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Some people just can’t handle prosperity

Infight away, y’all!

House Republicans have launched open warfare against one another as they vent spleen and fight over whether Joe Straus should remain speaker.

In open letters and news releases that came very close to being vitriolic, members on Wednesday impugned each other’s integrity and warned that dangerous new lows were being set for what’s acceptable in a no-holds-barred leadership contest.

Straus, R-San Antonio , accused backers of his rival in the speaker’s race, Rep. Warren Chisum, of conducting a “scorched earth campaign.”

Chisum, R-Pampa, called on Straus to release all House members from pledges of support to the incumbent, saying Straus’ prodigious fundraising for some has created a “perception that he has traded campaign cash for votes.”

The peanut gallery is also getting involved.

Tradition says the election of a Texas House speaker is up to the 150 members of the House, largely insulated from the influence of lobbyists, political organizers and rank-and-file voters.

But the conservative activists who helped lift Republicans to a historically large win in last week’s legislative elections don’t have much use for tradition, and some of them are demanding that the legislators who will choose the next speaker listen to them first.

“This isn’t picking the president of the garden club here,” said Michael Quinn Sullivan, who leads the small-government advocacy group Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. “We’re talking about a very important position. Let’s open this up.”

Given that the Democrats will be unable to do much more than bystand this session, one of the better results we can hope for is hurt feelings and lack of cooperation among the Republicans. It may not slow them down much, but you take what you can get. It’s never too early to start collecting ammunition for 2012. As for the Speaker’s race itself, I’ll just note that the more these guys snipe at each other, the better the odds that neither one will have 76 votes from just their own caucus. At some point, they’re going to have to approach some Democrats. In my ideal world, the Democratic caucus would stick together and get something for everyone, but we all know that’s not how it will go. We’ll see who emerges with whatever crumbs the eventual winner is willing to toss out.

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