Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

Texas House speaker is playing a weird game with colleagues

Talk about doing an end-around …

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who’s under fire over a weird conversation he had with a fiery right-wing activist, has squandered the trust of his Republican House colleagues. He could just resign the speakership, but no-o-o. He decided to ask his colleagues to draft a resolution calling for him to quit.

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, made an emotional speech Friday to his colleagues, apologizing for tossing several of them under the proverbial bus. His colleagues, though, decided against the resolution because House rules — not to mention the Texas Constitution — require them to be in active legislative session to remove a speaker from office.

Good grief, man. Just quit your speakership! At the very least, just announce you won’t seek the speakership for the 2021 Legislature.

Bonnen took part in a meeting in June with Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan, who recorded the meeting he had with Bonnen and with former Texas House GOP chair Dustin Burrows of Lubbock. Bonnen offered Sullivan the names of 10 GOP legislators that Empower Texans could target in the 2020 election. He also offered to grant Empower Texans media credentials, which means House floor access to lawmakers.

Bonnen had tried to deny what he said. Then he apologized for saying mean things about his colleagues. Now we have heard the conversation. Sullivan had it right.

The Friday meeting was a tense affair, according to the Texas Tribune. House GOP members have condemned in strong language what Bonnen told Sullivan. They also are angry with Burrows. It is becoming apparent that Bonnen wouldn’t be re-elected as speaker if he decides to seek the office again.

The speaker is seeking to play some kind of weird game of chicken, it seems to me, with his Republican colleagues, several of whom have called for his resignation. He ought to knock it off.

Just submit your resignation or tell your colleagues you won’t run for the Man of the House job next time around.

Right-wing zealot was right about what happened with Speaker Bonnen

I detest the politics of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, the right-wing political action committee that seeks to yank the Texas political structure even farther to the right … if that is even possible.

Still, we now know that what Sullivan said about Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — that the speaker was willing to give up 10 House Republicans while granting a political favor for Empower Texans — was correct.

Sullivan released the full text of a recorded conversation he and Bonnen had earlier this year. Bonnen had denied the contents of what Sullivan had alleged; then he kinda/sorta backed off and apologized to House members he insulted.

As the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey reported in his analysis, Bonnen now becomes a potentially vulnerable House speaker: “But that political discussion, as Bonnen calls it, was fraught with underhanded scheming, given Bonnen’s constituents — the other 149 members of the Texas House — everything they need to replace, if that’s what they’d like to do.”

This revelation disappoints me. I had hoped that Bonnen might continue the tradition of moderate leadership set by his immediate predecessor, former GOP state Rep. Joe Straus. Silly me. It now turns out he can be had, as Sullivan’s recording has revealed.

He agreed to give Sullivan the names of 10 Republican lawmakers who Sullivan’s group could target in next year’s election. Empower Texans also would be granted media credentials, giving the PAC access to legislators on the House floor.

If I were a Republican lawmaker — even if my name wasn’t one of those given to Sullivan — I would be, shall we say, really pi**ed off!

Speaker Bonnen appears to have squandered the trust he sought from his GOP caucus in the House.

I won’t predict this will happen, but count me as one Texas resident who wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Texas House finds a new speaker in January 2021.

Sen. Cruz is breaking his silence on Trump and election interference

What do you know about this?

Ted Cruz, who I dislike intensely in his role as the junior U.S. senator from Texas, is speaking out — finally! — on this matter of election interference from foreign governments.

Cruz, the Republican firebrand who nearly lost his seat in 2018, now says that foreign governments have no place in our nation’s electoral system. None, man! He has been critical of Donald Trump’s asking for electoral help from China and Ukraine.

According to the Texas TribuneDuring an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation, Cruz said no foreign government should be involved in American elections.

“That’s true for all of them,” he told moderator Margaret Brennan. “It should be the American people deciding elections.”

OK, so he hasn’t yet declared that Donald Trump needs to get booted out of office because of his solicitation of help from foreign governments. However, his statement — in my view — marks an important turning point in GOP reticence regarding the president’s current difficulties.

Trump is facing increasingly probable impeachment by the House of Representatives over issues relating to foreign interference in our elections. Cruz isn’t likely to join his Democratic colleagues in calling for Trump’s impeachment, conviction and ouster. However, at least The Cruz Missile is standing on an important principle that has been lost on the president.

What’s more, Cruz told Face the Nation that Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, needs to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in connection with reports that the former New York City mayor met with Ukrainian officials about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Is the senator signaling a turn against a president — who he once called a “sniveling coward” and an “amoral” narcissist who is unfit for the presidency?

I won’t bet the mortgage on it. Then again … stranger events have occurred.

That’s why they’re called ‘exploratory committees’

What do you know about this? Texas state Sen. Pat Fallon, a Republican from Prosper, has decided against running for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

He had formed an exploratory committee to, um, explore the possibilities of challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the GOP primary.

He’s decided to stay in the Texas Senate and not expose his wife and young sons to the rigors of trying to pull Sen. Cornyn even farther to the right.

It’s a smart move, Sen. Fallon.

