On the Agenda: Straus has little to fear from Simpson Speaker challenge
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Last week, one term Tea Party favorite David Simpson announced a challenge to Speaker Joe Straus. In a sense, it was déjà vu, because Straus was also a fairly new member when he beat Tom Craddick in 2009.
Unlike Simpson, Straus was well known long before entering the House. He had run a congressional campaign, served in Republican administrations in D.C. and his family helped build the Texas GOP.
Speaker Craddick ran the House with an iron fist. The ring leaders of the revolt that elected Straus included many of Craddick’s own Republican committee chairmen. They even tried unsuccessfully to remove Mr. Craddick as speaker midway through the 2007 session.
Simpson is an up and comer. He won his seat in an upset victory the old fashioned way, knocking on doors, town hall meetings and word of mouth. He made headlines last session with a pat-down bill seeking to criminalize certain airport security searches deemed too intrusive.
Mr. Simpson complains that Straus does not fairly apply the rules, but almost no one in the House agrees. Ironically, most of Simpson’s support comes from outside groups who, in truth, believe Straus is, if anything, too even handed. The critics really want a speaker to bully through their agenda regardless of the will of the House or needs of members’ districts.
Most veteran Republicans tell me they were quite clear about their support for Straus in the last election and did just fine. In fact, the fact-free hysteria ginned up by outsiders has delegitimized them while solidifying support for the speaker among all but about a dozen incoming freshmen.
Some Democrats do believe they have a legitimate beef. The House passed a redistricting bill and a photo voter ID bill that two separate groups of federal judges said intentionally discriminated against minorities. A handful of Democratic protest votes are possible, but my count has the speaker winning by well more than two-thirds.
Anything can happen, but while Mr. Simpson has garnered some headlines and notoriety, his challenge does not yet rise to the stature of a real race for speaker.
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