Texas speaker criticized for blocking amendments by appointing Democratic chairmen

(Central Square) – Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is under fire from conservatives for blocking amendments to House rules that would prevent him from appointing Democrats to committee chairs.

Phelan, R-Beaumont, was elected Speaker for the first time, garnering Democratic support in the House of Representatives in 2021. He won their support again on Tuesday when he was re-elected by 145 votes to 3.

Of the 150 members of the House of Representatives, 86 are Republicans; 64 Democrats.

Republican voters voted overwhelmingly against the process by which the Speaker of the Republican House of Representatives appoints Democrats as committee chairs. Banning the process is a key priority for the Texas Republican Party.

Under Phelan’s leadership, during the last legislative session, some of the most progressive Democrats were appointed chairmen. They, in turn, blocked the consideration of conservative bills. Elected Democrats also fled to Washington, D.C. in mid-session to protest an electoral reform bill. Their actions cost taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million.

Governor Greg Abbott called for their arrest, although no one was ever arrested. Upon their return, the Democrats successfully amended the Electoral Integrity Bill, which the Republicans passed, and Abbott signed into law, weakening the pre-existing law, reducing the charge of illegal voting from a felony to a class A misdemeanor.

Phelan said the Texas legislature has an extensive committee process “allowing hundreds of members and hundreds of gender amendments,” with the House of Representatives passing the final biennial budget in 2021 by a vote of 149 to 0.

But knowing that hundreds of Texans planned to participate in the House rules debate and vote scheduled for Thursday, when state Rep. Brian Slaton planned to introduce an amendment banning Democratic chairs, Phelan pushed back the rules vote a day early, Slaton said.

Phelan “and his allies successfully acted on Wednesday to prevent this affair. [Slaton’s amendment] from even being voted in the floor,” The Texas Tribune reported. “They did this by passing a ‘household resolution’ earlier in the day, which included a new section codifying a constitutional ban on the use of House resources for political purposes.”

“In his first act of defiance against Republican voters,” Phelan rescheduled the rules debate for Wednesday, Slayton tweeted. “He and his supporters know that hundreds of Republican activists” planned to come to Austin to watch the rules debate.

State Representative Charlie Gueren, R-Fort Worth, took procedural maneuvers to block the Slayton Amendment, which was supported by Phelan. This effectively banned debate or voting on amendments.

“The Republican Speaker is taking a procedural position that providing majority party chairs, as any other state and Congress does, uses state resources for ‘political purposes’ and is illegal,” Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi said in a statement. “This unreasonable and absurd decision was made solely to protect the power of the Democrats.”

Slayton said he voted against House rules “because they can’t stop the nomination of Democratic chairmen” and Phelan “used bogus pretexts to protect Democrats and prevent voting on these issues.” Texas voters deserve better.”

He told Texans to come to Austin anyway, saying, “Don’t cancel a single bus. Your voice matters and you deserve to be heard.”

The Texas GOP and conservatives held a rally at the Capitol Thursday demanding that Phelan not appoint Democratic chairmen. They did so after Rinaldi issued a statement last fall explaining what was going on in the legislature.

“Imagine if Kevin McCarthy took over as Speaker and nominated Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and AOC to leadership positions in Congress,” he said. “Republicans would be shocked and outraged. But that’s what’s happening in Texas and most people can’t believe it.

“Texas Republicans last session nominated Democrats to about 40% of leadership positions in the House of Representatives. Democrats then use these positions to denigrate Republicans as racists and a “threat to democracy”, destroy GOP legislation, and raise money to oppose the Republicans in elections.

“Texans elected Republicans across the state by double-digit votes and in both houses of the Legislature because Republicans have successfully argued that Democrats shouldn’t be in power,” he added. “They shouldn’t turn around and hand over power to the Democrats.”

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