For starters, Sen. Cornyn is pretty far right already. He is a reliable opponent of gun control measures, of abortion rights, of the Affordable Care Act. That’s just three issues.

Trust me on this: Pat Fallon didn’t need to seek to make Texas’s senior U.S. senator even more conservative. So he’ll forgo a race against Cornyn.

It just goes to show that these efforts occasionally produce the kind of result that Pat Fallon has found. It’s why they’re called “exploratory committees.”

Two GOP ‘allies’ now at each other’s throats

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and right-wing activist Michael Quinn Sullivan are having a major spat these days.

They’re blaming each other for “destroying” the Republican Party.

Hmm. Which one is guilty as charged? Well, I’ll and cast my lot with the lieutenant governor, who has taken on the National Rifle Association in seeking increased background checks on firearm purchases. Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, opposes Patrick’s position on gun control.

Thus, I am siding with Patrick.

The gun argument is just part of it. Patrick is angry with Sullivan’s role in the matter involving Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and former Texas House Republican Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock.

Sullivan says he has recordings of Bonnen offering him the names of 10 House Republicans that Empower Texans could target in the 2020 election in exchange for press credentials on the House floor. Bonnen denies it all. Sullivan isn’t releasing the full recorded conversation.

Patrick is siding with Bonnen.

The fight is on.

Both men say the other guy is hurting the Republican Party. Frankly, I don’t care much about the future of GOP, although I would prefer to see a more reasonable party than the one that has emerged in Texas. Patrick is part of the right-wing emergence of the GOP.

As for Sullivan, he and Patrick have been allies in the past.

Now, though, they are fighting over gun control and that weird conversation that allegedly occurred between Sullivan and Bonnen.

The two men have been sparring via Twitter. I would prefer they speak to each other face to face, man to man, fruitcake to fruitcake. Instead, they choose the social medium to fire insults at each other. Childish? Yes! Effective? Not really.

I detest both men. Of the two, though, I detest Sullivan more. Empower Texans has gotten involved too deeply in local politics, seeking to influence local political races, seeking to seat men and women who ascribe to the political action committee’s far-right-wing agenda. They went after two friends of mine in the Texas Panhandle in 2018: state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo, two mainstream Republicans and two damn fine legislators who represent the Texas Panhandle with honor and distinction.

They seek to handpick local representatives who put Empower Texans’ needs above those of their constituents back home. That entire strategy is offensive to the max.

But … keep fighting Lt. Gov. Patrick and Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Castro launches cheap shot at Biden

You may count me as one of those Americans who gasped just a tad tonight when Julian Castro seemed to launch an ageist attack against Joe Biden.

The two men were part of a 10-candidate Democratic presidential candidate joint appearance tonight in Houston.

The former vice president, Biden, sought to make a point about “Medicare for all.” He opposes a plan pitched by opponents Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He said he supported a provision in the Affordable Care Act, which gave Americans a chance to “buy in” to insurance plans provided by the ACA.

Castro then launched a verbal barrage, accusing the former VP of “forgetting” what he just said. He said several times in just a few seconds that Biden “forgot” something he said only moments earlier. The audience at the Texas Southern University hall gasped audibly.

I have to say I thought the moment revealed an ugly side of the former Housing secretary and former San Antonio mayor.

Moreover, he misrepresented what Biden actually said … which makes his attack even worse.

Ageism has no place

I don’t know who won this encounter. They all seemed to score sufficient points arguing with each other at times. However, Julian Castro’s baseless barrage appears to have been the lowest point that any of the candidates suffered.

Too bad.

‘Mistakes were made,’ governor? Who made them?

I worked for a newspaper editor who detests passive-voice sentence construction. He drilled it into us to write with active-voice construction.

So, when I hear a politician say that “mistakes were made,” I think of my former editor — and current friend — and I see such a statement as a way of a politician seeking to cover his a**.

The basic difference between passive and active voice grammar is that the reader understands who is doing the deed being described in the text he or she is reading.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said that “mistakes were made” in the release of a fundraising letter the day before the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The letter sought to gin up support for efforts to “DEFEND” the Texas border against, I presume, illegal immigrants.

The letter went out and then a moron drove from Collin County to El Paso, Texas, and opened fire at a Walmart shopping center, killing 22 people, most of whom were of Latin American descent. Is there a connection? Maybe, perhaps.

As the Texas Tribune reported: “I did get the chance to visit with the El Paso delegation and help them understand that mistakes were made and course correction has been made,” he said.

The Tribune continued: “The national Democrat machine has made no secret of the fact that it hopes to ‘turn Texas blue.’ If they can do it in California, they can do it in Texas — if we let them,” Abbott wrote in the fundraising appeal.

The governor signed off with another pointed warning: “Unless you and I want liberals to succeed in their plan to transform Texas — and our entire country — through illegal immigration, this is a message we MUST send.”

I am left to ask: Who made the mistakes and what is the precise nature of the “course correction”?

I am quite certain my former editor, who has returned to Texas, will read that statement and go into apoplectic shock over Gov. Abbott’s passive-voice a**-covering.

Release the recording, Empower Texans guru … now!

