On the night that the House debated the Appropriations bill on the floor in 2007, Democrats were able to add amendments for a teacher pay raise and against school vouchers. Craddick lieutenants went onto the floor to try to turn the votes but were unable to do so. The next day, a veteran Democrat said to me, “The horses are out of the barn.” In short, Craddick had lost control of the Republican caucus. That’s where we are today on Voter I.D. The speaker cannot control the Republican caucus. Craddick lost control because he held the reins too tightly. Straus lost control because he didn’t have any reins. But the effect is the same: The Republican caucus is out of control. This doesn’t mean that Straus is ineffectual. It means that the horses are out of the barn on this issue. Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project recently circulated his observations about Straus: “Rather than demonstrate bipartisan leadership, Speaker Straus has allowed the most partisan and divisive Republican members of the House to set the agenda. While Straus was looking for cover, Tom Craddick stepped into the breach. The famously partisan, mean-spirited former Speaker argued successfully to hold fast to the partisan Republican game plan to hold key legislation hostage to consideration of the Voter Photo ID bill.” Craddick still has a band of followers, no doubt about that, and they’re going to take hardline positions, no doubt about that either. But I don’t agree that Straus has been weakened by the Voter I.D. debate. This is his first real test, and he stood firm against the Democrats. If anything, this has improved his standing with the Republican caucus. So Voter I.D. will die, and TDI Sunset, and unemployment insurance. These bills were more about politics — getting the other guys to cast a bad votes — than they were about the real problems of the state. The remaining question is whether Perry will call a special session, with the likely reason being windstorm insurance. I’m not sure that he will (notwithstanding my earlier rants to the contrary). He has called a bunch of special sessions, and none of them have served him well. Governors seldom get what they want out of special sessions. Perry is sailing along quite well. Why rock the boat?
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