Deshotel: On Republican Caucus Speaker Election

By Respresentative Joseph D. Deshotel

Please find attached my thoughts regarding the proposed Republican Caucus vote on the next Speaker. As you know a considerable amount of time each session is spent on legislation necessitated by unintended consequences of seemly innocuous bills passed in prior sessions.

In my view the pending Republican Caucus vote presents an analogist dilemma. What may appear on its face as benign and routine may is fact have unintended and insidious consequences. I have attempted to elaborate in the attached letter.

Text of Letter:

Dear Chairmen Taylor,

The Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives is “one of the most powerful and influential political figures in the state, vested with the responsibility of overseeing the course of lawmaking in every possible area of interest to any Texan.”  Those words were written as the joint position of The American Civil Liberties Union, The Free Market Foundation and The Eagle Forum in their Motion for Injunction against the Texas Ethics Commission regarding the enforcement of the so-called “Speaker Statute”.

This unlikely coalition of organizations only tends to substantiate the significance of the Speaker’s position.  Article 3 Section 9(b) of the Texas Constitution sets out his/her election as the first order of business of each new Legislative Session.  Why then would one group of legislators to the exclusion of another smaller group seek to disenfranchise their colleagues from such an important and constitutional function as the election of the Speaker?

The Chairman of the Texas House Republican Caucus has called for a meeting of the Republican Caucus the day before the House convenes for the next legislative session for just that purpose.  I am confident that no member of the Republican Caucus perceives in any manner that participation in a caucus-only election of the Speaker disenfranchises anyone.  However, for the sake of a different perspective, let’s say that the 1965 Voting Rights Act applied to the Speaker’s Race.

Section 2 of the Act was amended in 1982 to prohibit any voting practice or procedure that has a discriminatory effect or result on otherwise qualified minority voters. No longer is it necessary to show a discriminatory purpose, only effect.  As stated, there is no discriminatory purpose here, but certainly a discriminatory effect. The forty-nine (49) Democratic legislators not being allowed to participate in what is tantamount to the election of the Speaker consist of forty-two minorities; fifteen (15) African Americans, twenty-five (25) Hispanics and one (1) Asian. Should the Republican Caucus Bylaws be followed an additional two African-Americans and four Hispanic Republican Elect members and one Hispanic former Democrat would be denied a vote as well. These forty-nine minority House Members and the eight millions Texans they represent are being disenfranchised from the Speaker’s election.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires that “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting, different from that in force or effect on November 1, 1964… in any covered jurisdiction…” must be pre-cleared by the Justice Department or the United States District Court of the District of Columbia to determine that such change does not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote of racial minorities.

Those who take the position that the Caucus  vote is non-binding, therefore, “ no harm no foul”,  are missing an important  point;  that the institution and its citizens will be harmed by the process and procedure leading to the vote itself, and not simply the outcome of the vote. The Voting Rights Act may or may not apply to the Speaker’s race but an overlay of the Act on the proposed election procedure should give all my Republican colleagues reason to pause and reconsider.

I leave you with this quote from Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen to his fellow Republican Senators on April 22, 1965, when urging the passage of the Voting Rights Act wherein he emphasized the constitutional principle of “consent of the governed” before posing this rhetorical question: “How then shall there be government by the people if some of the people cannot speak?”  One hundred years to the month after the Civil War ended, in Dirksen’s words, “we seek a solution which overrides emotion and sentimentality, prejudice and politics and which will provide a fair and equitable solution.”

Joseph D. Deshotel


  1. Following Representative Deshotel’s logic, I would fully expect him to support legislation allowing the people of Texas to vote on leaving the Union. We wouldn’t want to abrogate the principle that governments govern by consent of the governed. After all, it seems that he has forgotten that he takes an oath to the Texas Constitution as well that states:

    “All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.”

    Through issuing a veiled threat to take this matter to the Federal Government he has obviously forgotten that part of our Constitution that states:

    “Texas is a free and independent State, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, and the maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union depend upon the preservation of the right of local self-government, unimpaired to all the States.”

    Don’t take the oath if you don’t mean it.

  2. “Why then would one group of legislators to the exclusion of another smaller group seek to disenfranchise their colleagues from such an important and constitutional function as the election of the Speaker?”

    Let’s see, a subset of members get together and decide to agree on a candidate?
    That is precisely what the 65 Democrats who signed the letter pledging support for Joe Straus in the previous session in 2009 did.

