a strange and humiliating moment in Cleveland.
Cruz withheld his endorsement of Trump (it would eventually come in the fall), but delivered a speech at the Republicans’ convention anyway urging attendees to "vote your conscience."
The crowd soon soured on him and he left the stage amid a hail of boos.
Things were no easier for the junior senator from Texas the morning after, as he faced a fiery, perplexed Texas convention delegation over breakfast.
There is little doubt with hindsight that those events deeply wounded Texas’ most prominent politician. The fallout prompted questions of whether Cruz had botched his chance of running again for president, or even if his re-election in 2018 might be in trouble.
But even those Republicans and Democrats who despise him most concede he is both wily and a workhorse: Even a weakened Cruz is not someone to underestimate in the future.
Aug. 8: U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul eyes higher office
It was McCaul whose name rose to the top of the heap amid Cruz’s summer spiral. In August, CNN reported that high-profile Republicans were recruiting the Austin Republican to challenge Cruz in the 2018 Senate GOP primary.
At the same time, McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, spent the summer and fall building a rapport with Trump and advising him on national security — instantly putting him at the top of most lists to lead that Cabinet department.
Trump passed on McCaul for the post earlier this month, making a future Senate run more plausible.
McCaul is still undecided on the matter, but 2016 made clear that McCaul is open to higher-profile roles in his future.
Nov. 4: U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke floats a Senate run
A few days out from Election Day, O’Rourke told the Texas Tribune that he was considering a run for the Democratic nomination to challenge Cruz in 2018 or U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in 2020.
Surely, it will be an uphill climb in either year. Remote El Paso is a difficult geographic base from which to build a statewide profile, and O’Rourke would need to raise somewhere between $30 million and $50 million to be competitive — and prove that Texas is worth the national Democratic apparatus’ dollars.
But some Texas Democrats predict an erratic Trump presidency could unleash a 2018 backlash in the state and that Cruz, who appears weakened after his tangles with Trump, will be vulnerable.
Maybe — just maybe — some argue, there is an opening for O’Rourke or another contender. But even then, Democrats concede a statewide run remains a long shot at best.
For O’Rourke, there is little to lose: He already promised to term-limit himself by leaving office by 2021 at the latest.
Nov. 8: U.S. Rep. Will Hurd survives re-election
Few in Washington had any idea who Hurd was when he came to Washington two years ago — and some even called him an accidental congressman after he defeated former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego in a surprise 2014 victory.
But Hurd ran hard against Gallego in a 2016 rematch, raising piles of money and drawing intensive support from U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Amid the chaos Trump unleashed on the party — especially in a district that had a substantial Hispanic population like Hurd’s 23rd Congressional District — the freshman congressman’s chances looked grim.
Instead, he beat the Trump drag and defeated Gallego on Election Night by 3,767 votes out of more than 226,000 cast.
Nov. 15: House Republicans block Texans from the leadership table
Despite several committees chaired by Texans, it remains a burr in the saddle of many in Texas politics that there are no Texans at the House leadership table. After all, the Lone Star State sends the largest GOP delegation to Washington.
And so a week after the election, two Texans – U.S. Reps. Bill Flores and Roger Williams – ran for high-profile roles within the House GOP caucus. Flores ran for vice chair, and Williams aimed to run the House GOP campaign arm.
Both lost, adding to a perception that many House Republicans suffer from an affliction known as “Texas fatigue.”
Dec. 1: Seven Texas House chairman hold onto their gavels
Earlier this month, the seven Texas chairmen in the U.S. House secured the necessary backing to retain their lofty posts from U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and a group of House Republicans who serve on a powerful panel that carries weight on deciding chairmen.
It was an unsurprising move, but it means another term of Texas committee dominance.
But Republicans have strict term limit rules for chairmen, so these tenures are finite. Starting in two years, these Texas chairmen will begin to cycle out.
Read more year-in-review stories here.
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Read our 2017 Report Card for Vela.
Vela is shown as a purple triangle ▲ in our ideology-leadership chart below. Each dot is a member of the House of Representatives positioned according to our liberal–conservative ideology score (left to right) and our leadership score (leaders are toward the top).
The chart is based on the bills Vela has sponsored and cosponsored. See full analysis methodology.
Ratings from Advocacy Organizations
Filemon Vela sits on the following committees:
Vela was the primary sponsor of 1 bill that was enacted:
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We consider a bill enacted if one of the following is true: a) it is enacted itself, b) it has a companion bill in the other chamber (as identified by Congress) which was enacted, or c) if about one third or more of its provisions were incorporated into bills that were enacted (as determined by an automated text analysis, applicable beginning with bills in the 110th Congress).
Vela sponsors bills primarily in these issue areas:
International Affairs (50%)Emergency Management (50%)
Some of Vela’s most recently sponsored bills include...
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|Vela’s Vote||Vote Description|
|Aye||S. 140: A bill to amend the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2010 to clarify the use of amounts in the WMAT Settlement Fund.|
Jan 10, 2018. Passed 239/173.
|Yea||H.R. 1039: Probation Officer Protection Act of 2017|
May 19, 2017. Passed 229/177.
H.R. 1039 amends the federal criminal code to authorize a probation officer to arrest a person, without warrant, if there is probable cause to believe that person forcibly assaulted or obstructed a probation officer while performing their official duties. The bill also would direct the ...
|No||H.R. 2146: Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act|
Jun 18, 2015. Passed 218/208.
This vote made H.R. 2146 the vehicle for passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently being negotiated. H.R. 2146 was originally introduced as a bill to address issues with retirement funds of federal law enforcement officers and firefighters. ...
|Yea||H.R. 2048: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2015|
May 13, 2015. Passed 338/88.
The USA Freedom Act (H.R. 2048, Pub.L. 114–23) is a U.S. law enacted on June 2, 2015 that restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act, which had expired the day before. The act imposes some new limits on the bulk collection of ...
|Yea||H.R. 622: State and Local Sales Tax Deduction Fairness Act of 2015|
Apr 16, 2015. Passed 272/152.
|Nay||H.R. 83 (113th): Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015|
Dec 11, 2014. Passed 219/206.
This bill became the vehicle for passage of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 [pdf], which was approved by the House on December 11, 2014 and by the Senate on December 13, 2014. The bill was originally introduced on January 3, 2013 by ...
|Aye||H.J.Res. 124 (113th): Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015|
Sep 17, 2014. Passed 319/108.
|Yea||H.R. 4923 (113th): Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015|
Jul 10, 2014. Passed 253/170.
|Aye||H.R. 1947 (113th): Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013|
Jun 20, 2013. Failed 195/234.
|Aye||H.R. 325 (113th): No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013|
Jan 23, 2013. Passed 285/144.
From Jan 2013 to Mar 2018, Vela missed 86 of 3,340 roll call votes, which is 2.6%. This is on par with the median of 2.3% among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving. The chart below reports missed votes over time.
Show the numbers...
|Time Period||Votes Eligible||Missed Votes||Percent||Percentile|
The information on this page is originally sourced from a variety of materials, including:
Filemon Vela is pronounced:
FEE-le-mon // VE-la
The letters stand for sounds according to the following table:
|Letter||Sounds As In|
Capital letters indicate a stressed syllable.