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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon shocked allies in both Texas and Washington when he announced he would be leaving his perch in Congress to run for his old seat in the Texas Senate.
A day later, he shocked them again when he changed his mind and decided to pursue reelection.
Could he have done things more elegantly? Certainly, he admits.
“I grant that this was a self-created tempest,” said the Frisco Republican with a penchant for cheeky and irreverent quips. “And I'm the one that did it. It was tough to go through.”
The rapid flip-flop was the result of appeals from the highest levels of both chambers. Both Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson made it clear they wanted him among their ranks. But ultimately, the decision came down to his family, Fallon said, when his son became distraught at the thought of him leaving Congress.
A Senate comeback, however, has never been far from Fallon’s mind. Before joining Congress in 2021, Fallon served in the Texas Senate for one term from 2019 and the Texas House from 2013. Patrick pitched the idea to Fallon, and teased the congressman that the U.S. House isn’t all that it cracked up to be.
The U.S. House Republican conference has faced headwinds the entire time Fallon has been in Congress. From the 2021 to 2022, Republicans were in the minority in both chambers of Congress, a Democrat was in the White House and both parties had a profound degree of personal animus in the House after four years of President Donald Trump.
Since taking the majority this year, Republicans have struggled to get legislation passed with chasmic divisions among their own ranks. None of their biggest party-line bills on energy or border security have gone anywhere outside the chamber, and the conference struggled for weeks to pick a speaker — twice — in what many House Republicans lamented to be a national embarrassment.
It’s made legislating difficult. In his two years as a state senator in a Legislature where Republicans control both chambers and the executive branch, Fallon passed dozens of bills into law. As a congressman, he has passed none.
“I loved being in the Texas Senate. I passed 68 bills. I think [Patrick] runs a great ship and it was wonderful,” Fallon said. “When you have divided government, it's really difficult to pass a bill particularly if it's a Republican or conservative priority.”
“If you go to the Texas Senate, think long and hard about leaving. Because it is an incredible opportunity,” Fallon added.
And he isn’t sanguine about how much of the challenge has come from his own party. Republicans have shown considerable ease bucking their own party leadership this Congress.
Fallon lamented the nearly two dozen GOP members of the U.S. House who voted against a Republican-led government funding bill that then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy passed to stave off a government shutdown. The Republican opponents protested using a temporary measure to fund the government instead of yearlong appropriations bills. That spending measure kicked off the motion to oust McCarthy, paralyzing the House for weeks.
“That makes literally no sense,” Fallon said.
Fallon said he didn’t know Sen. Drew Springer, the Muenster Republican whose seat he filed for, would be giving up his seat until about 12 hours before it was public. He moved in on the opportunity after his younger son, Mac, told him he wanted him back home with the family in Frisco. Fallon started making fundraising calls that evening and secured Patrick’s endorsement.
But later in the night, his older son, Thomas, was “distraught” and urged him to stay in Congress, saying it was “crazy” to leave.
“He said, ‘Dad, when you're gone, I miss you. And of course, I want you back. But I'm so proud.’ And that really hits you right here,” Fallon said. Mac also recanted and said he only said he wanted his father home because he was sick at the time.
Patrick was understanding, Fallon said, particularly since it was a family decision. But the lieutenant governor did note “it was just a little odd that you filed and then you decided to change your mind,” Fallon recounted. Patrick said “I just would have appreciated a little bit more decisiveness.”
Fallon responded that he’s “trying to be a good man and I’m a work in progress.” Fallon said in his interview that he and Patrick are still in good standing. A spokesperson for Patrick did not respond to a request for comment.
Fallon also has numerous factors going in his favor in Congress. He was one of the earliest and most vocal advocates for Johnson to become speaker. He was a leading advocate in whipping votes for Johnson and enjoys a strong personal relationship with the Louisianan, a source close to the speaker said. Johnson, who became speaker late last month after weeks of intra-Republican fighting, spoke directly with Fallon after he filed to run for Texas Senate and appealed for him to stay in Congress.
Fallon also said Congress offers a better platform to work on his two biggest policy priorities: reducing the federal deficit and hardening the border.
He also was frank about the messaging platform the U.S. House offered and said he came to Congress to “be a better messenger for conservative virtues and values.” Not only is viewership much higher on C-Span than the Texas Senate live streams, but Fallon also serves on the highly visible House Oversight Committee where he chairs the subpanel on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs.
And Fallon expressed hope that some of the mayhem that has plagued the House Republican conference could calm down under new leadership.
“There are certainly times where things don't go as well as you'd like,” Fallon said. “But I think under Mike Johnson’s leadership, and maybe I'm just an eternal optimist, I think things are gonna get a lot better.”