When the House Republican Caucus meets to discuss a plan to pick the next Speaker of the House, a quorum will be attending and likely more, according to a well-known grassroots activist.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we shall have a quorum! Need 46, have 54 plus a lot of maybes,” Tea Party activist Julie McCarty posted on her Facebook page late Monday. “You guys rock! Way to get it done!”
McCarty, the president of the North East Tarrant Tea Party — one of the largest Tea Party groups in Texas — told The Texas Monitor Tuesday that it was a grassroots effort that gathered the commitments from state House members across Texas.
“We had a statewide effort,” McCarty said. “It was all grassroots.”
The meeting had originally been scheduled for Thursday, but is now scheduled for 8:30 am Wednesday, according to a posting from the Quorum Report.
Securing the meeting was important for conservatives in the House because it may lay the groundwork to oust House Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio who has served in the House’s top job since he was elected to the post in 2009.
The conventional wisdom is that with all the House Republicans voting for their choice for Speaker instead of moving to the full House where Democrats can also cast a Speaker vote, there is a better chance for conservatives to pry Straus from his seat.
If a quorum attends the meeting it may suggest that House Republicans are leaning in that direction.
Straus has been criticized by Tea Party conservatives for being too moderate as well as for how he first was elected Speaker with the help of Democrats. Straus has also appointed Democrats to key House committees.
The Texas Freedom Caucus called earlier this month for a meeting. They are a small coalition of House members unhappy with the moderate path the Texas House leadership has taken.
Texas Freedom Caucus chief Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, declined to comment on McCarty’s quorum count, noting that he will know if there is a quorum or not when he attends the caucus meeting.
It’s not just a Republican fringe that supports the GOP caucus picking its Speaker before a full vote, state Republican Party members want that, too.
Texas Republican Chairman James Dickey told The Texas Monitor last week:
The Republican Party of Texas does have a plank that the members of the House Republican Caucus choose the Speaker within the caucus before then going onto the floor vote. The Republican Caucus having a meeting to decide the rules under which they would do such a vote seems like a perfectly appropriate and necessary step towards doing what the platform asks to be done.
Still, it’s unclear what may happen.
If Schaefer and his allies are not successful in their effort to have House Republicans as a body make the pick for Speaker, there may be consequences for them.
Indeed, the House Speaker in Texas has tremendous power. The Speaker can bestow committee chairmanships, and pick members for choice committee assignments. A Speaker can easily — and without his or her fingerprints on the effort — bottle up legislation so it never sees the light of day or make sure bills get the go-ahead for a quick vote.
Being Speaker also provides the opportunity to raise far more money in campaign contributions, meaning that money can also be provided to allies of the Speaker.
The last time Straus faced a challenger was in 2015. Straus easily bested Tea Party favorite Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco.
The last contested vote before that was in 1975.
A defeat would not surprise McCarty, she said.
“I was told from the get-go this was a long shot,” she said. “It would be awesome if we get what we want.”
Still, the fact that the meeting was called is a step forward, McCarty said.
“Regardless of what happens Wednesday morning, it’s a win for us,” she said. “One hundred percent.”
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.