A Response to My Colleague
Mon May 28, 2007 4:03 pm

Patti,

You're the greatest colleague a writer could wish for, but I think you've been watching the Senate too long. They don't fight in public. They don't try to skewer each with the rules. All they do is tell each other how wonderful they are. You can't possibly know the difference between a good fight and bad theatre.

Here's the best way I can explain a very complicated situation:

The insurgents believe that Craddick has used the rules to make himself into a dictator, that he has perverted the law, and that his wrongdoing justifies the use of any means necessary to bring him down. I agree with the insurgents that he has perverted the rules. If you can't be recognized, and you can't appeal rulings, you have no power. You simply have to try to kill bills, saying, in effect, we're going to shut this place down until our parliamentary rights are restored. Their conclusion is right, but that does not mean that all-out parliamentary warfare and quorum breaking (which occurred last night) is a valid response. Given a choice, I'm sure that the public would prefer that the House go about its business instead of engage in continuous feuding.

On the Republican side, many members are concerned about Craddick's ruling, but they nevertheless close ranks behind him to varying degrees. Quite a few believe that the ruling should be changed. Some believe that Craddick should not serve another term as speaker. No one I have talked to favors an in-session vote to vacate the chair. They believe it will create chaos. One sentiment that is shared by the remaining Craddick Republicans is their belief that the insurgency is driven not by principle but by partisanship and personal animosity toward Craddick. They believe that the Democrats want to make Craddick and the Republicans look bad, improving the prospects for a Democratic majority in 2008 or 2010, and that the Republican insurgents are joining the effort because they stand a better chance of becoming speaker with the help of Democrats. Last night, as Haggerty walked out, Speaker Pro Tem Turner called for a vote to determine a quorum. I have not seen the tally, and all the Republican speaker candidates had joined the walkers. That roll call will become a Republican primary issue for all four of them.

The Republican rank and file doesn't care that the speaker is preventing the minority from throwing parliamentary roadblocks in the way of legislation, because they never had any desire to use those tools. Yes, I know, someday they might be in that position. But the truth is that most members have an "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it" attitude. Right now, they are in the majority and they want to take care of business, which is the reason they ran for office. Eissler: "Let's have the speaker's race when it's time to have the speaker's race." They have worked hard all session to pass bills that are important to their constituents, and now those bills are jeopardized, not because the insurgents don't like their bills, but because they don't like the speaker. The insurgents would say, this is the time of Craddick's greatest vulnerability, so let's have the speaker's race now.

I think that the majority of the members, including a lot of Republicans, believe that the speaker should be allowed to finish the session, and then he will experience an epiphany and realize go away and let them elect a new speaker. This will never happen. He will never quit. But that is the illusion that allows many members to continue to support him.

The specific action in question is Haggerty's. He clearly violated the rules in his personal privilege speech by mentioning members by name. He ignored repeated attempts by Sylvester Turner, who was in the chair, to get him to confine his remarks to a single sessionthe bill under consideration. He said, We have been unable to get a vote to replace the Speaker, and then opened a voting tally sheet with all members names and started calling the roll. If they didn't answer, he badgered them for a response. Then he said something like, Since some members don't want to vote, those of you who agree with me should just walk out. That's the only way to get a vote. By the way, 94 members stayed in the chamber, so he lost the vote. But he won the theatre. The gallery erupted with cheers and followed him outside the chamber onto the stairwell and cheered.

My take on it is this: If you are going to protest the enemy's use of the rules, you have to follow the rules yourself. Haggerty didn't. As a result, the insurgency lost the moral high ground.

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