|Chair of the House Rules Committee|
January 3, 2013 - January 3, 2019
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Texas's 32nd district
January 3, 2003 - January 3, 2019
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Texas's 5th district
January 3, 1997 - January 3, 2003
Peter Anderson Sessions
March 22, 1955
Waco, Texas, U.S.
Karen Diebel (2012-present)
|Relatives||William S. Sessions (Father)|
|Education||Southwestern University (BS)|
Peter Anderson Sessions (born March 22, 1955) is an American politician from Texas who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 11 terms. He is a member of the Republican Party. He served as the chairman of the House Rules Committee from 2013 to 2019 and is a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He was defeated for re-election by Democrat Colin Allred in the November 2018 election. On October 3, 2019, Sessions announced that he was running for Texas's 17th congressional district in the 2020 election.
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. He grew up in Waco and in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.. 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.
In his 1991 election bid, Sessions finished sixth 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. 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.
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. 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). 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%). Paul M. Brown of Richardson received 9,488 votes (11. 7%). Cherie Myint Roughneen received 2601 votes (3.2%).
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.
In 2014, Sessions was originally a candidate for the post of House majority leader, to replace Eric Cantor. However, Sessions withdrew from the internal House Republican Conference election, leaving the field clear for Kevin McCarthy of California.
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.
In 2008, he added a $1.6 million earmark to an appropriations bill, for dirigible research. The earmark benefited 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.
Sessions opposed allowing states to determine their own policies regarding the legality of cannabis and the regulation of legal cannabis markets. As chairman of the House Rules Committee, he had repeatedly stifled proposed amendments relaxing federal laws against cannabis, including an amendment that would have allowed medical marijuana access to veterans in states where the drug is legal.
Sessions was 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.
In 2012, Sessions voted against disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. In August 2017, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of Texas, Sessions called for disaster relief for the victims of Harvey.
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." In 2017, Sessions publicly defended a House Republican plan to dismantle the OCE; the plan was abandoned after a public uproar.
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.
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. The Lacey Act protects plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for various violations, including transferring invasive species across state borders. 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."
Sessions favored repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"). Sessions supported the March 2017 version of the American Health Care Act, the House Republicans' replacement plan for the ACA. On May 4, 2017, he voted to repeal the ACA and pass the American Health Care Act.
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.
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."
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."
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.
Sessions came under scrutiny for his personal ties to disgraced banker Allen Stanford, who in 2012 was convicted of orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Sessions received over $44,000 in political contributions from Stanford and his associates. 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. 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. 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."
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.
In July 2018, Sessions argued that it was unnecessary to increase federal funding for election security. The US intelligence community had concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and that it was continuing to interfere in election systems as of July 2018.
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. "And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes." 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."
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. 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.
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." 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.[non-primary source needed]
In 2008, Sessions introduced legislation that created a commemorative silver dollar coin celebrating the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America. 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.
On October 10, 2019, the Texas Tribune, among other news outlets, reported that Sessions was identifiable as "Congressman-1" in an indictment by the Southern District of New York charging two Ukranians with illegal campaign contributions aimed at removing former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch.
In February 1984, Sessions married Juanita "Nete" Diaz. They have two sons. In August 2011, they divorced after 27 years of marriage. In August 2012, Sessions married Karen Diebel, a 2010 congressional candidate in Florida and a Trump Administration appointee to the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 5th congressional district
|New constituency|| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 32nd congressional district
| Chair of the House Rules Committee
|Party political offices|
| Chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee