“Democrats have played this childish political charade for far too long,” Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Chairman Matt Rinaldi said in a Monday statement. Rinaldi, who won election last month to finish the unexpired term of now-gubernatorial-candidate Allen West, has already been on record advocating the removal of chairmanships from Democrats who joined the quorum break.
“Now that House Republicans have the power of a quorum, they should vote immediately to remove Democrat Committee Chairs who broke quorum and take action to maintain a quorum in the future.”
The RPT called for three measures from the Republicans in the state House: 1) Revoke chairmanships from those Democrats who broke quorum, 2) amend House rules to trigger an automatic revocation of a chairmanship after 15 days of unexcused absence, and 3) issue a call of the House and arrest members during any future quorum break.
Ten of the 13 House Democratic chairs participated in the quorum break. They are:
- Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), Business & Industry Committee
- Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), County Affairs Committee
- Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
- Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo), Defense & Veterans Affairs Committee
- Victoria Neave (D-Dallas), Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee
- Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), Land & Resource Management Committee
- Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee
- Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas), Pensions, Investments, & Financial Services Committee
- Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Public Education Committee
- Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), Urban Affairs Committee
House Republicans were divided on whether such measures could be taken without a quorum, but The Texan has been informed that most were united that committee chairmanships should be stripped as punishment for the near-40-day parliamentary maneuver.
Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has remained mum on the question but with the main guardrail on the issue now removed, he may have to stake out a position.
Early on, Phelan punished Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) for his role in the quorum break by removing Moody from the position of speaker pro tempore. But that, along with demanding that legislative per diems be returned and the issuance of one civil arrest warrant for Cortez, encompassed the speaker’s retaliatory response to the truant Democrats during the first special session.
During the second and current special session, Phelan issued 52 arrest warrants for Democrats still not back in Austin. No arrests were made and since the call of the House has concluded, the warrants are now void. But gradually Democrats began returning to the state Capitol and on Thursday of last week, 99 members were present in the House — enough for a quorum because of vacant seats that are awaiting special elections to fill them.
Phelan was elected with significant Democratic support in a similar manner to former Speaker Joe Straus, along with the more conservative wing of his party — preventing a more centrist Republican from securing the speakership. Early on during the quorum break after Moody’s second-in-command position was revoked, House Democrats warned that “more than 60” votes supportive of Phelan’s speakership were “not there.”
But after the regular session concluded, Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) told The Texan at the time that Phelan’s speakership was not in jeopardy.
A lot has happened since then, but the math remains the same: 76 votes are required to secure the House’s top position. And now, Phelan has his own party officially lobbying for action on the issue along with multiple members within the chamber. With forces pulling both ways, the speaker has a decision to make.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.