Texas Legislature Set to Get Going in Midst
of Trump Madness as Nation Braces for More
January 8, 2021
Texas lawmakers will make history in countless ways when they convene in regular session on Tuesday for the first time in the peak of a pandemic with President Donald Trump in the process of being impeached and possibly removed from office amid growing concerns about the potential for a nuclear war if he's not.
The Republicans who control the Legislature have shown little or no signs of advance planning for the biennial gathering despite the epic magnitude of the issues they'll be forced to confront in the face of a record fiscal deficit that's been fueled by a coronavirus that's been surging across the state in the past few months.
GOP leaders and lawmakers will find their work dramatically complicated as members of a political party that's in a state of unprecedented wreckage in the fallout from the deadly Trump mob rampage at the U.S. Capitol this week and the stunning aftershocks that will continue until Democratic President-elect is sworn in eight days after the session opens for business.
But Governor Greg Abbott and the Republicans who have House and Senate majorities face a monumental dilemma for the first time on whether to base their votes on proactive anticipation of what they might expect from Biden and the Democrats who'll be running the show in Washington thanks to the president.
Will the Republicans for example attempt to draw new legislative and congressional maps in ways that a U.S. Justice Department that's run by Democrats will approve? Or will Abbott and his GOP allies make instant gratification their guiding priority in hopes of passing as much conservative legislation amid expectations of Texas going blue at the polls next year as a repercussion of the epic destruction that Trump will leave in his wake? Will the ruling Republicans spend their time and taxpayer money passing policies that could be undone by Democrats whose odds of taking the Capitol back in 2022 are skyrocketing?
The Texas House has appeared to be in relatively capable hands based with GOP State Rep. Dade Phelan of Beaumont poised to be elected as the new speaker after assembling a first-rate staff in the wake of an informal victory that he declared last fall with strong support on both sides of the aisle.
But the Senate is more unpredictable with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick vowing to punish Democrats after spending most of 2020 defending Trump as the president's campaign chairman in Texas. Patrick runs the risk of an uprising with the GOP's Senate majority if he continues to rule with an iron fist and kill bills that they think the state needs.
But Patrick has appeared to be abandoning Trump based on the fact that he hasn't commented publicly in two months on the president's baseless election challenge that culminated in the violence that left five dead this week at the nation's Capitol including a police officer there.
Abbott has been just as mum during that span of time on the Trump attack on democracy and the deadly insurrection that the president inspired in his name. So there's no way to know for sure whether the governor and the state Senate president supported or opposed the attempted coup in Washington by the president who they'd rallied behind until now.
Patrick and Abbott could be waiting until Biden takes over before revealing their feelings about the events of the past two months. Both will be up for re-election in 2022 if they seek re-election in a state where they could be the underdogs in the midst of a potential permanent political realignment that Trump has probably put in place.
Abbott and GOP legislators who've remained silent at the state level will be watching with interest nonetheless to see how fellow Republicans in Congress vote next week with Trump on track to become the first president in American history to be impeached twice.
The Republicans here almost assuredly will be doing their dead best to distance themselves from Trump before they converge on the Capital City in the next few days.
more to come ...