The Dade Phelan Era has commenced in the Texas House of Representatives and — wouldn’t you know it — he already is taking some incoming fire from those on the far right wing of his Republican Party.
Phelan is the newly elected speaker of the House. He is a Beaumont Republican who had the temerity to suggest he wants to work well with Democrats who comprise a substantial minority of the 150-member legislative body.
One of the two House members who voted against Phelan happens to be freshman GOP Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who said in a statement that he voted against Phelan because the new speaker is someone “who has refused to articulate to Republicans whether or not he believes we should have a true conservative session.”
What the hell does that mean? Is Slaton suggesting that Phelan’s more bipartisan approach will result in more dreaded “liberal policies” that Slaton and other right wingers cannot support? Slaton is parroting the language used by Texas GOP chairman Allen West, the transplanted Florida fire breather who moved to Texas and got elected party chairman this past year. West doesn’t much like Phelan’s approach, either.
Slaton managed to defeat a longtime Republican incumbent this past year in a bitter for fight for House District 2. Slaton and former Rep. Dan Flynn fought over the narrowest of constituencies, the far right wing of the Republican Party primary voter bloc. Slaton attacked Flynn for being too cozy with Democrats and “establishment” Republicans. Thus, I suppose it isn’t surprising that he would oppose Phelan’s election as speaker.
I want to remind everyone here that bipartisanship has worked well for previous speakers of the Texas House. My favorite example of the success of that approach involves former Speaker Pete Laney, the Hale Center Democrat who hardly legislated as a flaming liberal when he served as the Man of the House. He reached across the aisle frequently and governed on the policy of letting “the will of the House” do its job.
“We must all do our part — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Texans and Americans,” Phelan said. “Let us unite in one common purpose to do what is right for the people of Texas.”
Wow. That’s hardly lifted from the Communist Manifesto.
I want to wish the new speaker well as he takes the gavel. It likely will be a difficult session that will demand that everyone search fervently for “one common purpose.”
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.
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