A group of House Republicans are attempting to steer the conversation away from ending Democrat chairmanships by instead signing onto a series of priorities that conspicuously omits a ban on the practice.

This comes after 46 current and incoming members recently signed a pledge to only vote for a Speaker of the House that does not put Democrats in leadership positions. 21 of those members, thus far, have also signed onto the “Contract With Texas”, a series of 12 proposed House reforms to end powersharing with Democrats and emphasize Republican legislative priorities. 

Enter the “Texas Conservative Commitment.”

With 10 planks, the pledge largely mirrors the legislative priorities passed by delegates to the Republican Party of Texas convention last month but with softer language. It also includes property tax relief and “universal school choice.”

Notably missing, however, is ending Democrat chairmanships. While the exact source of the Texas Conservative Commitment is still unknown, it stems from members close to current House leadership. 

Former Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi turned attention to the 26 members that signed the Texas Conservative Commitment but have not signed the pledge against Democrat chairs. 

Those members include:

Keith Bell
Cole Hefner
Cody Harris
Angelia Orr
Will Metcalf
Stan Gerdes
Terry Wilson
Greg Bonnen
Todd Hunter
Brad Buckley
Matt Shaheen
Jeff Leach
David Spiller
James Frank
Brooks Landgraf
Dustin Burrows
Carl Tepper
Stan Kitzman
Ken King
Candy Noble
Giovanni Capriglione
Jared Patterson
Sam Harless
Mano DeAyala
Lacey Hull

John McQueeney, the Republican candidate for House District 97, is also among those members. 

State Rep. Tom Oliverson, who is running for Speaker of the House, did not sign the Texas Conservative Commitment, saying he would prefer to pass the Republican Party of Texas’ priorities.

“Additionally, this document lacks any of the process reforms necessary to achieve these objectives, like the ones I have articulated in my Speaker campaign, those found in the Contract With Texas, and certainly the pledge signed by 46 House members pledging never to vote for a Speaker who appoints Democrat chairs,” said Oliverson. 

State Rep. Shelby Slawson, also running for Speaker, signed both the Texas Conservative Commitment and the pledge to end Democrat chairs.

Reaction to the pledge has been largely negative by conservatives, who have identified the maneuver as distracting.

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Abraham Geroge said, “While it is always encouraging to see lawmakers work together to advance conservative policies, the ‘Texas Conservative Commitment’ is clearly designed to advance alternative policies in lieu of the Texas GOP Legislative Priorities. Most frustratingly, this commitment is silent on the issue of Democrat chairs, which members of Speaker Dade Phelan’s leadership team are trying to protect.”

“Republican voters are eager to unite and work to defeat the Democrats in November. Texas House Republicans should stop trying to empower them in January,” he added.

State Rep. Brian Harrison called the effort “pathetic.”

“Ending DEMOCRAT committee chairmanships should be the lowest of low-hanging fruit. Expect more efforts like this to give cover to liberal ‘Republicans,’ including members of House ‘leadership,’” Harrison wrote in a social media post.

State Rep. Tony Tinderholt agreed.

“Where is banning democrat chairs? Why are the Republican party priorities not exactly as they were passed at the convention? This seems like it was created to get Phelan or one of his friends elected as Speaker!” wrote Tinderholt.

Not all the reactions have been negative, however.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation praised the efforts in a press release, with CEO Greg Sindelar saying he was “thrilled to see Texas conservatives coming together over a positive and pro-active policy agenda for the next session.”

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