Opinion

Texas Freedom Caucus Shows DC How It’s Done

PHOTO: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

John Griffing Contributor

The Texas Freedom Caucus is leading a Texas-sized version of the ObamaCare standoff with demonstrably successful results, according to ranking state representatives who spoke with The Daily Caller (TheDC).

Over Mother’s Day weekend, a voting bloc of Texas state representatives calling itself the “Texas Freedom Caucus” killed over 100 bills, effectively shutting down the state’s government. The unprecedented action was quickly designated the “Mother’s Day massacre” by various media outlets in the Lone Star state.

“Though we are not affiliated with the group in Congress, we have a lot of the same interests in common, including passing conservative legislation even when leadership stands opposed to it,” Texas state Rep. Rinaldi said in an interview with TheDC.

Speaker of the State House of Representatives Joe Straus announced Wednesday, May 17, that he would surrender to the demands of the Caucus, possibly ending decades of procedural hegemony by Straus.

“51% of the laws sent to the governor’s desk from the House were Democrat-written or co-written. This means the MINORITY party in the House, outnumbered by nearly 2-1, was the MAJORITY when it came to laws passed. How can this be? There is one probable answer: Speaker of the House Joe Straus,” according to a report by Hardhatters.

Straus is criticized by many on the political right for frequently siding with the Democrats on a number of key legislative issues important to the Republican majority, especially where pro-life bills are concerned. His wife was on the board of Planned Parenthood.

“They refused to recognize us for routine motions and disabled us from representing our districts and the things we stand for,” remarked Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain, a central part of the “Mother’s Day massacre.”

“I have been there two sessions and I haven’t had a single bill come to the floor with me as primary author, and that is simply because of my conservative voting record. Meanwhile, Democrats have gotten six, seven bills to the floor, even those who have beat Republican incumbents in the off year,” Rinaldi explained.

“They went so far as to require people who want their bills to be voted on to remove a Freedom Caucus member’s name if they were a joint author,” Cain added.

The “Mother’s Day massacre” does an end-run around business as usual with Straus. Unlike the national Congressional Freedom Caucus, which stalled passage of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s National Health Care Act only to have it replaced with a largely identical piece of legislation, the Texas Freedom Caucus chose an “option play.”

“We had been notifying leadership for several weeks. They knew about it. We were open about it. They called our bluff, and that’s exactly what we did. We held a press conference and said, if you kill our bills, we will kill your bills,” Rinaldi remarked.

“The night that happened, an unrelated event occurred where leadership had placed on the house calendar a sunset safety net bill, very far down the calendar. And that’s basically our continuation of government bill, a must pass bill to avoid a special session,” continued Rinaldi.

“We huddled up and said, ‘If we can kill this bill and not get to it, we can put a lot of leverage in Dan Patrick’s hands to pass conservative legislation.’ Patrick picked up what we gave him, and that’s great news for conservatives,” Rinaldi concluded.

The ball is now in the hands of tea party favorite, Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who conditioned his cooperation on passage by Straus of three key bills in a press conference Wednesday, May 17.

“Here’s the bottom line—I want to avoid a special session, but I am prepared for one if the House does not pass the Senate version of SB 2 and if the House does not pass SB 6 or amend another bill with language on the Texas Privacy Act,” said Patrick. “I need the House to commit to do both and move quickly in good faith.”

SB 2 allows voters to have an automatic election on any tax increase of five percent or more. The “Texas Privacy Act” prohibits transgender persons from entering restrooms not corresponding to their biological sex.

Straus acknowledges that the Caucus approach was forcing him to permit passage of majority-favored bills.

“I think it was unfortunate that they blocked our getting to the sunset bill, which did give the lieutenant governor the ability to make a threat and demand,” Straus said. “I think that was unfortunate. I’m not sure it gave anyone positive momentum.”

His comments about “positive momentum” notwithstanding, Straus did as Patrick requested, moving a sweeping pro-life dismemberment abortion ban (including a provision prohibiting the sale of umbilical cords and placentas within Texas) to a floor vote Friday, May 19.

Cain isn’t too happy with the “pro-life” bills coming out of the House, even though his amendment was included on the most recent version of the dismemberment bill.

“They’re pushing phony pro-life bills, bills that appear to be de facto pro-life legislation and are hoodwinking voters,” Cain said.

The House passed a version of SB 2, property tax reform, Saturday, May 20 — further indicating a course correction by Straus.

And finally, the Texas House passed legislation (albeit, more narrowly construed) restricting school bathroom use by transgender students to the bathroom matching their anatomy — satisfying Patrick’s demands.

“We are having an effect, but we are doing so outside the normal process, because leadership has forced us to,” Rinaldi told TheDC.