Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus Breaks Major Campaign Promise, Stops Bill Supported by Governor, Lt. Governor, Entire House, Majority of Senate, Majority of Texans
(Austin) – In a stunning turn of events, Speaker Joe Straus today went back on a fundamental campaign promise during the Speaker’s race to allow the will of the House to work itself out on the floor. Instead of allowing HB 41, a bill to stop the federal government from groping innocent travelers without probable cause that had previously passed the House unanimously on both second and third reading, to come up for a vote, Straus interjected his own will into the process. The Speaker unilaterally halted a bill supported by a majority of Texans, coauthored by 111 members of the House, approved by a majority of the Senate, vetted by Attorney General Greg Abbott, requested by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and called by Governor Rick Perry.
Speaker Straus stated in his inaugural address that, “The will of the House should guide this House. And the will of the House does not begin in the Speaker’s office…. It begins with the 25 million people who are proud to call themselves Texans.” But he didn’t give the will of the people or the House an opportunity today. Instead he acted alone and enforced his own will upon the process, bringing to a halt the efforts of over one hundred coauthors and many thousands of individual Texans who have called, emailed, faxed, and rallied in support of this bill.
Contrary to Speaker Straus’ allegations that Simpson would not compromise on any of the language of the bill, Simpson had prepared an amendment incorporating all suggestions by Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office and those requested by the Speaker’s team, leaving just one item to the will of the House-the proposal to lower the standard for performing searches that touched private parts from probable cause to reasonable suspicion.
Speaker Straus’ duplicitous intrigue continues. He told reporters that there was not a quorum present so the bill could not be brought up. Yet, just a few minutes before telling reporters that there were not enough members present, he had called the House to order, stating: “Quorum is present.” The House Journal confirms that a quorum was in fact present.
Speaker Straus claimed that “[t]he bill…appears to me to be nothing more than an ill-advised publicity stunt.” Representative David Simpson (R-Longview), the bill’s author responded, “I’m curious whether the Speaker thinks that the Bill of Rights is a publicity stunt? Did the framers of the Constitution of the State of Texas and the Constitution of the United States write in protections against unreasonable search and seizure in order to be cute?”
Straus’ erratic pronouncement prompted Austin-American Statesman reporter Jason Embry to comment, “If I’d been at Straus briefing I would have asked why he let the TSA bill out of the House in the regular session, if he hates it so much.”
Simpson continued, “I am gravely disappointed at the Speaker’s disregard for the will of the House and the will of the people. While innocent travelers, including several members of our own House of Representatives, are being violated by government officials simply to be able to access public transportation, our Speaker is content to call attempts to stop this outrage a ‘mockery.’ The true mockery that is being made is of the people.”
“Apparently the Speaker thinks his wisdom above that of 111 coauthors and even the entirety of the House, which previously voted unanimously to pass this bill,” Simpson stated. “Given the duplicity of Straus’ position and the sudden break from his traditionally neutral stance on the Speaker’s dais, it appears that the Speaker is staging his own publicity stunt.”
The Washington Times today lauded Governor Perry for calling the bill, as well as for other stances he has taken against federal overreach, calling it “an impressive display of political resolve.” The Speaker of the House, however, lacks that resolve.