Texas Speaker of the House strips Democrat of top leadership position

AP Photo/Eric Gay

The battle between Texas Democrats and Republicans continues in the special session of the state legislature. House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) stripped El Paso Democrat Joe Moody of his top leadership position of speaker pro tem on Thursday. Phelan announced the move in a memo but did not issue any statements. He did say that the action is effective immediately.

This is exactly what you think it is- retaliation for the Democrat’s bone-headed decision to run to Washington, D.C. instead of doing their work in the special session. The movement of two bills protecting election integrity and reforming one-time adjustments to voting procedures due to the pandemic has so triggered state Democrat lawmakers that they panicked and fled. They are calling it a form of a filibuster, which is rich considering that their fellow progressives in Washington, D.C. are busy trying to eliminate the filibuster rather than deal with Republicans using it to stop their radical agenda.

Phelan and Moody are reported to have a good working relationship in the Texas House. Moody’s speaker pro tem appointment was seen as an olive branch by Republicans. The move raised Moody’s political profile and stature in the House. For background, the Texas House of Representatives has 150 members. There is a Republican majority of 83 members to 67 Democrats. All state representatives serve a 2-year term and there are no term limits. Unfortunately, Texas Republicans still have not learned that extending olive branches to Democrats never ends well for them. No good deed goes unpunished, especially in today’s hyper-partisan divided political atmosphere. In this case, the speaker’s Democrat colleague fled with the other Democrats to break a quorum and shut down the peoples’ business in the House.

Democrats responded to the move by Phelan on social media in between raising money and posting selfies. A threat was issued to Phelan for good measure.

“The smartest decision Dade Phelan has made as speaker was to appoint Joe Moody Speaker Pro Tem,” he said. “Joe works tirelessly to help lead the House and is respected by [Democrat] & [Republican] members. That’s why the Speaker’s decision to remove Joe is so short-sighted and so dumb.”

Turner also issued another joint statement with Democratic caucus leaders Rafael Anchía of Dallas, Garnet Coleman of Houston and Nicole Collier of Fort Worth.

“We know first hand that Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody has done more than any other member on the House Floor to protect our Chamber and the institution of the Texas House. It’s unfortunate that Speaker Phelan has been unable to do the same,” the statement read.

It also issued a warning shot to Phelan about his next speaker race.

“We are a coequal branch of government. When Governor Abbott decided to defund the whole legislature, Speaker Phelan was silent. There needs to be 76 members who decide who our next Speaker is, and more than 60 are not there.”

Nice job you’ve got there, Speaker Phelan. It’d be a shame if something happened to it. Governor Abbott and other state officials have called for the Democrats to be stripped of their leadership positions because of their trip to Washington, D.C. Phelan responded by saying that lawmakers can’t be stripped of those positions under House rules. However, the speaker pro tem is a different position from committee leadership positions. Phelan cited House rules that enabled him to remove Moody. Phelan can point to Moody’s role in the Democrats’ exodus if Democrats want to ding Phelan about remaining silent when Governor Abbott cut their salaries after they broke quorum in the general session. It’s a vicious circle.

Phelan is pressuring Democrats to not take their $221 per diem payments during the special session since they are no longer at work. He blamed the Democrats for the House’s inability to approve an additional check for retired Texas teachers, legislation that has bipartisan support.

“While stalling a 13th check for retired teachers, an overwhelming majority of Texas House Democrats remain silent on whether they will return their legislative per diem to the State Treasury,” he said in a statement. “Texas taxpayers demand better, and I demand that Democrats return their legislative per diem and get back to Texas to pass legislation that would provide a 13th check for retired teachers, protect our foster kids, and provide relief from high property taxes.”

Anything else? Yes, of course, there is always something else. Phelan announced he’ll use campaign funds to charter a private plane that will bring the Democrats back to Texas on Saturday if they’ll get on board. All this did, though, was give the Democrats an opportunity to say no.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chairman Rafael Anchía of Dallas and Texas Legislative Black Caucus Chairwoman Nicole Collier of Fort Worth, though, rejected Phelan’s offer of a free ride home.

“The Speaker should save his money,” the three North Texas Democrats said in a joint statement. “We won’t be needing a plane anytime soon, as our work to save democracy from the Trump Republicans is just getting started.”

The words of the Democrats calling their opposition “the Trump Republicans” are lame. The need for integrity in elections didn’t start or stop with Trump. Election laws were strained in Harris County, for example, during the 2020 election cycle. Democrats took advantage of the pandemic to put into place allowances that had never been used in previous elections. They tried to send mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter in the county, regardless of if the person met mail-in voting requirements. They put 24-hour voting in place which no other state allows, and they opened up drive-thru voting. Those last two examples are taken out to normalize election procedures in the current legislation. The pandemic is over. Democrats pushed the envelope – never let a crisis go to waste. Current legislation provides additional early voting hours, drop boxes, and voter identification will be verified for mail-in ballots. None of this suppresses votes. None of this is the end of democracy in Texas or America.

This is all for Texas Democrats to help national Democrats pass the For the People Act in the Senate. Schumer doesn’t have the votes and Democrats are desperate to take advantage of their majority rule in the House and Senate with Biden in the White House. They know they will lose the House in 2022 and their fever dreams of passing radical progressive bills will vanish. They are eager to federalize elections to guarantee permanent Democrat majorities.

Texas Democrats know this is a losing battle. They are alarmed that recent elections have produced stronger support from Hispanic voters for Republicans in Texas, even in the traditionally Democrat-controlled Rio Grande Valley. This stunt of running is not a good look for them with Independent voters and conservative Democrat voters in Texas. The governor will call another special session when this one expires.It looks like the next one will start on August 8. Resistance is futile, Democrats don’t have the numbers. They have even lost the Baker Institute in Houston.

Lt. Gov Dan Patrick has an idea on how to deal with quorum requirements in the next special session.

Stay tuned.