In 2007 a growing group of Republicans tried to unseat Tom Craddick during the legislative session, but were outmaneuvered. Mr. Craddick’s parliamentarian even resigned over the Speaker’s abuse of House rules.
Two years later, Joe Straus replaced Tom Craddick when a large bloc of Democrats joined with the unhappy Republicans to return civility to the institution. By all but a handful of accounts, Straus ran a fair process.
Under Craddick, Republicans lost ground in three elections. Under Straus, but as part of the national tidal wave, Republicans regained all the lost seats plus 11 more.
So you have major Republican gains and a widely acknowledged fair broker presiding over the House ... meaning we will see very conservative legislation this session.
Nevertheless, a handful of outside socially conservative groups are running a fairly deceitful but noisy campaign trying to pressure lawmakers who actually like the speaker’s management style to vote against him. They blame him for the failure of the sonogram bill, but the pro-life organization Texans for Life said the claim is false. They blame him for the failure of voter ID by permitting the Democratic filibuster, but that’s also false; Straus followed the direction of his colleagues in the Republican caucus.
They said that Straus appointed moderate chairman, but the budget under Straus was more fiscally conservative than the last one under Craddick.
Now the so-called grassroots effort has crossed over the line with coordinated email and robocall programs calling for a "true Christian speaker". (Straus is Jewish.)
Republicans won an enormous victory on Election Day. How they govern themselves will tell us a lot about how they intend to govern the rest of us.
Harvey rarely crosses his very strict non-partisan line, and to be sure he isn't doing so here. He's taking a stand against an injustice -- a rather underhanded and nasty smear campaign based on Joe Straus' creed -- which is something I have never seen him do.
If Straus retains his post, it won't be because of Democratic support, as in 2009. The GOP enjoys a 99-51 advantage in the coming session, one vote shy of a two-thirds majority -- which would be enough to do anything they choose.
No, Straus will remain Speaker of the Texas House only because the Texas Republicans began an internecine fight two months before the Lege convenes, and because the arch-conservative caucus (or whatever it is they are calling themselves today) over-reached in a brazen and bigoted way.
Surprise! This is who you voted for.
Update: TFN Insider has some e-mail excerpts from behind Harvey K's subscription paywall.