The Peter Morrison Report, By Peter Morrison
Representative Leo Berman (R-Tyler) has officially announced that he's seeking to replace Joe Straus in the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives. This is excellent news for Texas conservatives. The Speaker of the House is the third most powerful politician in Texas government. He selects the influential committee chairmen, and can fast track legislation on the floor, or keep it from coming up for a vote at all. Joe Straus has been no friend of conservatives as the current Speaker.
As Rep. Berman explained to a newspaper the other day, the only reason Joe Straus has the job is because of a power grab by liberal and "moderate" Republican House members, who found the former Speaker, Tom Craddick, too conservative for their liking. Joe Straus was their ideal candidate—a Republican In Name Only who supports abortion and legalized gambling, and who has since used his power as Speaker to obstruct important conservative legislation. In a previous edition of this report, I wrote about Rep. Todd Smith, the chairman of the House Elections Committee who did all he could to block the Voter ID bill. It was Straus who named Smith to the chairmanship of that vitally important committee.
Rep. Berman told the Texas Tribune that this was all part of the deal that landed Straus in the Speaker's seat:
"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." [Rep. Berman Explains Why He Wants to Oust Straus, by Julian Aguilar, June 22, 2010]
Straus denies this, but Rep. Berman isn't alone in believing there was a quid pro quo in the coup that forced out Tom Craddick. There's no denying that conservative Texans haven't had much to cheer about under Straus's leadership.
Joe Straus seems to be one of those Republicans who would probably feel more at home in the Democratic Party, but run as Republicans because it makes getting elected a lot easier. In fact, just last month he was the headliner at a fundraiser for a left-wing Democrat representative, Patrick Rose, who is running for re-election against a conservative Republican, Jason Isaac.
Straus's defenders try to downplay this by pointing out that Tom Craddick sometimes endorsed Democrats, but that excuse won't fly. I'm not excusing it, but the Democrats Craddick endorsed were conservative, "blue dog" Democrats who often voted with the GOP. Patrick Rose is not even close to being a conservative Democrat—he strongly opposed a bill to restrict late term abortions, was graded an F on the 2009 Fiscal Responsibility Index, and was given a 29 (out of a possible 100) by Young Conservatives of Texas. Jason Isaac, his Republican opponent, is running on a platform of less government and a get tough approach to illegal immigration. Yet Straus chose to endorse the left-wing Democrat, Patrick Rose.
As outrageous as Joe Straus's endorsement of Patrick Rose was, it's not really a huge shock, given his history and background. He has accepted donations from Planned Parenthood, and voted against the same ban on late term abortions that Patrick Rose opposed. He previously owned an interest in a racetrack company (he transferred his share to his father after being named Speaker), and has voted to allow casino gambling in Texas.
He also belongs to one of the most liberal congregations in San Antonio, Temple Beth-El, presided over by radical left-wing clergyman Barry Block. Barry Block seems to be cut from the same cloth as Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Judging by his actions and statements, he has far more in common with Jeremiah Wright than the average Texas clergyman.
Rabbi Block recently spoke at a rally against Arizona's anti-illegal-immigration bill SB170, describing it as an "injustice being perpetrated in Arizona" and called on the crowd "to do something to those people in Arizona." [Anger over Arizona law unites May Day marchers, By Don Finley, San Express-News, May 1, 2010] He's a vocal supporter of same sex marriage, he believes that "extremist Christian fundamentalism" is one of the greatest threats America faces, and to top it all off, a few years ago he was chairman of the San Antonio chapter of Planned Parenthood.
This is the man whom Joe Straus looks to for spiritual guidance. Liberals will insist that his membership at Temple Beth-El doesn't mean he agrees with Rabbi Block, and tells us nothing about him, but that's hogwash. Obviously, anyone who has belonged to this congregation for years and listens to this radical left-wing ideology isn't too terribly bothered by it. Could a man who is truly "personally opposed to abortion" stay in the congregation of a man who was the local chairman of a chain of abortion clinics that are responsible for the murder of thousands of little Texans?
