While House Speaker Joe Straus has been silent on the rightward shift of the Texas Senate, he is sending his second-string squad to begin poking at presumptive-Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the new members of the Senate. This gives a foretaste of the obstructionism conservatives can expect from a 2015 Straus-led House. Indeed, many House members who continue to support Straus fear having to fight the conservative Senate on his behalf.
Unfortunately for them, that fight has already arrived.
Knowing his senior leadership cannot be publicly antagonistic towards Patrick and the Senate, Straus should have thought twice before sending his junior varsity team out on an attack-the-senate-conservatives speaking tour. No better talking points could be made against the Straus leadership team than are being made by his own freshman cheerleader.
State Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas has been one of the few public supporters of Straus, and spoke at the Dallas County GOP’s “Red Talks” at the DCGOP Victory Center last week as part of his self-promoted “statewide speaking tour.” (One wonders if Villalba is telling Republicans about his January 2013 prediction that Gov. Rick Perry would “soften” on ObamaCare. Probably not; and Perry did not.)
While the self-professed lover of “purple” politics defensively yells “unity” when anyone questions his policy positions, Villalba spoke dismissively of the conservative-led Senate as he promoted Straus’ Democrat-heavy coalition.
Using the language of Democrats, Villalba described the incoming Senate GOP caucus led by Dan Patrick as dominated by “slash and burn Republicans.” In contrast, Villalba claimed the Straus-led House will be “the adults.”
Villalba said no one should expect conservative legislation passed by the Senate to survive the Texas House as long as his man is speaker. “Straus is going to remain Straus.”
He noted, “You’re going to see a number of bills that come from the Senate and go to the House and I think that’s where you’re going to see them die.” He said that the Texas Senate of 2015 will be “the most conservative in state history” – and it wasn’t a compliment.
The freshman lawmaker gave several examples (audio):
The bills that are going to originate from the Senate this session are going to be much more conservative than you’ve ever seen historically in Texas… everything from vouchers to anti-Common Core, to TSA-groping to sanctuary cities. All these bills that have been sort of on the back burner for many years are going to originate from the Senate and be thrown into the House.
According to Villalba, House members hoping to get conservative legislation passed first from the Senate won’t even get a chance to have them voted on because of the Straus-appointed Calendars Committee (audio).
“On Calendars he has appointed his closest (allies). Calendars decides what bills get to the floor for a vote,” said Villalba. “I can tell you right now most bills die in Calendars… because Calendars is, again, loyal to the speaker and loyal to the folks who are trying to get things done.“
Villalba defines “adult” and “trying to get things done” as opposing conservative initiatives.
Meanwhile, Villalba made the curious claim that only two Straus-friendly incumbents lost re-election efforts. While begrudgingly noting that left-leaning Republicans Bennett Ratliff and Diane Patrick’s lost to Matt Rinaldi and Tony Tinderholt, Villalba conveniently ignored the fact that Straus loyalists Ralph Sheffield, Linda Harper-Brown and Lance Gooden were all trounced by “tea party” and “right” candidates.
And that doesn’t include the half-dozen Straus loyalists who retired and have been replaced by conservatives.
He also lamented the difference in the old Senate compared with the new. Specifically, he noted that voters replaced his own senator (who he endorsed), liberal John Carona, with conservative Don Huffines, saying that there was a “night and day” difference between the two. Voters agreed.
Conservative house members might rightly interpret Villalba’s speech as advance warning that the Straus leadership team is going to give them precious little in the way of the governing results in 2015 voters expect. For their trouble, those who support Straus will be forced into the position of obstructing the conservative agenda of the Texas Senate’s popular leadership. Villalba is a willing and vocal obstructionist; how many of his GOP colleagues want to join him?
Texans wanting to see a change in House leadership can only hope Straus keeps Villalba on the speaking circuit. He is making a strong case for why taxpayers won’t see any of the long-sought (or, in his words, “back-burner”) conservative reforms for as long as Straus stays on as speaker.