Session Breaks from Gates with Phelan Vote
as Trump Jets to Texas for Border Wall Tour
January 12, 2021
Texas lawmakers donning masks convened on Tuesday in the face of unprecedented unrest and significant concerns for their own health and safety in a regular session that will revolve on the coronavirus crisis that didn't stop several from taking oaths as planned in person after recent positive tests.
The Texas House opened for business with the election of Beaumont Republican Dade Phelan as the new speaker in a vote of 143-2 on the strength of a bipartisan coalition that he assembled with surprising ease last fall when the country had been historically divided by GOP President Donald Trump.
Phelan began his acceptance speech at the same time Trump arrived at the Valley International Airport in Harlingen for a photo op at the border at event that local law enforcement officials feared would be a magnet for violence like the president triggered with a speech to the mob that attacked the nation's Capitol last week.
Trump had apparently chosen the South Texas city of Alamo for his first public appearance since the failed coup for the sake of symbolic value as a signal to supporters about the glory in fighting to the death for freedom. But boarded a helicopter 15 minutes after departing Air Force One without giving local officials any clues on the possibility of shifting plans.
A pair of rookie Republicans - State Reps. Jeff Cason of Bedford and Bryan Slaton of Royse City - cast the only dissenting votes in acts of defiance that will make it all but impossible for either to be effective during their debut session. The freshmen duo effectively sided with Texas Republican Party Allen West who's refused to recognize Phelan as a consequence of his support from Democrats.
Governor Greg Abbott, who's been hammered relentlessly by West for COVID-19 restrictions, praised Phelan in remarks to the House after speaking initially to senators. Abbott said he was especially confident that Phelan would push for an end to regulations that have been costly for business while fighting to keep "alcohol to go" polices that lawmakers approved two years agon in a victory for the craft beer industry.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick gaveled the Senate into session about eight minutes after Secretary of State Ruth Hughs called the lower chamber to order before Phelan's ascension to the dais in a fast-track vote with less than half as many supporting speeches to reduce the time that the House would have to be in session on opening day. Phelan selected one of his closest allies in GOP State Rep. Will Metcalf of Conroe for the lone nomination speech while choosing Democratic State Rep. Nicole Collier of Fort Worth and Republican State Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville to second.
While a few Democratic representatives choose to stay at home on opening day amid the looming threat of covid, several House colleagues who'd been in quarantine were prepared to be sworn in for new terms in the Speaker's Committee Room that adjoins the chamber as a makeshift extension of the floor for voting purposes.
more to come ...