In politics, ASSOCIATIONS MATTER. Often, far more than words
Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas house, just completed the 83rd legislative session that left the Democrats high-fiving on the floor, primarily because a group of about 30 of Straus’s minions with ‘principle flexibility’ repeatedly joined the Democrats against their GOP counterparts to spend more and kill more conservative legislation than ever before. A session one retiring legislator said was NOT run by the moderate Republicans as the previous two had been, but by the Democrats themselves. Even the special sessions had Straus’s own ‘brand’ on them; it was his delay of one week in considering the HB2 bill on abortion that led to the first special session debacle in the Senate, and all the high drama of the second. Indeed, it what his leadership’s refusal to consider a protective floor on the reserves to be met before revenue would be diverted to transportation that led to the third special session as well.
Since that time, several of Straus’s powerful chairs have announced they are moving on: Dan Branch, Higher Education Chair (and one of the original ‘Traitorous 11′ GOP member, who joined the Democrats to put Straus in power) is running for Attorney General. Appropriations Chair, another member of the Traitorous 11 is retiring. And Harvey Hidebran, Ways and Means Chair is running for Comptroller. While the loss of these loyal minions (think ‘flying monkey’ minions from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ more than the cute critters of ‘Despicable Me’) is a loss to Straus, it also provides an opportunity. The shuffling of Chairs represents some VERY LARGE carrots that Joe can wave at people who would be willing to have enough ‘flexibility in principle’ to serve as a Chair for him under a presumptive next term as Speaker (MANY of us will continue to fight the uphill battle against that presumption).
Note that the ‘Powers That Be’, after taking some significant beatings in the last two election cycles, have decided that the pro-life group is easiest enough to please and powerful enough to help counter those evil Tea Party types, who unreasonably expect them to act like full-spectrum conservatives and even reduce the crony capitalism that rewards the friends of the leadership with tax money! With the pro-life movement, all they need was a bill that was, in actual content, extremely mild restrictions on abortions: only knocking down the federal standard limit of 24 weeks to 20 weeks and requiring the clinics doing them meet day surgery standards. Despite the hopes of pro-life folks and the ludicrous hyperbole of the pro-abortion folks, HB2′s actual implementation will permanently close very few clinics (some may move) and will only fractionally reduce the number of abortions done. Indeed, the recent successful Medicaid fraud complaint against Planned Parenthood- where they had to pay back $4.3 million- is what is responsible for a couple of recent closings, NOT HB2. (And those clinics might return- in a different form, location and sponsorship). But all the high drama proves valuable to BOTH sides in terms of activism and money-raising, so both sides play along- and the leadership will take advantage of the inflation of the outcome to help retain power.
So in all that context, it is interesting to note which representatives would show up for a gala event hosted by Joe Straus, run in the same timeframe of a pro-life gathering in Austin. (Note, Joe Straus has repeatedly bottled up pro-life efforts at more strict approaches, just letting the milder stuff through; probably related to the fact his wife use to volunteer for Planned Parenthood long ago.) Who might be drawn to the scent of the large carrots and have a willingness to forgive all sins of the ‘Powers That Be’ for their acquiescence to allow the functionally mild HB2 through? Here is a partial list of people who showed up this ‘gala event’ from a Facebook posting on it, with certain names in caps. Make of it what you will:
“Great turnout for Speaker Joe Straus’ event last night in Austin! Great to see DAN FLYNN, Dwayne Bohac, CINDY BURKETT, Byron Cook, Tony Dale, Drew Darby, Gary Elkins, Marsha Farney, Charlie Geren, Larry D. Gonzales, Lance Gooden, Patricia Fincher Harless, Tracy King, Lyle Larson, JODIE LAUBENBERG, Geanie Morrison, Larry Phillips, Four Price, Bennett Ratliff, RON SIMMONS, Drew Springer, Phil Stephenson, Ed Thompson, Jason Villalba & Craig Goldman supporting our PRO-LIFE SPEAKER.”