Despite intense grassroots pressure, the Texas House refused to allow a vote on whether Democrats will be allowed to chair important committees in the Republican-controlled chamber. 

A Republican priority for 2023, banning Democrats from holding key committee chairmanships—which allows them to block conservative legislation—is supported by more than 81 percent of Republican voters. 

State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) proposed changing the rules of the House to disallow minority party members from holding committee chairmanship positions. 

A point of order was immediately raised by State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth), saying Slaton’s proposal violated the purpose of the rules.

That was sustained by newly elected House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont), who decreed that House rules “may only be used for public purposes and not political purposes.” 

The argument against Slaton’s amendment rests on the fact that banning Democrats from chairmanships is a GOP priority and “political parties are not public entities but are political instrumentalities.”

“The Republican Speaker is taking the procedural position that restricting chairs to the majority party as every other state and congress does is using state resources for ‘political purposes’ and is illegal. This baseless & absurd ruling was made solely to protect Democrat power,” said Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi. 

Because of Phelan’s action, Slaton’s amendment was rejected before it went to a vote. 

In the 87th Legislative Session, 40 percent of committee chairs were Democrats, per Phelan’s decision. 

Notably, Phelan immediately moved Tuesday to hold the rules debate the following day, a full day before busloads of Republicans were scheduled to descend on the Capitol to voice their opposition on the issue.

Although Slaton attempted to have the House adjourn until Thursday—allowing Republican voters to attend as planned—Phelan unilaterally blocked Slaton’s motion during Wednesday’s session.

Nevertheless, despite Phelan changing the days, several dozen Republicans in red t-shirts proclaiming “Ban Democrat Chairs!” filled the House gallery, only to be disappointed when the amendment was killed. 

“This is pathetic,” Georgetown Precinct Chair Janine Chapa told Texas Scorecard

Although Slaton attempted to refile a similar amendment to ensure Republican chairmanship on key House committees, Geren called a point of order against it as well, claiming Slaton’s amendment would bring forth an issue not currently before the House.

Phelan sustained Geren’s point of order, again denying a floor vote on Slaton’s second effort.

“A lost vote would have caused less backlash,” said Rinaldi. “Shocking because it’s a bad move politically, strategically, legally and kills the aura of the House being governed by rules instead of the whims of a uniparty social club.”

Citizens can use Texas Scorecard’s Elected Officials Directory to contact their lawmakers and Speaker Phelan. 

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government and is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.