Ross Ramsey, one of the top guns at the Texas Tribune, has it exactly right. Empower Texans main man, Michael Quinn Sullivan, needs to release the full recording of a meeting he allegedly had with two key Texas legislative Republicans.

Do it now, Sullivan!

Ramsey has noted the “drip, drip, drip” nature of Sullivan’s assertion that Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen offered him the names of 10 House Republicans in exchange for media credentials for Empower Texans to the floor of the House. The names would be used by Empower Texans as targets for the far-right political action committee that Sullivan heads.

He’s had it in for establishment Republicans for about a decade, Ramsey writes in the Tribune. He and Bonnen aren’t exactly pals. Neither is he cozy with state Rep. Dustin Burrows, the recently resigned chairman of the Texas House GOP caucus; Burrows remains chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

The three of them took part in some mysterious meeting. All we know is what Sullivan has said about it. Bonnen has been all over the pea patch, at first denying it happened and then apologizing for the remarks he made about his fellow House Republicans.

I am as curious as others are about that meeting. I don’t trust Michael Quinn Sullivan as far as I can toss my fifth wheel, given what I know about his rigid right-wing philosophy and his penchant for targeting “mainstream” Republican legislators, which is what he sought to do in the 2018 GOP primary in the Texas Panhandle.

He ought to release the recording for the public to hear and for the public to determine who’s telling the truth.

So what if the truth is as Sullivan has stated?

Read Ross Ramsey’s analysis here.

Inquiring minds want to know who said what to whom.

Have the stakes risen as Texas prepares to vote in 2020?

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen appears to have made a big mistake. Whether he has inflicted a mortal wound on the Texas Republican Party remains to be seen.

The Texas Tribune reports that the stakes for the 2020 election in Texas might have risen exponentially as Bonnen tries to repair the damage done by a reportedly secret meeting with a high-powered, ultra-conservative political activist. In that meeting, Bonnen — an Angleton Republican — allegedly offered up the names of 10 GOP lawmakers that the activist, Michael Quinn Sullivan, could defeat in exchange for press credentials inside the House chamber.

Sullivan runs that far-right outfit called Empower Texans. I detest Empower Texans. So do many other Texans, even many Republicans.

Bonnen became speaker at the start of the 2019 Legislature with a reputation as something of a GOP moderate. I guess he can be had, right? Yep. Apparently so.

So now it becomes questionable whether the Texas House might flip from Republican to Democratic control after the 2020 election. Democrats need to flip nine House seats next year to win control of the lower legislative chamber.

I am one Texan who isn’t of the Republican ilk, although I have a few GOP lawmakers I count as friends; they are people I respect and for whom I have personal affection. I doubt strongly any of them would be in danger of losing their seats in 2020.

That all said, Bonnen’s reported deal to provide the names of 10 fellow Republicans to Hatchetman Sullivan isn’t playing well among Republican circles. It’s also giving Democrats ammo to use against their GOP foes as they seek to campaign for control of the Texas House of Representatives.

This tumult also might put Bonnen’s speakership in jeopardy. He took the gavel from former Republican Speaker Joe Straus, who didn’t seek re-election in 2018. I admired Straus’s leadership of the House and his commitment to stand firm against the likes of Empower Texans and Michael Quinn Sullivan. I just wish Bonnen had shown the same courage as Straus.

Texas is now seen as a potential battleground state on the presidential election level. Democrats might have actual, tangible and demonstrable reason for optimism that they can control at least one legislative chamber as they prepare for the 2020 election.

Is a GOP retirement announcement coming from the Panhandle?

The Texas Tribune published a story on Nov. 28, 2018 that speculated about the possibility of several retirement announcements coming from Texas’s substantial Republican congressional majority.

One section of the story said this: ” … many Republican operatives bet that U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the most senior Republican from Texas in Congress, could make the upcoming term his last. That’s because Thornberry, currently chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is term-limited out of being the top Republican on that committee, in 2021.”

Thornberry no longer is chairman of the panel. He currently serves as ranking GOP member, which gives him some clout on the panel. Still, it’s not the same as chairing it.

I want to defend my former congressman on one point. He campaigned for the office in 1994 while supporting the Contract With America, which contained a provision that called for limiting the number of terms House members could serve. Thornberry never said he would impose a personal limit on the terms he would serve representing the 13th Congressional District.

He has voted in favor of constitutional amendments in the House; the amendment proposals always have failed.

Twenty-four years later, Thornberry has emerged as one of Texas’s senior congressional lawmakers.

I, too, wonder whether he might pack it in after this term. I’ve speculated on it publicly in this blog.

I don’t talk to Thornberry these days, although I still believe we have a good personal relationship. I rarely have supported personally his policy pronouncements during his years in the House. I’ll admit, though, that my position as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News required me to write public statements in support of Thornberry against my personal beliefs; hey, it’s part of the job of writing for someone else.

The way I look at it, a Mac Thornberry retirement likely wouldn’t result in the 13th District flipping to a Democrat. The GOP majority in the Texas Legislature has created a rock-solid Republican district that stretches from the top of the Panhandle to the Metroplex.

If there’s a retirement announcement coming from Mac Thornberry, you can consider me as someone who won’t be surprised.