At roughly six am this morning, after about 18 hours of debate on more than 300 amendments, the House voted on HB1, which the general appropriations bill for the 2016-17 biennium. Official passage, on third reading, will have to wait until this afternoon, but the preliminary vote makes a dispositive statement: 141 in favor versus 5 against.
That’s a degree of consensus normally reserved for whether Texas should remember the Alamo. It means the House budget won overwhelming support from Republicans, Democrats, and Tea Party alike. If we define “Tea Party” as the subset of Republicans who voted against Joe Straus for speaker at the beginning of the session, the budget passed with unanimous support among Republicans and Democrats, and with a huge majority in the Tea Party. Five of them—David Simpson, Matt Schaefer, Matt Rinaldi, Tony Tinderholt, and Molly White—voted against the budget. Fourteen of them voted for it, including Scott Turner, who ran as the conservative alternative to Straus.
R.G. and I will have more comments later in the day; I don’t know about him, but I’m ready to hit the hay. But in the meantime, the vote is the most important detail of the story. Prima facie, a 141-5 vote sends a message. And if after 18 hours of debate, a bill passes with the support of Jonathan Stickland and Celia Israel and everyone in between? The takeaway there, too, is pretty clear. And no, this isn’t an April Fools’ Day thing. Congratulations to Chairman John Otto, the Appropriations Committee, to Speaker Straus, and to the rest of the Texas House.