The responses from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to their failures in the recently ended Special Session are telling. Both men are acting like the proverbial spoiled child after getting their asses handed to them by the Texas House under the leadership of Speaker Joe Straus.
Gov. Greg Abbott:
One day after the Texas House shut down the special session without completing action on the full agenda, Gov. Greg Abbott blamed Speaker Joe Straus for “dilly-dallying” on such initiatives as lowering property taxes and on the bathroom bill.
“The speaker made very clear that he opposed this (bathroom) bill and he would never allow a vote to be taken on it,” the governor told Houston radio station KTRH in an interview Wednesday morning. “He told me that in the regular session. And he told me during the regular session that if this came up during the special session, he would not allow a vote on it.”
In singling out Straus for thwarting his agenda, Abbott effectively joined forces with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, whose verbal sparring with the speaker was one of the most enduring backstories of both the regular session of the Legislature and the 30-day special session that ended one day early late Tuesday.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick:
And at a news conference after the Senate followed the House’s lead and ended its work for the session, Patrick berated Straus, saying he “walked off the job” with work still undone and one more day to do it. And then Patrick got personal.
“Thank goodness Travis didn’t have the speaker at the Alamo,” Patrick told reporters, referring to Col. William Barrett Travis, the leader of the Texas forces during the doomed battle against the Mexican army in 1836. “He might have been the first one over the wall.”
Speaker Joe Straus:
Straus countered that the House “worked diligently in the special session, passing legislation that was in the best interest of all Texans.”
“I want to thank Governor Abbott for working with the House on his very ambitious agenda in the special session,” the statement said. “We considered every idea carefully.”
One of those three sounds like a leader that wants what is best for the state. Two of those three sound like whiney hineys that didn’t get their way. I’ll let you decide which is which.
Observing from a purely Republican primary point of view, it seems like Abbott is still frightened that Patrick is going to run against him. He acknowledges that Straus told him before he called the special session that there would be no vote on the privacy protection act (i.e., bathroom bill) yet he put it on there anyway. Can’t let Patrick get to his right, right?
And while Abbott rails against the failure of property tax reform, the truth is that the bill proposed by the Senate didn’t save anyone any property tax money; it might have slowed the growth of a few political subdivisions but on the whole, it did nothing. The plain fact of the matter is that in blaming the House for the failure of property tax reform, he is blaming the wrong party. The House actually passed a bill before adjourning while Patrick adjourned without taking a vote on it.
So how is Speaker Straus strengthened by all of this? Glad you asked.
First off, a lot more voters got involved in the special session because of Abbott’s decision to ignore Straus’ warning that there would be no vote on the privacy protection act. And their involvement gave them a chance to see how the process works and how the way the three leaders handle themselves on policy issues. It showed those new activists that Abbott is actually a very weak leader, swaying with the wind despite his campaign joke of having a spine of steel.
It also gave them a good look at how nasty and petty Patrick can be when he doesn’t get his way. Those of us that have followed Patrick through the years are well aware of this tendency and didn’t need the reminder but that crack he made about Straus at the Alamo was the bottom of the barrel as far as I’m concerned, especially given Patrick’s wearing his Christianity on his sleeve. A man of integrity would apologize for that. I guarantee you that the majority of the House members know that Patrick’s statement is far from the truth after seeing Straus take hit after hit and never backing away in his efforts to protect them from a vote that they didn’t want to make.
Second, it showed Straus’s constituency, the House members, that he truly does let the will of the House decide its course and the lengths to which he will absorb criticism to protect them. After a regular session in which I thought he had succumbed to ego and began believing the positive press about him, he corrected that course and started talking about ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. Those members aren’t going to forget that.
The question is, what does he do with the increased strength? What are his political options?
I had to laugh when I saw that Perry Dorrell suggested that in order to defeat Abbott, the Democrats would have to draft Straus. Bathroom-bill-itis must have blinded him to the bills passed under Straus’ leadership the past 5 sessions. The idea that Straus would switch parties is laughable.
So that leaves the Republican primary. Tough sell and I don’t think he’d make it but it would make it interesting. I’ve wanted for years to see what would happen if November Republicans turned out in the primary. I think you would see very different, much better leadership and policy. Unfortunately, they don’t and without that, Straus would be spinning his wheels and wasting money and throwing away his increased political capital. And if he did file, my guess is that Patrick would also join the race and win in a three way battle.
Now this would be a fun race but again, without those November Republicans, Straus couldn’t win. It would be fun because of the contrast that Allen Blakemore, Patrick’s strategist, would create. He’d position Straus as an ultra liberal while Patrick is the ultra conservative on a white horse. In truth, while Patrick was on the radio getting his testicles clipped or walking his dog Barney out of the studio to take a dump or arguing with former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in favor of emptying the rainy day fund to get taxpayers a check, Straus had already worked for President Ronald Reagan pushing his agenda. Who is the Republican again?
This is the most obvious landing place and the place he can do the most good. The Oust Straus folks won’t have a chance to replace him and he can focus on finally getting school finance fixed. Obviously that will still be a mountain to climb with Patrick controlling the Senate but it would offer the best chance for a real solution. Folks, our school finance system is a mess. At some point, we need to put pressure on the big three to find a solution that at least mostly cleans it up. No one is going to get everything they want but something has to give. We can’t continue with some kids using 10 year old information technology textbooks while other kids get iPads to take home.
If you’ve managed to get this far, then you obviously have the fortitude to hold your elected reps accountable for your particular issues. And that makes me happy, even if you are on the ‘Oust Straus’ train. Mostly because I know your issue is going to go off the tracks but still, it’s good to see people involved.