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TribBlog: Berman Files, Slams Straus; Straus Hits Back

Speaker's race 2011: Oh, yeah, it's on.

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler

State Rep. Leo Berman said House Speaker Joe Straus’ ascent to the position was a “sham” based on promises to House Democrats and vowed he would offer the opposing party no leeway if elected speaker next session.

There were 11 Republican moderates to liberals. They got in the House one day trying to figure out how they could unseat Tom Craddick. They voted among themselves to see who would get the most votes out of the 11,” Berman told the Tribune just hours after making his candidacy for the position official. Berman said he filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission at 7:10 a.m. today.

“In order to get their votes, they promised [the Democrats] three things,” he said. The three things, according to Berman, were that there would be no votes on the House floor on Voter ID, immigration or pro-life legislation. He also accused Straus of intentionally blocking Voter ID by handing the gavel to Speaker Pro Tem Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, during last session’s partisan gridlock over Voter ID.

“We had a Local and Consent calendar on the floor, and as usual, the speaker hands the gavel over to the speaker pro tem, who happened to be a Democrat,” Berman said.

Straus casually brushes off the allegation he made any deals.

“I never made a deal on legislation with any Democrat at any time,” he told the Tribune on Tuesday morning. Straus said his role during the Local and Consent calendar was based on tradition and that Berman should double check what his only party decided on the issue.

“The speaker pro tem traditionally runs the local calendar. And what I think [Berman] is conveniently forgetting is, the [Republican] caucus met repeatedly during those five days and the caucus unanimously agreed that we would handle that situation by allowing the Democrats to continue on,” he said.

Berman said he has the pledges of at least a dozen legislators, which Straus said was a bit of a stretch. Berman also touted his growing backing from within the party, which leads him to believe he has a majority of support in the House of Republicans.

“I believe that since I was elected I have continued to expand the circle of Republican leadership in the House,” Straus countered. “The truth is not getting in the way of Leo’s vitriol. I am very confident that the members of the House do not want to return to the rancor of the past.”

Berman said that “Joe Straus and his 10 henchmen stand for nothing — about the only thing they stand for is personal gain.” He said he was confident the House’s Republican majority would grow to at least 83 following the November general election, allowing the House to address issues taken up by other state legislatures.

“Every state [is] dealing with illegal aliens, and they are all coming to Texas right now," he said. "We have 2.5 million illegal aliens in Texas. We got 25,000 in our jails. We are treating them for every disease known to mankind, from multi-drug-resistant TB to leprosy, the plague — you name it, we are treating them for it. It’s costing us $5 billion a year."

Straus responded by noting that House administrations before were unable or unwilling to pass similar legislation.

“[With] five or six or more Republicans in the House and his favorite Speaker presiding, he didn’t do any better,” Straus said.

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State government Joe Straus Texas House of Representatives Texas Legislature