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Texas House Republicans Push to Replace Democratic Committee Chairs, Potentially Limiting Phelan’s Options

“46 Republican House Members and Nominees Vow to Reject Democratic Committee Chairs, Potentially Blocking Phelan’s Path to Speakership”

A coalition of 46 Republican House members and nominees made a commitment on Friday: they will only support a speaker candidate next session who pledges to abolish the tradition of appointing Democratic committee chairs. This move significantly reduces the chances of House Speaker Dade Phelan retaining his position, as he has expressed his intention to uphold this long-standing practice.

Securing the speakership requires obtaining 76 votes in the 150-seat chamber. With Democrats controlling 64 seats, a speaker candidate could hypothetically win with full Democratic backing and about a dozen Republican votes. To prevent this, Phelan’s opponents insist that speaker candidates must garner a majority solely from GOP support.

This challenge is already a daunting one for Phelan, a Beaumont Republican who has faced criticism from the far-right faction of the GOP since he supported the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton. With over 20 incoming GOP members vowing to oppose Phelan, his chances seemed slim. However, Phelan hoped to form a winning coalition with the majority of House Republicans, even if it meant seeking some Democratic support. However, with the recent pledges from the 46 Republicans, Phelan can now only secure a GOP majority by relinquishing one of the key strategies to gain Democratic backing.

The rejection of Democratic chairs by a majority of House Republicans has raised concerns among some about the possibility of a liberal Republican aligning with Democrats to secure the speakership, precisely the scenario Phelan’s critics aim to prevent. However, some anti-Phelan members and nominees see it as an opportunity to expose GOP defectors and remove them in the primaries in two years’ time.

The Texan first reported on these anti-Democratic chair pledges. Phelan’s spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

Conservative factions have long sought to prevent bipartisan coalitions in selecting speakers since 2009 when former GOP Speaker Joe Straus relied on a bloc of Republicans and Democrats. Despite this, Phelan’s allies reject comparisons to Straus’ coalition-building efforts. Phelan secured his speakership in 2021 with a coalition of 51 Republicans and 32 Democrats. However, the debate over Democratic chairs has escalated, particularly since Phelan narrowly won his primary election this week.

Phelan’s critics argue that the tradition of sharing power with Democrats has hindered GOP priorities in recent sessions. State Rep. Shelby Slawson, who is challenging Phelan for the speakership, criticized this practice, emphasizing the obstacles it created for majority Republican goals.

The pledge to reject Democratic chairs has received support from prominent figures like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who believes Phelan’s only path to reelection now lies with a minority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats. This, he argues, would betray the voters who elected a Republican House majority.

If Phelan is compelled to form a coalition with Democrats to secure his speakership, it could result in less conservative policymaking, contrary to the desires of his far-right opponents. Ironically, if Phelan returns as speaker without the need to broker a deal with Democrats, he may have more flexibility to pass conservative legislation, according to political analysts.

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