The Texas House isn’t all onboard with Dan Patrick’s agenda, and our Lite Guv has his shorts in a bunch about it.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick celebrated a milestone Wednesday: His Senate had acted on all four of Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency items with many more days to go in the 85th legislative session.
“It’s the earliest ever that anyone knows of that either body… has already passed all the emergency items,” Patrick said in a radio interview. Abbott’s top priorities are “out and done” in the Senate, Patrick boasted — a not-so-subtle contrast with the Texas House, which tackled its first emergency item this week.
It’s not the only bone Patrick has to pick with the House these days. As its resistance to some of his top priorities has come into focus in recent weeks, the lieutenant governor has become increasingly vocal about the tension between the two chambers.
“The brow-beating — I think the volume’s up a lot higher than we’ve seen in the past,” said state Rep. Lyle Larson, an ally of House Speaker Joe Straus, a fellow San Antonio Republican. “Using a brow-beating approach in governing never bodes well for anybody.
In recent media appearances, Patrick has stopped short of directly criticizing the House. But he has hardly concealed his irritation with a chamber that has shown little appetite for some of the issues he cares most about. The latest exhibit came Tuesday, when state Rep. Dan Huberty, the Houston Republican who chairs the House Public Education Committee, bluntly stated that Patrick’s school voucher bill will be dead on arrival in the lower chamber.
“They’ve said they’re against school choice, which is a high priority,” Patrick said in a radio interview on Monday. “We’re going to pass the Texas Privacy Act, which keeps men out of bathrooms and stops boys and girls from showering together in high schools. The House has said they’re not interested in that bill. I don’t know where they are on property tax relief, but… conservatives in the Senate have made a pledge that we’re going to get our job done.”
“What I always ask for is just bring a bill to the floor,” Patrick added. “We have 94 out of 150… House members [who] are Republicans. You need 76 to pass a bill. I believe there will be 76 out of 94 Republicans, if given a vote, on the House floor to pass all the legislation that we’re going to pass.”
The House has not responded in kind to most of Patrick’s public volleys, which date back to his panning of the lower chamber’s budget proposal in January — “I can’t explain the House budget” — and demand on the Capitol steps that same month that the House give school choice a vote this session. “It’s easy to kill a bill when no one gets to vote on it,” he said, joining Abbott at a school choice rally.
Then there is Patrick’s highest-profile priority, the so-called “bathroom bill” that would require transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their “biological sex” in public schools, government buildings and public universities. Straus made clear early in the session that he has serious concerns with the legislation, which is set for a committee hearing Tuesday amid mounting opposition from the business community.
Those familiar with House leadership say Patrick’s recent comments probably aren’t helping him make his case across the hall. If anything, they’re solidifying the House’s resolve to chart its own path this session.
“With all due respect, I think they could care less,” said former state Rep. Jim Keffer, an Eastland Republican close to Straus. “Sitting there pounding your chest and pointing your fingers and trying to kick sand in someone’s face — that’s pretty childish to me.”
That’s one word for it. It’s also basically how Patrick came into the Senate ten years ago, full of bluster and glory-hounding and expecting everyone to do what he says because he’s Dan Patrick. After realizing the limits of that approach, he spent the next couple of sessions being more of a work horse and getting some stuff done. Then after most of the conventional Republicans in the Senate got replaced by people more like him and the upper chamber became the place where the crazy happened, he got a promotion and reverted to form. While it’s never comfortable depending on the House for sanity – Speaker Straus aside, the lower chamber has more than its fair share of lunatics and bad actors – it still remains true that people who think they’re important really don’t like other people who think they’re even more important. So keep raging against the machine, Dan. I’m sure that will be very effective.