Good morning, Friend,
Most Texans go about their lives mostly unaware of the actions and activities of Texas’ House Speakers. That’s probably a good thing; we tend to like our government out of the way.
Texas’ House Speaker wields enormous influence over public policy by virtue of which lawmakers get appointed to which committees. In 2011, that power will be outsized. Between redistricting — deciding the partisan winners and losers through government — and the weak budget situation, the people appointed to key committees will decide just how strong Texas will be for a decade to come.
Believe it or not, this 24-hour period tells us a lot about our current Speaker, Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), and explains the challenges he has in keeping his job.
Straus Says It Right
Just yesterday he took the unusual step of appearing before the House Appropriations Committee, drawing an unequivocal line in the sand and telling them he expected a “no-new-taxes” state budget. Mr. Straus said lawmakers need to keep the budget tight because the state can expect “huge new mandates” resulting from ObamaCare.
His policy position was a reassuring one for conservatives to hear at any time, but all the more so this particular week.
Say It Ain’t So, Joe
Why this week? It was revealed by Fernando Trevino that Mr. Straus will be headlining a fundraiser tonight for Democrat Patrick Rose, an incumbent who lives in a conservative district… has a bad record… and a really good Republican challenger. So the Republican speaker of the House has opted to side with a squishy Democrat over a conservative Republican. The trouble just jumps out at you.
Now some will point out that the previous Republican speaker raised funds for Dems, too. Sure enough, but that doesn’t soothe the bad vibes (or make it right). Nor does it help that while the previous speaker started with an 88-seat majority, he ended with 76-74 split. These are different times.
Some partisan strategists might suggest that if Straus wants a stronger Republican foothold from which to conduct the next Session — and deal effectively with budget and redistricting issues — then he shouldn’t be working against Republicans.
June Matters A Lot
This makes what Mr. Straus will say at the state Republican convention in June all the more interesting, and important. Party convention go-ers tend to be the ones most disgusted by fundraising for the other side, and most likely to hold a grudge. They will also be the ones to make life easy or hard for legislators who help or hinder a candidate for speaker.
Speaker Straus needs them to be for him. He now has to give them a compelling reason why.
He took the right step forward, with the right policy, yesterday. Tonight he moves himself back a step with some bad politics. Come June, when he introduces himself to the Republican faithful as their House Speaker, he’ll have to make a convincing argument that he deserves to keep speaking for them.
And for Texas,
Michael Quinn Sullivan
& the EmpowerTexans.com Team