CPAC Scorecard Shows Texas Agenda
to Be Less Conservative than Claimed
August 4, 2022
Before or after Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick takes the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, he might have a bone to pick with a sister organization that's poured water on his claims on the Texas Legislature approving the most conservative agenda in history at the statehouse in Austin last year.
The scorecard that the CPAC Center for Legislative Accountability compiled for 2021 gives the Texas Senate Republicans a lower grade on the conservative scale than they'd received at any point on Patrick's watch as the upper chamber president.
The Republicans in the state House scored almost the same on the CPAC scale in Speaker Dade Phelan's debut in 2021 as they had in the two previous sessions under Republicans Dennis Bonnen and Joe Straus.
Patrick is one of at least nine Texans in the cast at the CPAC gathering at the Hilton Anatole on the edge of downtown Dallas. Governor Greg Abbott used an appearance on Thursday as a firing range for attacks on Democrats - dismissing criticism from California Governor Gavin Newsom as a sign that he's "just pissed off that all of his businesses are moving" away to Texas.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz received a higher billing than any other Texans at CPAC, where former president Donald Trump is the keynote speaker and top draw. Attorney General Ken Paxton is in the lineup along with U.S. Reps. Brian Babin of Woodville, Mayra Flores of Harlingen, Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Randy Weber of Pearland and Roger Williams of Austin.
The group's report card that's published as an American Conservative Union product creates the impression that the Republicans in Austin may have not lived up to their own hype last year. The GOP majority in the Texas Capitol's east wing garnered a cumulative rating of 85.35 for 2021 - down a hair from its 85.37 score two years before in biennial gathering that Governor Greg Abbott and legislative leaders proclaimed to be the super bowl of sessions. The Senate Republicans graded out at 91.2 on average in the ACU report cards that they landed after Patrick's first two regular sessions in the powerful statewide post.
Assembled in a partnership with the ACU and CPAC Center for Legislative Accountability, the scorecard for 2021 gives the Texas Senate Republicans the lowest grade for last year's work than they've received at any point on Patrick's watch as the upper chamber president.
The GOP majority in the Texas Capitol's east wing garnered a cumulative rating of 85.35 for 2021 - down a hair from its 85.37 score two years before in biennial gathering that Governor Greg Abbott and legislative leaders proclaimed to be the super bowl of sessions. The Senate Republicans graded out at 91.2 on average in the ACU report cards that they landed after Patrick's first two regular sessions in the powerful statewide post.
The Republicans across the rotunda weren't exactly the far right crusaders they'd have you believe during Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan's debut last year in the dais with a collective score of 80.51. The House Republicans had a rating of 80.4 percent in 2017 during Republican Joe Straus' final term as the House's top leader before stepping down without a re-election race the following year.
But the House Republicans' combined rating of 80.16 on the CPAC-ACU scale in 2019 when Republican Dennis Bonnen was wielding the gavel in his first and only term as the speaker. GOP leaders and lawmakers in Austin approved record spending on public education that year in one of the most celebrated bipartisan victories in two decades of Republican rule in Texas.
The ACU rated the Texas massive public school infusion had a negligible effect on their CPAC rating nonetheless. But Abbott and the Republicans have had little or nothing to say about the all-time school funding package since the governor led a buffalo romp to the right in 2021 with a constitutional carry gun bill, an abortion ban, voting restrictions, huge infusions of border security funding and a pair of prohibitions against critical race theory in Texas schools.
Patrick, who faces Democrat Mike Collier at the polls this fall, was the chief force behind the 2021 agenda in Austin with Abbott and Phelan as allies in most cases. Patrick's wielded the most muscle at the Capitol last year as a consequence of his status as Donald Trump's state campaign chairman and ability to capitalize on it with Texas Senate Republicans marching in lockstep with him on hot-button issues designed as red meat for the hard right.
Patrick effectively hijacked the Public Utility Commission after a power grid crash in a record winter storm - demanding and receiving resignations from three members who Abbott had appointed. Abbott refused to defend his apointees in the face of Patrick's housecleaning at an executive agency that the governor controls. Patrick's portrayal of the 2021 agenda as the all-time most conservative seemed appropriate if not an understatement in the eyes of the people on the inside of the Texas political world.
But that would no longer be true if the ACU ratings on the CPAC web site are a more accurate reflection of the Republicans' voting records on conservative priorities. The CPAC-touted scorecard has the Texas Senate Republicans 6.1 points lower on the conservative scale for last year's votes than they'd been in 2017 when a sanctuary city law and Patrick's bathroom bill were the hottest issues on lawmakers' plates. But the 2017 regular and special sessions revolved to a large degree on votes that failed with splashes from the restroom measure that Patrick pitched as a public safety matter to a slew of proposals that sought to expand the state's powers at the expense of local control.
The ACU-CPAC scorecard found the House Republicans to be 3 percent more conservative in 2021 than they'd been in Straus' fourth term at the helm in 2015. The senators for the GOP rated 91.04 that same year when Patrick was in the midst of his first year on the job as the Senate chief. After hitting 91.45 in 2017, the Senate Republicans tumbled to 85.37 on the conservative assessments before a near-identical 85.35 rating for 2021.