Sometimes the Democratic leader can be really smart, as when he pinned down Tom Craddick with parliamentary inquiries over the past three sessions, and sometimes he can be way off base. Yesterday he was way off base when he intervened in the Senate dispute over the voter I.D. bill. He issued a statement saying that if the Senate utilized a three-fifths rule for passage of voter I.D., then the House would likewise change its rules for Voter I.D. in committee and in Calendars. This was an empty threat. He cannot deliver on it. About all he can do is throw a bomb into the debate over House rules by offering an amendment to that effect, a maneuver that would divide the Straus coalition and damage the speaker he helped elect. Not only is it an empty threat; it is an unnecessary one. Voter I.D. is already on life support in the House. The Democrats have 74 votes. If they can’t persuade three Republicans to walk, the D’s need a new caucus chairman. Worse, the threat undermined what Dunnam has been trying to accomplish, which is to reassure Strausian Republicans that he in particular and the Democrats in general want Straus to be successful. (I know this is what Dunnam has been trying to accomplish because we had a terse conversation last week about something I had written that he felt unfairly impugned his efforts, which I took steps to correct.) Nothing makes Republicans more nervous about the Straus speakership than the concern that Dunnam in particular and the Democrats in general will have undue influence in the coalition that backs Straus. When Dunnam attempts to speak for what the House will do, he undercuts Straus by reinforcing the concerns of Republicans. He has a tough job: the minority leader in an unwieldy majority coalition. This was not a good start.
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