HERE’S A METAPHYSICAL issue to contemplate: Is Harris worse when he’s predictable—which is to say, a bully? Or is he worse when he’s unpredictable—which is to say, a cheat?
His temper tantrums are epic. During a key hearing on the workers’ compensation reform bill, Harris grew irate over the number of amendments his colleagues were offering, as if the legislative process was an imposition on him personally, and demanded, fruitlessly, that the committee adjourn—an action that would have sent out-of-town witnesses home without the opportunity to testify. At another meeting, he assailed a Legislative Budget Board staffer for her agency’s failure to file certain reports; to no one’s regret, he took a powder without hearing her explanation, which happened to be that she was following the proper procedure. “You got lucky. He had to go start his own committee,” joshed one senator. Said another: “I have to go. I sit on his committee. Say a prayer for us.”
His abuse of people was exceeded only by his abuse of process. Harris’s job as chairman of the Administration Committee was to oversee a calendar of bills that had been certified as noncontroversial, meaning they would be sent to the Senate floor for automatic approval. Like the church treasurer who skims the collection plate, Harris committed an unpardonable sin by slipping three of his own bills onto the calendar, even though they were not eligible—and he got caught. Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst took possession of the bills and locked them in a credenza. In a Senate caucus, Harris offered to resign as chairman, but they chose to forgive him. Maybe they belong on the Worst list.