Grassroots Texans across the state will be keeping a close eye on the results of a House Republican Caucus meeting Friday that could decide how the next Speaker of the Texas House is selected.
The issue before members is a proposal and recommendation from a working group composed of Republican State Reps. Dustin Burrows (Lubbock), Jeff Leach (Plano), John Smithee (Amarillo), Chris Paddie (Marshall), and Todd Hunter (Corpus Christi). The group was tasked with examining the issue of how the caucus could select and unite behind a Speaker candidate before proceeding to the floor to vote.
If the caucus were to adopt the procedures outlined and recommended in the report, Republican members of the Texas House would meet internally to select their nominee for House Speaker. The proposed rules would require a candidate to obtain majority-support within the caucus – a procedure called for in the Texas GOP platform and backed by the party.
Should Republicans choose to adopt a Speaker selection process, the change will work to prevent liberal Republicans from forging alliances with Democrats in order to gain the Speaker’s gavel. That was the tactic used in 2009 by outgoing Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio and ten other Republicans to unseat Republican Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland.
For more than a month, the State Republican Executive Committee and Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey have been publicly calling for Republican legislators to commit to changing caucus rules and to support the Republican nominee for Speaker on the floor of the Texas House.
In a resolution, the SREC resolved, “[T]he Republican Party of Texas expects Republican House Candidates in 2018 to indicate to the Republican Primary voters whether they will support the Republican Speaker candidate who wins the majority of the votes in the Republican Caucus.
However, so far only a small number of Republican legislators have signed the party’s form indicating whether they will support the majority vote winner.
Earlier this week, a coalition of more than seventy of the state’s largest and most prominent grassroots leaders and organizations publicly called for members of the House Republican Caucus to amend the party’s bylaws to change the speaker selection process. They also announced they would withhold support from lawmakers who failed to commit to the process or to support the majority vote winner.
Ultimately Texas House Republicans have a choice to make. They can stand with the conservative activists who got them elected and whose vote they depend on, or they can continue to empower a minority of Republican lawmakers to partner with the Democrats to obstruct conservative reforms.