    According to this logic, any actions outside and prior to the actual vote, since they exclude some members, are against the VRA. Thus, pledges made to Speakers or candidates should be deemed null and void, as they are

    I have to hand it to Rep Deshotel. He has delegitimized both the pledges that Speaker Straus hangs his hat on, and he has discredited the way that Speaker Straus got elected in the first place.

    All, by using in an illogical and intellactually dishonest way the voting rights act (which has applied to elections OF Representatives and not the internal operations of the House).

    Oh, and he is a liberal Democrat warning Republicans not to make up their own minds.

    Strike three.

  3. Amazing, although not unexpected, Texas House members seem to oppose any acceptance of the will of the people as guidance in our governance. Pragmatically, Deshotel disregards the discriminatory effect (against the people of Texas) that has resulted from having a RINO House Speaker, elected by House Democrats and a few Strauss Lackey’s. This orchestrated by House Democrats to usurp and undermine the Conservative Majority of Texas voters. Strauss has overlooked no opportunity to deny Conservatives the advancements due their majority status. Deshotel attempts to disenfranchise the majority of Texans who voted their own views, values and interests this past November by fabricating some myth that those who win an election must somehow defer to those who lost as a matter of law or House rules? His arguments that the majority of Texans should somehow voluntarily relinquish the power gained through election out of some spirit of comity of House Collegiality would be laughable were it not so apparent that Deshotel and his ilk clearly don’t like the idea that Texas Citizens might take back control of their own government! I find Representative Deshotel’s assertions that the tyranny of the majority would be any worse than the tyranny of the minority arrogant and self serving, and doubtless short lived should Democrats again attain the majority. Indeed, hasn’t President Obama noted on numerous occasion’s his right to ignore the Republican minority (as well as that of the will of the public) on the strength that ‘he won the election’? Deshotel, and far too many of his ilk in both Party’s ignore that Texans likewise have much at stake in who is elected House Speaker, and that our interests seldom fare well where compromise and political self service is preferred to standing up for Texas Voters! Indeed, why even bother to vote if Texas Politicians are going to hide behind non-sense House rules that deny the citizen majority benefit of advancing their agenda, indeed, the fruit of their hard won political battles? What part of “all of you in Austin work for us’ does Mr. Deshotel and his ilk in the House not understand?

  4. “The Voting Rights Act may or may not apply to the Speaker’s race…” It clearly does NOT apply, Rep. Deshotel! No House member is being prohibited from voting when the nomination is made as the first order of business when the House convenes on January 11th. As only “members of the club” get a vote, it’s not a public election. The Texas House and the Senate make their own rules for internal operations, and, in this case no rule prevents the Republican members from meeting privately now, taking into consideration the voices of their constituents who elected them, the overall results of the last election (a Republican supermajority), and what transpired during the 2009 legislative session. Then they are perfectly within their rights to vote as a bloc for only one of two or three candidates for Speaker.

  5. If the tables were reversed and the Democrats had a two thirds majority, would they have some sympathy and thoughts of fairness for the minority–GIVE ME A BREAK? What we have witnessed over the last four years is the most despicable power grab since FDR, and this president shows no sign of slowing or playing fair. Scream RAcist all you want—we need to press our advantage—it may not be there forever, for in all cases, rotten apples will cause problems for the whole.

  6. The Rats really CRY foul loudly when the opposition has the power.
    You Jerks deserve anything and everything that can be done to allow the BACKLASH that has resulted from you arrogance to SLAP you back under the ROCKS you crawled out from under so you are unable to impede the growth of TEXAS any longer.

  7. So according to your logic Mr. Deshotel, the Democrats after the elections of 2006 and 2008, violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act since it should have applied to the U.S. House Speaker’s Race, when they met in the Democratic Caucus and selected the U.S. Speaker and only Democrats where allowed to vote for the U.S. Speaker (Nancy Pelosi).
    Thus the Democrats disenfranchised over 100 million U.S. voters in both 2006 and 2008.

    Is that really your argument? LOL. You are just a partisan Democrat who hates that the Republicans now have a 101 to 49 two-thirds majority in the the TX House.

    Stop Crying like a baby and pretending that all Republicans by racists when you Democrats lose.

    Playing the Race Card every time you lose is not going to work anymore.

    True Americans are ignoring you.

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