Saturday, January 19, 2019

#TXLEGE: Patrick, Seliger, and Playing with Fire....

"Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?"
Proverbs 6:27

Yesterday, we said "time will tell" as it relates to Seliger's committee assignments.  Initial reports are in.  They're not good:
Seliger said he looks forward to championing agricultural issues and that education legislation will remain a top priority. But the senator, who’s back in his Panhandle-area district for the long weekend, said many in the area are feeling “dismayed and disrespected.”

“It’s not what I desired,” Seliger said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “There’s a negative reaction in this district, because [the finance committee] is a good position to try and do the things that are important in an area in West Texas that seems to have to fight for everything, from a budgetary point of view.”

“I know exactly what motivated the change. It was a couple of ‘no’ votes for the lieutenant governor’s priorities in 2017,” the longtime higher education chairman said. “It was a very clear warning to the Republicans that if you get off the reservation, you better be careful.”
Hoo boy.

Patrick's staff replies:
"If Senator Seliger believes serving as Chair of the Agriculture Committee — a critical committee for West Texas and all of rural Texas — is beneath him, he should let us know and the Lt. Governor will appoint someone else," said Sherry Sylvester, the Patrick advisor.

This is bad; if it's not resolved quickly, it will consume the session.


Understand something: Dan Patrick needs Kel Seliger's vote (during the regular session).

It takes 19 votes to pass a bill in the Texas Senate (during the regular session).  There are 19 Republicans.  If Patrick loses Seliger, he has to find a Democrat.

Depending on the issue, it might not be impossible to find some Democrats, but it's a lot easier to pass bills with Seliger on board.


There's nothing wrong with removing Seliger from higher ed.  While we had no complaints about his chairmanship last session (he passed the two bills we wanted passed), there's a fairly obvious case for replacing him.  Furthermore, now that his wife is head of the Texas Exes, one could argue it's a conflict of interest.

But tossing Seliger from Finance was STUPID.

Finance is a gigantic committee.  One member's vote doesn't change anything (esp. now that property taxes have been moved to a separate committee).  Keeping the Finance appointment as a courtesy pick to a senior member Senator have been a no-brainer.

Instead, Dan Patrick just gratuitously insulted that senior Senator at a time when the Senator in question has a lot of leverage.


The worst part is that there was an obvious path to placate Seliger; it should have at least been tried.

Kel Seliger is a legislator who, every session, has about a zillion priorities.  Obviously, many conflict with conservative priorities.  But a decent number of them don't.

It doesn't take a genius to envisage a deal where Seliger gets all of his lower profile stuff in exchange for supporting Patrick's high profile stuff.

As cooler heads prevail, here's hoping that still happens.  But the cost for Seliger's cooperation just went up.  And it will continue to rise as long as this conflict festers.


Let's not overlook the potential nightmare of Seliger on Nominations.

Evan Smith hasn't:

Kel freezes over indeed.


For all that, remember one other thing: Kel Seliger also needs Dan Patrick.  Not as bad as the other way.  But bad enough.

For as much leverage as Seliger possesses during the regular session, it evaporates in a special.  The Texas Senate operates under completely different rules during a special.  This is something Seliger already knows, but it's something about which he should be reminded.

If Kel Seliger is the only reason for a special session, he should get nothing.


Bottom Line: Dan Patrick and Kel Seliger can both accomplish more by working together than by feuding.  That's still true.  Hopefully, cooler heads prevail.

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