Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Straus Remains In Place As Texas Speaker

Representative Joe Straus has been elected Speaker of the House in the Texas legislature for a second term.

The far right Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives have made their point. Those who opposed Speaker Straus for his bid to remain in the position are on record for a no vote. A mere 15 are in this group.

To a packed crowd in the gallery and on the chamber floor, Ken Paxton gave a "personal privilege" speech, promising that "even though we lost this race, I am encouraged to say that we have not lost the fight." He then urged supporters to "watch what we're doing...hold us accountable."

Apparently his words were not lost on state Rep. Leo Berman. Though Straus was the only candidate for speaker, Berman objected to a vote by acclamation. Instead, a roll-call vote revealed 15 hard-line conservatives who voted against Straus, as well as two "present-not-voting" and one abstention. So while Straus gets to be speaker, the Tea Partiers now have their list of supposed betrayals. With 132 names, it's quite long, but something tells me this won't be a forgive-and-forget style session.

Straus is known for his ability to work with everyone in the Texas House to move legislation forward. During his time in leadership, Texas saw a huge victory for the Republican party and yet to the purists on the far right, this is not good enough. If Straus is to be condemned for alleged slights to the ultra conservative members, is he not to be congratulated for the victories?

"Straus has been the target of arch-conservative groups ever since the fall election when Republicans piled up a huge, 101-49 GOP majority in the state House. They demand a more conservative speaker and have used the Internet to fan their disdain for Straus."

Straus is a traditional mainstream Republican who calls himself a fiscal conservative. His opponents, however, do not trust him to lead a chamber amid expectations that lawmakers aggressively will pursue anti-immigration bills, Voter ID legislation and stronger anti-abortion bills.

His opponents allowed the constant barrage of spiteful and hateful accusations against Straus to continue right up until the Caucus was called. For the conservative purists, isn't it a bit ironic that a Caucus was called and the votes were taken while the sunshine laws were being trounced? With a majority, transparency rules are in play. Those looking to score points and try to build a base of support as they seek more power for themselves would be wise to remember that. By setting themselves up as the morality police, their own judgements may come back to haunt them.

Will those who claim conservative purity now join in with the majority of the Republican party serving in Austin and work for sound policy? Or will they continue to disrupt and grandstand? This is the time for the Republican party to seize the moment and get back to focusing on our agenda of fiscal conservatism and move those policy initiatives forward - especially as our state faces some tough decisions over budget shortfalls - and encourage honest debates.

Congratulations, Speaker Straus.

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