In a stunning failure Friday, the Texas House GOP Caucus adopted a process for selecting a speaker candidate that is out of step with the Republican platform.

In recent months, GOP activists have urged House Republicans to adopt a process whereby they would unite around a candidate for Speaker. The move is designed to end a decade-long practice in which a minority of Republican legislators have partnered with Democrats to elect the chamber’s leader.

In September, the State Republican Executive Committee adopted a resolution stating “[T]he Republican Party of Texas expects Republican House Candidates in 2018 to indicate to the Republican Primary voters whether they will support the Republican Speaker candidate who wins the majority of the votes in the Republican Caucus.”

Until Friday, the only process proposed publicly by a working group of GOP legislators fit the party’s call by using a majority-vote threshold in order to select a nominee for Speaker. However, according to reports, only a small handful of the legislators voted against a last-minute amendment to raise the threshold to two-thirds and to allow for potentially unlimited rounds of balloting.

In other words, Republican legislators failed to honor the requests of GOP activists and voters to allow a majority of Republican lawmakers to nominate the next Speaker of the Texas House.

While the exact language of the by-laws amendment adopted by the caucus is not yet publicly available, reports suggest that the caucus has adopted a complicated process with various rounds of balloting at two-thirds and/or three-fifths margins. Under the process, candidates receiving the least number of votes will be removed from eligibility, before being allowed back in if more than four rounds of voting are required. In other words, it allows the losing minority unlimited do-overs until they get their way.

The process appears designed to empower the same minority of Republican legislators who have partnered with Democrats in the past to continue to obstruct the caucus selection process unless they get their choice selected as the nominee. Or it provides them an opportunity to scuttle the effort, claim the process didn’t work, and then partner with the Democrats to gain the numbers necessary to win on the floor.

Conservative legislators, including the Texas Freedom Caucus and a number of its members, appeared quick to claim victory for adopting a process for the Caucus to select a nominee. Those statements reflect an optimism far beyond what appears merited.

If the process is so complicated that it ultimately breaks down, or worse, if it allows the same liberal minority of the caucus to control the outcome, then Friday’s vote may indeed prove to be a hollow victory.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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