House Speaker Joe Straus is moving quickly to squelch any talk that he won't be elected speaker again next session. After calls from Texas Tea Party leaders for a more conservative speaker, he released a letter of support this afternoon from other conservatives — including several members of the State Republican Executive Committee and various county GOP leaders — who say they want to "set the record straight." They write:
In recent days we have read with dismay critical comments of the Republican leadership of the Texas House — in particular Speaker Joe Straus — finding those criticisms to be based on half-truths, hearsay and, in some cases, outright fabrications. These criticisms concern us not just because they unfairly reflect on the leadership of the House, but on all Republicans who compose the majority, and will be running on our record from last session.
As fellow movement conservatives, we have the same desire as many of you: to advance the conservative agenda in Austin, and our shared values. We believe in the sanctity of life, the power of private individuals to create opportunity rather than government, personal responsibility rather than increased dependency, and constitutional limits to the size and scope of government. We are here to tell you, in all these matters, we have an ally in Speaker Joe Straus.
The letter goes on to point out some of what the writers call Straus' accomplishments, including passing a budget with a $1.6 billion reduction in spending and leaving $9 billion in the state's Rainy Day Fund.
Straus' office also released a letter it sent to all incoming members of the 2011 session, emphasizing his leadership style of allowing members to set the agenda, implying that the alternative choice for leadership (read: speaker candidate state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa) might be heavy-handed.
On November 2nd, the voters sent a clear message about limited government and fiscal restraint. They also rejected over-reaching top-down leadership that is so common in Washington. What voters want is less control in Washington and more control at the state and local level. Be assured, my leadership style will allow you, the locally elected leaders, to pursue appropriate solutions to the issues that are important to you and your district.
On the first day of each legislative session each member of the House starts the session with exactly the same power as every other member. We each take to the floor with the temporary power loaned to us by our constituency, all equals among peers. With the adoption of House rules and the election of a speaker, we transfer some of that power to the chair. We do this to achieve orderly debate and operation of the House. However, the members of the House are still in charge. A speaker should not be heavy-handed and impose his philosophy on the members, instead the speaker’s agenda should always be the agenda of the House as a whole. That is exactly how a representative democracy should work, and it is how I have led since being elected speaker two years ago.
This move from Straus' office comes a day after dozens of Tea Party leaders and heads of right-wing groups around Texas released a letter urging the members to elect "a more conservative speaker." While the letter did not mention Straus by name, some of the signers, like Michael Quinn Sullivan of the anti-tax group Empower Texans, have expressed unhappiness with Straus, whom they consider not conservative enough.