With Rep. Leo Berman, we know exactly where he stands; he's not going to be the headliner at a fundraiser for a pro-abortion Democrat. Leo Berman has been a staunch conservative for a long, long time, voting with us right down the line on conservative issues from abortion to lower taxes, gay marriage to illegal immigration. He certainly doesn't believe that Bible-believing Christians are one of the worst threats America faces, as he's a sincere Christian himself.
In a recent personal correspondence, Rep. Berman talked about his faith, and what it means to him. I found it deeply moving:
"My faith in my Lord Jesus Christ is the whole of my life. To think of what he did for me and my family brings tears to my eyes because I especially am an unworthy sinner; a sinner with the knowledge that Jesus forgives and loves us and with that in my heart I can live my life knowing that the past is forgotten, that the future holds great hope for me as I move closer to his words in the testaments. I can see a change in my life, a change that allows me to love without hating, to tolerate without berating and to acknowledge that despite what is happening in the world today, God is still in total control!"
Rep. Berman is not only a devout Christian, he's also one of those rare conservative politicians who possess a spine. In a previous report, I wrote about the media attacks on Rep. Berman after a hearing on illegal immigration. A Chinese immigration attorney called Rep. Berman "evil" and "despicable" and compared him to Nazis for his opposition to illegal immigration. Showing remarkable restraint, Rep. Berman told the man to "go home" and to "kiss my (expletive) ". The liberal media had nothing to say about Harry Joe calling Leo Berman "evil" and "despicable" and comparing him to Nazis, but instead called on Rep. Berman to apologize for his comparatively mild response, and tried to paint him as a racist. Rep. Berman stood firm against the media onslaught, and rightly refused to apologize to a man who had just called him several vile names.
That's the kind of man Leo Berman is, and that's the kind of man we need as Speaker of the House—one who will fight for what's right and won't back down.
You can tell he's got Straus concerned, by the ferociousness of Straus's attack. One of Straus's closest allies in the House is Rep. Burt Solomons. You may remember Rep. Solomons from the last session. In exchange for being one of the "Gang of 11" RINO turncoats who teamed up with the Democrats to get Straus elected Speaker, Solomons was rewarded with the chairmanship of the important State Affairs Committee. He lived up to the backroom deal that Straus was said to have made with Democrats by ensuring that illegal immigration bills that came to his committee died an early death. Only one of the 38 immigration related bills made it out of Solomons' committee and it got killed by another of Straus's lieutenants who was over the Calendars Committee.
In the last primary, Solomons nearly got defeated by a virtually unknown, underfunded candidate who campaigned on the issue of doing something about illegal immigration. However, Solomons apparently still hasn't gotten the message that Republicans do care about conservative values. He's emerged as Straus's hit man against Rep. Berman.
Last week, Solomons circulated a hate-filled letter attacking Rep. Berman for daring to run for Speaker against Straus and calling Rep. Berman a liar and coward. Solomons even had the nerve to say that he personally had "worked diligently on illegal immigration". That's like a fox saying he's been working diligently for chicken's rights.
However, thanks to the efforts of the Tea Parties and other conservatives, the political careers of three of the original "Gang of 11" RINO turncoats who elected Straus have been terminated. Conservatives will have to wait until the next primary to deal with the remaining RINO turncoats, but Straus's days as Speaker can be ended at the next Legislative session.
With further likely Republican gains in the House this fall, we have a real shot at replacing Straus.
Peter Morrison (email him) is a businessman living in Lumberton, Texas with his wife and four children. He currently serves on the Lumberton ISD School Board and as treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party. He says "I believe deeply in the principles of limited constitutional government, the sanctity of life and that our state and nation should be run under Thomas Jefferson's principle of 'Equal Rights for All, Special Privileges for None.'" This article is from his free newsletter, which features commentary about current events of interest to Texans—sign up here.