A Conversation With Pete Sessions — 7 Outtakes

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted November 6, 2013 at 11:24am

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, sat down with your 218 hosts last week to talk shutdown policy, electoral politics, Eagle Scouts and bipartisan pie. It was an hour full of colorful anecdotes and noteworthy perspectives laid out against the backdrop of a roaring fire — but not everything could make it into our profile of the Rules Committee chairman.

So the blog is sharing seven outtakes, which we hope give you an even deeper look at the lawmaker.

1) On the reports that he told President Barack Obama, in a closed-door meeting at the White House, “I cannot even stand to look at you”:

“I didn’t ask for an apology,” Sessions said. “I didn’t ask for anything.”

Calling the event “most regrettable” and “untrue,” he paraphrased what he really told the president.

“It’s just real simple. I told the president I believe that leaders, this issue, will require leadership, and that means a person bringing their full attention to the matter. … You lead people away from danger. You lead people away from chaos. You lead people to consensus. You lead people to where they can be successful.”

2) On the differences between being the Rules Committee chairman and the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, a role he held for two terms:

“[As NRCC chairman] you tend to look at everybody’s votes. I look at the demeanor of the floor now. I’d like us to keep this to where we aren’t viewed in a way that’s a fist fight. And I think what we do up here has a direct relationship to the floor. … With every new job comes a new responsibility. And I think my responsibility is to a collegiality on the floor of the House of Representatives. And you will rarely see me lead an attack or an assault. You will see me on the floor trying to work with people, trying to acknowledge ideas.”

3) Sessions thinks how he runs the Rules Committee has a direct correlation to public opinion of the House of Representatives, but he said low approval ratings might have to do with the days of Democratic control.

“That’s why I so desperately wanted to replace the Democrats who wouldn’t allow debate, who would pass bills without reading them, who would not allow the debate nor allow members to come up and give testimony and would announce ahead of time what the outcome would be. So yeah, I hated it, I detested that as a member.”

4) On the question of whether Rules is Session’s committee or leadership’s committee:

“This team here is the speaker’s team, but it’s my team, too, and it’s up to me to get us to understand what we’re doing. There’s nothing worse than doing something where you can’t ask questions or you don’t know what it is, and we’ve got a very smart and savvy group of people. Look, we may be up here to bust a lot of rocks but I want us to understand why we’re up here what we’re doing and what the practical effect is. … No one else has to do this and these men and women are on the firing line. You bet they are.”

5) On his relationship with Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., the Rules Committee ranking member and who was a longtime panel chairwoman:

“I believe that Louise and I sincerely have a good understanding about what her role was and what my role is and I respect the heck out of her. And I know she knows I want to work with her. I’ll even show up down at her office to meet with her … [and] she brought a pie up here to us. Notwithstanding she’s married, I am too, we like each other.”

6) Protesting the rejection of his amendment to the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, Rules Committee Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts demanded the panel take roll call votes on 86 separate amendments he wanted considered on the House floor. Late into the night and halfway through the exercise, Sessions said McGovern’s behavior “makes me wonder if someone has been drinking tonight.”

Sessions immediately remembered the incident:

“I encouraged somebody to be less agitated and more thoughtful. That’s all I was trying to do. At the end of the hour, I figured out he was in it for the long haul. So I kind of, I guess you could say, I cut through the bullshit real fast, didn’t I? I will cut through bullshit real fast. Well, I’ll call bullshit where it exists.”

7) On being an Eagle Scout and being inspired by the resilience and determination of his son who has Down syndrome:

“There are qualities of leadership that were learned there about how you work with people, how you set standards, how you are honest about what you’re doing, and if you’re a leader, you lead. You’ve been given that responsibility, otherwise call yourself just a normal person. If you’re a leader, you have to do things. My scouting background taught me of how important people are. Diversity of views. Having a disabled son. He wanted things just as much as I did.”

He pointed to a picture of his son on his office wall.

“I mean, back there, see, where he’s got that sash on? He wanted that sash because big boys wear it. But he had to earn it. And he wanted that sash more than anything. And he, even as a young man who may not be able to think and do things, he was really focused on that. And really proud of that.”