In 2009, a coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans empowered Joe Straus to become Speaker of the House. In exchange for their continued support, Straus empowers Democrats and liberal Republicans to chair important House committees, while relegating conservatives to menial assignments.
This session, Straus appointed Democrats to chair substantive committees like Business and Industry, Criminal Jurisprudence, Human Services, and Transportation. Straus also appointed Democrats to over two-thirds of the vice chairmanships, despite them only making up one-third of the House membership.
Straus is fond of appointing former Democrats to important committees as well. Todd Hunter, a Democrat as late as 1997, serves as the chairman of the Calendars Committee—arguably the most powerful committee in the entire House. In 2013, Straus appointed Allan Ritter as chairman of the powerful Natural Resources committee. The session prior, Ritter was elected as a Democrat.
Republicans who bucked the rest of the party to work with Democrats and elect Straus as speaker have been rewarded with plum committee chairmanships as well. Byron Cook, chairman of the State Affairs committee and one Straus’s most loyal followers, has blocked numerous pro-life and anti-illegal immigration bills from passing through his committee.
Straus Facts is a project of Empower Texans, shining a light on the record of House Speaker Joe Straus.