Texas Republican Michael Cloud took the oath of office on Tuesday, becoming the latest member of the House and bringing the whole number of the chamber to 429, comprised of 236 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with six vacancies.
A media consultant with roots in his church and local Republican Party, Cloud describes himself as a constitutional conservative.
He won his seat in a June 30 special election, with less than five months to serve before he is on the ballot for a full term. He replaces Republican Blake Farenthold, who resigned after an Ethics Committee investigation into new sexual harassment claims made against him.
Republican Rep. Joe Barton, the dean of the Texas delegation, introduced Cloud after he was sworn in, having a little fun by taking a few jabs at the Senate. “This is the greatest legislative body in the world,” Barton said on the floor, a dig at the Senate’s characterization of itself as the world’s greatest deliberative body. Then another gentle swipe at the other chamber: “You are part of a group that has to be elected. Not one member is on this floor because they got appointed,” he said, a nod to how governors appoint senators to vacant seats.
Cloud kept it short after being sworn in and then introduced by Barton. “I look forward to working with you, as we work toward this more perfect union,” he said toward the end of his brief remarks.
Immigration is a major focus for Cloud, whose wife emigrated from Mexico. He wants a stricter and more efficient immigration system.
“They’re coming here for a reason, and they’re coming for free goods and services,” Cloud said about undocumented immigrants during a May candidate forum. “And too often our illegal aliens get better treatment and better services than some of our veterans do.”
Cloud supports building President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border, but he released a statement during his campaign opposing the administration’s practice of separating undocumented immigrant families.
“We need to defund sanctuary cities, because we cannot expect our citizens to follow the law if we don’t expect our elected officials to follow the law,” Cloud said during a February debate at the University of Houston-Victoria.
He was referring to local governments that have refused to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. “We can do things to streamline the immigration system and to provide a path for citizenship,” Cloud said. “And we can work with the federal courts, the immigration courts, so that when someone is detained it doesn’t take a couple years and [authorities] lose track of them by the time they come up for a hearing.”
He would repeal the 2010 health care law and require health service providers to publish the costs of their services.
“We’ve had a misplaced goal based on a false assumption and the misplaced goal was to get more people on the health insurance rolls based on the false assumption that health insurance makes health care cheaper,” he said during the February debate. “We need to reintroduce market norms to allow people to buy across state lines. The goal should be to provide access by lowering costs.”
He wants to lower costs for the federal government, too, by cutting federal spending. “We are $21 trillion in debt and the last thing we need is another kick-the-can-down-the-road bureaucrat in Congress,” he said during the February debate.
The special election to replace Farenthold came earlier than legally required because Texas officials wanted a member in Congress to represent the district as it recovers from Hurricane Harvey, which hit the Houston area in August 2017.
“The recovery effort for us didn’t begin with this campaign, it began in our backyard,” Cloud said on the campaign trail in January. “Cooking on a propane stove, cooking food and boiling water for our neighbors, and working in our community there and our communities across this district.”
He called for a locally led recovery, with Congress providing block grants.
“Loosen up that money and let those decisions be made in Texas,” he said during the February debate.
While Cloud had never held elected office before winning his House race, he had been deeply involved in local party functions.
He chaired the Victoria County Republican Party for seven years, beginning in 2010. And he joined the State Republican Executive Committee in 2016, working on the party’s strategy in Texas.
Cloud studied communications at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, where he also ran track and cross country.
He worked as the marketing director of his church in Victoria, Texas, and later launched his own media company for web development and video production, which often works on projects for religious organizations.
He launched his campaign for the House in 2017 before Farenthold resigned, intending to challenge the incumbent in the Republican primary.
The free-market group Club for Growth backed Cloud’s campaign, helping him win the primary for the full term starting in 2019. Nine candidates representing all parties competed in the special election, which came after the regularly-scheduled primary, and Cloud avoided a runoff, taking almost 55 percent of the vote.