Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to choose the Texas House Speaker

It's the most important election in Texas that doesn't happen in November: The election of the Texas House Speaker. In the wake of the historic election of 99 Republicans in the Texas Statehouse, conservative activists and the grassroots of the party began demanding a conservative speaker that reflects that majority. Along with Rep Warren Chisum, Rep Ken Paxton stepped forward to challenge Speaker Straus. Rep Hughes defected from Straus, Rep Jodie Laubenberg and Rep Tan Parker endorsed Rep Paxton and even Mike Huckabee and Redstate's Eric Erickson weighed in with a Paxton endorsement. With complaints about last session, observations of Straus' unconservative committee chairmen and comparisons of their voting records showing Paxton to be the 'true conservative', it's easy to see why thousands of grassroots activists are rallying to get a conservative speaker and why Rep Ken Paxton is gaining most of the conservative grassroots support.

Will Lutz says the race is on the verge of "becoming a street brawl". Indeed, it appears that another one of these "establishment moderate" versus "grassroots conservative" choices needs to be made.

A few principles to keep in mind:

We need a Speaker who advocates, supports and will implement a conservative agenda in the House, an agenda that reflects the will of Texas voters in sending a large conservative and Republican contingent to the statehouse. All Republicans claim to agree on this matter, but voting records and past actions speak louder than words.

To have a productive session, the House Speaker must be supported by the majority of the House Republican caucus. To ensure this, the Republican House members should caucus and decide on a nominee for House Speaker. It will be dysfunctional to have a House speaker supported by 50 Democrats but opposed by 70 Republicans. The end result of that may be a repeat of what happened in 2009, when conservative bills that would have passed in a fair floor vote never got the chance to go forward. The further necessity of a Republican caucus is to keep the matter "in the family" of Republicans in the Statehouse, in order to maintain party unity on the House floor. An intra-party fight on the House floor might give the rump Democrat minority excessive leverage and worsen any intraparty split.

Given the 99-51 large Republican majority in the House, committees should be chaired by Republicans, and every committee should have a Republican majority on it; if not, the agenda is put at risk. However, Speaker Straus appointed and relies on Democrats for support, and that would compromise his willingness and ability to give the newly enlarged Republican majority a fair shake.

Finally, the conservative activists have already made clear on one thing: The Speaker's race affects all Texans, so it is time to stop imagining that Texans outside the statehouse shouldn't have a say on it. Citizen can, should and will sound off on this. As in all matters of public concern, one hopes the State Reps are listening.

To summarize: Let the people have their input; Have a Republican caucus meeting to select the majority-supported candidate for speaker; Pick a speaker who will implement a conservative agenda; Leverage the full strength of the new Republican majority in appointments and agenda-setting.

Do all this, and we will have a good Texas House Speaker. I suspect his name will be Paxton.


Freedom Ain't Free said...

This comment is from Pat O'Grady:

“In an effort to emulate one of my mentors (Peggy Venable), I have tried to reduce the conundrum to a very simple solution.

With a 2/3rds Majority in the House, Republicans should select their speaker.

That's it! That's all!

Anybody who insists that the democrats select the speaker for us, needs to find another party ...

My 2 cents,
Pat O'Grady”

Freedom Ain't Free said...

One thing I would like to say to those who think we need to "moderate" on the Speaker race for fear Republicans will loose control if "we the people" push for a strong conservative, is that, at the very least, the Speaker will be selected by a "gang of 25" in league with the 51 Democrats rather than by a "gang of 11". That, at a minimum, is the difference the Nov 2nd election makes.

Of course, the people won't tolerate such a compromise. "We the people" want/deserve/demand a Speaker who reflects the fiscal and social conservative values of the people in Texas who spoke on Nov 2nd (ie. "We the People").

Ken Paxton, for one, seems to be up to the task.