Despite calls from conservative activists, tea party leaders, Republican leaders and Texas voters, the House Republican caucus voted in closed session this afternoon to endorse Joe Straus for re-election as House speaker. No doubt to the chagrin of some tepid lawmakers, the speakership race apparently isn’t over.
According to media reports, 70 of the 100 Republican House caucus members present supported Speaker Straus. I’m told by lawmakers in the room that the meeting went like this: the members were asked to stand if they supported Joe Straus for speaker. When 70 stood, the caucus leaders said there was no need for other votes and the meeting basically ended.
The meeting, as noted above, was held behind closed doors and there is no record of who “stood” for Mr. Straus and who kept their seat.
But the speakership race apparently is not over. I am told State Rep. Ken Paxton will challenge Mr. Straus on the House floor tomorrow.
This will make any number of legislators uncomfortable. Any lawmaker who thought they were going to get “cover” by hiding behind a closed-door caucus vote will no doubt be a little frustrated. After all, there is no proof of who stood for whom; some wanted to keep it that way.
Tomorrow, if Mr. Paxton proceeds with a challenge, there will be a record vote pitting him against the incumbent Mr. Straus. And pitting some House members publicly against their precinct chairs, base supporters and primary voters.
At Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility we have noted repeatedly the only vote we can grade is a record vote on the House floor. The caucus vote has not been relevant to us, since it is neither legally binding nor publicly recorded.
Our interest in the race is centered on policy outcomes. That so many of Mr. Straus’ committee chairs and lieutenants are coming out for tax hikes makes it much harder for the state’s taxpayers to see the session end happily, despite a super-majority of Republicans – 64 of whom signed the taxpayer protection pledge.
Mr. Straus has not signed the pledge, nor has most of his inner circle.