Just days after entering the race for Speaker of the Texas House, State Rep. Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) secured majority support from both Republicans and Democrats without a GOP caucus vote.
But should he take the gavel in January, what would Phelan’s agenda be? Texas Scorecard contacted every member of the Texas House to ask that question.
Not a single member, Republican or Democrat, responded.
In fact, since his announcement earlier this month, Phelan—and his colleagues—have been quiet on what exactly a Speaker Dade Phelan would try to accomplish.
Instead, the only real public campaign action we’ve seen from Phelan was a brief press conference the day after the November election, in which he stood alone, said he had secured support to win the speakership, and left.
When Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West criticized Phelan last week for appealing to Democrats to create his coalition of support, Republican lawmakers jumped at the opportunity to lash out at West.
And yet, no Republican has been willing to lay out Phelan’s agenda—neither about legislation or reforms to the chamber.
What little we do know, based on early actions, is that the practice of placing Democrats in powerful committee chairman positions is likely to continue. Many have argued this practice is detrimental to conservative legislation.
“It’s not rocket science. When Democrats are in office, they don’t mess around. They get busy passing their own agenda and stomping on ours. Why would any serious conservative then put those Democrats in a position of power where they can kill every conservative measure we elected our representatives to pass? A child can grasp that concept, and I’m sure our speaker can too,” Julie McCarty, the CEO of True Texas Project, said to Texas Scorecard.
“That leaves only one question: Does Phelan care?” she added.
Just last session, for example, legislation to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected was killed when it was referred to a committee chaired by a liberal Democrat. The same thing happened to constitutional carry legislation.
When forming his coalition, Phelan met with a coalition of Democrat women lawmakers and assured State Rep. Erin Zwiener (Driftwood) he would place them in positions of leadership.
Our effort brought to light the need to do better to promote women to key leadership positions. After meeting with @DadePhelan & hearing his support for an equitable distribution of women in leadership, we have decided to support him in his bid for Speaker. 2/x
— Erin Zwiener (@ErinForYall) November 5, 2020
This is exactly the kind of insidious practice Allen West highlighted last week.
“The Republican Party of Texas will not sit back idly and watch leftist Democrats be placed as Committee Chairmen who will undermine, kill, our legislative priorities, as happened in the 86th Texas legislative session,” said West.
Texas Republican voters, who came out in droves just two weeks ago to maintain the Republican majority in the Texas House, do have an agenda: Republican priorities that consist of longtime conservative proposals for election integrity, ending taxpayer-funded lobbying, abolishing abortion, ending gender mutilation surgeries for minors, protecting monuments, protecting religious freedom, school choice for all, and constitutional carry. Those are the eight priorities selected by grassroots delegates to the Republican Party’s convention for the legislature to address.
Are they Dade Phelan’s priorities? So far, no lawmaker—including Phelan—has been willing (or able) to say.