Sunday, November 11, 2012

Texas House speaker politics begins

Two excerpts; the first is from a source I usually don't read, much less quote.

RedState has uncovered never-before-seen, profanity-laden e-mails between senior staff and legislative lieutenants of Texas’ liberal GOP House Speaker Joe Straus demonstrating disrespect for, and even hostility towards, grassroots activists and conservative lawmakers.

Tea party activists are called “idiots,” allies of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton are called “mother f***ers,” and decorated U.S. Marine and State Rep. Van Taylor is dismissed as “stupid,” by a top Straus political strategist.

The truth is occasionally brutal, and more frequently when the truth concerns the far right extremists in the Texas Legislature. Let's move on with the unbiased accounts of recent developments.

House Speaker Joe Straus' bid for a third term as leader of the 150-member state House may not come as quickly or as easily as he had anticipated.

The San Antonio Republican finds himself caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place: His re-election path is complicated by a challenge from the hard conservative wing of his own GOP, combined with growing unease among some Democratic legislators upset with how Straus handled last year's redistricting and other issues affecting minorities.

Straus faces a challenge from Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who is drawing support from tea party Republicans, FreedomWorks and some of the chamber's more conservative members.

There's a good bit more at that link if you want to know the players, the agendas, and the portent of future developments.

I'm not going to be into this so much because it's fairly predictable, just like two years ago.

Joe Straus is going to walk the line, before the session opens in January and after, between letting the Tea Freaks run wild a bit and then reigning them in, in order to quell the grumbling from the minority.

Straus is not going to be re-elected without all the votes from the 55-member Democratic minority delegation. The Democrats, for their part, don't have any leverage beyond their bloc. With all the Ds, Straus needs just 21 of the remaining 95 Repubs to earn back the big chair. None of the Blue team are going to vote -- nor should they -- for a reactionary like Bryan Hughes. So Straus will throw a few bones to the Dems (ie committee chairmanships, prioritizing the scheduling of bills and the like) to keep their whining to a minimum, and he'll do the same for the lunatics in his own caucus. He'll guide the session alternating between a fairly loose hand and a fairly firm one, keeping what's left of the moderate coalition of Republican representatives the most happy.

He'll tell both sides what they want to hear. They'll press for more and he'll say he can't because of those weirdos on the other end of the spectrum. Both contingents will complain, privately and publicly, just as they are now.

And Straus will get re-elected speaker. The rest is all kabuki. So when Harvey Kronberg fills up your inbox from now until the middle of January with all of the various machinations, just know that it's all posturing and preening. On both sides.

Once the session opens and the speaker takes the gavel, the conservatives will reassert themsleves in governance. There might be another redistricting sqabble. There will certainly be the same fights over funding, especially for women's health care and public education and so forth. In fact, the item that will be of most interest is the advance -- or lack thereof -- of immigration reform in Texas.

(Rep. Ana) Hernandez Luna is still upset that GOP leaders stopped debate on an immigration-related bill last session before Democrats could present all their amendments. She responded with an emotional personal privilege speech describing her fear as a child that one of her undocumented immigrant parents would not return from a shopping trip because of detection and deportation.

There may yet be some House Republicans that can come to a more sober understanding of tolerance on the issue in the wake of their electoral shellacking nationally. Rick Perry was attacked for being a moderate on immigration by Mitt Romney while he was still a presidential contender, you may recall. David Dewhurst won't have a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and now neither will Straus. So with some prodding from the top, a little temperance of the stridence of the Tea Party may come due (once they concede the speaker's contest, that is).

Then again, perhaps not. This is still Texas, after all.

(FWIW this might be an area in which rank-and-file Democrats can have some sway with their Republican representatives in the statehouse. An e-mail or phone call to their offices about supporting appropriate legislative action on immigration could make the difference between a bill getting passed and one dying in committee at the end of the session next spring. Just two cents' worth of advice to liberal and progressive activists.)

In my opinion, how the topic gets discussed and whether a bill clears the lower chamber will be the most-watched development in next year's legislative session.

Update: Big Jolly agrees, for different reasons.

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