Throwing what can best be described as a wide-ranging temper tantrum in the face of unease among his inner-circle, House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday lashed out at many of Gov. Greg Abbott’s marquee proposals and attacked the conservative Senate led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Reports have surfaced that Straus’ bizarre committee assignments have upset his cronies. Expecting to lead Appropriations, liberal State Rep. John Zerwas of Houston was instead put in charge of the higher ed committee. That’s the post Denton moderate Myra Crownover allegedly coveted – but she instead was placed on the Committee on Public Health. Other loyalists found themselves totally locked out – like Straus’ Bexar County neighbor, anti-tax-cut Republican Lyle Larson – without any chairmanships.
Meanwhile, the Texas Senate is moving quickly on a series of bold reforms – from significant tax relief to Second Amendment protections and border security – championed by Abbott and other conservatives in 2014. (Of course, as some might recall Straus’ allies promised even then to oppose Abbott/Patrick and instead deliver a “progressive” agenda.)
Feeling pressure building from inside his chamber, Straus instead lashed out at conservative reforms he feels he cannot stop on the sly.
Most notable is the Abbott proposal dedicating the state’s Motor Vehicle Sales Tax to funding road and bridge construction, an effort that has found a champion in State Sen. Robert Nichols who Patrick tapped to lead the Senate Committee on Transportation. In fact, it’s a plan many House members have also long supported.
But Straus today described it as a “gimmick.” Why? Because… Well, it’s not clear except that Straus wants to increase taxes. His description echoed Larson’s comments last week that Republicans trying to do tax relief (that’d be Abbott, Patrick, and Senate Finance Committee chair Jane Nelson) were engaged in “gimmickry.”
Straus is still reeling from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s proposal to fully fund the border security initiative that Straus himself killed late last year. While then-Gov. Rick Perry and then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst wanted to fully fund the mission through August 2015, Straus refused thereby forcing a National Guard drawdown from what had been a successful deployment.
It’s hard to find an issue where Straus did not attack Abbott, Patrick, and the conservative movement. (Straus now says he opposes “campus carry” and that he wants to keep giving in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens. He is also fine with continuing funding for the Democrat-run Travis County Public Integrity Unit that has been used to attack conservative officeholders.)
Straus has two big internal problems: one, he betrayed his inner circle and closest allies with his committee assignments; and, two, he has in one fell swoop betrayed all those “conservative” enablers who thought appeasement would give them leverage to push right-leaning reforms. He has now taken those all off the table.
An even bigger external problem for Straus and those enablers is that, unlike the past, the Senate is led by a movement conservative unwilling to cower before the liberal bullies or provide cover for their cronyism.
Those in the appeasement wing of the House GOP caucus were warned by a unanimous chorus of grassroots activists that legislators supporting Straus’ obstructionist agenda would regret owning the chamber’s results. It might now be dawning on those state reps that they made a recklessly bad bet… And it is only five weeks into the legislative session.
Republicans Who Voted For Joe Straus
|3||Bell Jr., Cecil||Magnolia|
|9||Paddie, Christopher "Chris"||Marshall|
|12||Kacal, Kyle||College Station|
|14||Raney, John||College Station|
|17||Kleinschmidt, Tim (resigned House seat the day after voting for Straus)||Lexington|
|26||Miller, Rick||Sugar Land|
|30||Morrison, Geanie W.||Victoria|
|32||Hunter, Todd||Corpus Christi|
|43||Lozano, Jose Manuel||Kingsville|
|45||Isaac, Jason A.||Dripping Springs|
|52||Gonzales, Larry||Round Rock|
|54||Aycock, Jimmie Don||Killeen|
|56||Anderson, Charles "Doc"||Waco|
|60||Keffer, James "Jim"||Eastland|
|63||Parker, Tan||Flower Mound|
|69||Frank, James||Wichita Falls|
|71||King, Susan L.||Abilene|
|72||Darby, Drew||San Angelo|
|73||Miller, Doug||New Braunfels|
|87||Price, Walter T. "Four"||Amarillo|
|97||Goldman, Craig||Fort Worth|
|99||Geren, Charlie||Fort Worth|
|112||Button, Angie Chen||Richardson|
|117||Galindo, Rick||San Antonio|
|121||Straus, Joe||San Antonio|
|122||Larson, Lyle||San Antonio|
|134||Davis, Sarah||West University Place|
|135||Elkins, Gary W.||Houston|
|136||Dale, Tony||Cedar Park|