With just a few days left in the third special session in Austin, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is blasting House Speaker Dade Phelan, saying he has become “nothing more than hot air.”

The root of the most recent sparring is border security legislation. 

House Bill 4 by State Rep. David Spiller (R–Jacksboro) would create a criminal penalty for improper re-entry from a foreign nation and authorize law enforcement to order them back to Mexico. 

However, several concerns over the implementation of the measure were raised, leading State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury) to substitute in language to overcome those perceived shortcomings in the House’s version. 

That bill is slated to be voted on by the Senate on Sunday evening. The House, meanwhile, is “standing at ease” indefinitely while they wait for the Senate. 

Patrick criticized the House’s version of the legislation on Thursday.

“The Speaker is desperate to improve his border credentials with conservatives and sent the House version of HB4 over to the Senate. The bill’s author claimed it’s the toughest border bill ever, but it is simply a Texas-sized catch-and-release bill,” Patrick posted on X. 

“The House version of HB4 does not require proper identification of suspects, fingerprints, or a background check and allows illegal border crossers to return whenever they want, time and time again. Even if returned to the border, this policy would allow unidentified hardened criminals and terrorists to slip through the cracks and cross the border over and over again,” he continued.

Phelan fired back in a statement, saying, “Dan Patrick’s baseless critique of House Bill 4 is a transparent attempt to deflect from his chamber’s own impotent response to the growing crisis at our border—a crisis demanding decisive action, not the ineffective strategies being peddled by the Senate.”

That’s when Patrick launched his sharpest critique of Phelan yet. 

“Mr. Speaker, you have become nothing more than hot air. You can peddle your nonsense all day but the truth is your version of HB4 does not require fingerprints or a background check of anyone detained. That means you don’t know who you are sending back to the port of entry,” wrote Patrick.

He then reiterated his support for the Senate’s approach before turning his aim to Phelan once again:

The Senate has been the leader on border security legislation long before you arrived in the House. I don’t pay attention to you anymore and neither does anyone else. You’ve become the teacher character from the “Peanuts” series. When you talk, all we hear is, “Wah wah woh wah wah.” You’ve become a Speaker who can impeach someone faster than it takes to smoke a brisket, but you can’t pass a big teacher pay raise bill or a school choice bill in 10 months. No one takes you seriously anymore.

Patrick has previously called on Phelan to resign.

Gov. Greg Abbott, meanwhile, has been silent as the two chambers have feuded on his special session issues, such as border security and school choice. It remains to be seen whether Abbott will call a fourth special session if his issues do not get addressed.  

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens