You can see the train wreck coming: a special session over the budget and the stimulus package. Speculation is rampant that Perry will veto the appropriations bill, but he may not even have a bill to veto. The difficulties of melding the budget with the stimulus funds (and the rules that come with them) and the rainy day fund may not be doable in a regular session–especially in the House, where the lack of floor action means that the Straus team (whoever that is) has had no experience in working the floor. The machinery broke down on something as simple as Garnet Coleman’s resolution expressing no confidence in TxDOT a couple of weeks ago. The resolution didn’t lay out for the requisite hour, and nobody got the word out to Republicans that they were supposed to vote for it. The conservative Republicans have held their fire thus far, but you know they will come after the appropriations bill. The first test will be the Eiland hurricane bill when it comes to the floor. Eiland wants to use the rainy day fund, and that requires a supermajority vote. The absence of floor discipline means that spending bills will be subject to attack from the left and the right, the former because the spending isn’t enough and the latter because it is too much. This is an accident waiting to happen, and it will play right into Perry’s game plan.
Which is: dance with the ones that brung him, namely the Republican right. He has never given any indication of trying to broaden his support. His rejection of the unemployment stimulus package was straight from the same playbook he has always followed. The special session will be no different. Is this smart politics? The Republican party has lost a lot of ground during the Perry years, and the disenchantment with the hard right, nationally and in Texas, shows up in the polls. But Perry shows no indication that he seeks to reclaim the support of these disaffected Republicans. I suppose the question is, just how disaffected are they? If they no longer vote in Republican primaries, so much the better for Perry. The risk, for Perry, is that they will vote, and that they will vote for Hutchison.
Speaking of whom: Where is she? Hutchison hasn’t been heard from much. I know from the story that I wrote on the governor’s race in February that their strategy is not to engage with Perry. That is the advice that Karl Rove gave them. (There is no love lost between Rove and Perry, going back to Perry’s 1998 race for lieutenant governor. Rove wanted Bush to demonstrate his strength among Hispanic voters by carrying El Paso, and the more Hispanics he turned out, the more votes he produced for Perry’s Democratic opponent, John Sharp–at least that’s the way Perry saw it.) Hutchison is going to have to start positioning herself in this race. Perry wants to make her the candidate of Washington (as opposed to himself, the candidate of Texas), and she is going to have to burnish her GOP credentials by taking on Obama and the Democrats. Perry is not going to let her run on her personality.
So, as the special session is meeting in early July, the governor’s race will be heating up too. In the good old summertime.