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Cain Launches Conservative Surprise Attack

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This morning, freshman Rep. Briscoe Cain brought the noisy House chamber to a hush when he exclaimed, “object!” to a common procedural motion that ordinarily sails through unnoticed.

Rep. Hugh Shine had asked the House’s permission to suspend the rules, and allow the Business and Industry Committee to hear HJR 56 this coming Monday. Shine was presenting the motion on behalf of Chairman Rene Oliveira and did not know what the HJR – House Joint Resolution – was about.

These motions take place on a near-daily basis, and are almost always approved.

Heads spun round when Cain shouted his objection to what most members traditionally consider to be a “courtesy” in consideration for the convenience of the Committee Chairs.

Cain asked Shine what HJR 56 is about. After researching it, Shine responded it intends to amend the state Constitution to raise the minimum wage, a key component of the Democratic Party’s agenda.

Democratic Reps. Chris Turner, Senfronia Thompson, and Republican Rep. Charlie Geren complained that motions like this are customarily approved, and that objections are virtually unheard of.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland backed Cain’s objection and explained to the House that the objection was a valid procedural  tool for representatives to slow legislation their constituents oppose.

A crowd gathered at the back microphone, appearing to scold Cain to withdraw his objection. He persisted and forced a roll-call vote on the motion. Some representatives took to the microphone to put their words on the record before voting. They explained they would vote for the motion (against Cain’s objection) in order to move the resolution along, but that their votes were not on the substance of the resolution itself.

But Cain’s maneuver could be the only roll-call vote related to a minimum wage increase this session. In the end, 21 representatives showed they did not want their names attached to advancing the resolution and voted with Cain. The motion passed over them with 119 Yeas.

Conservative senses seem to be heightened since 10 days ago, when Rep. Dan Huberty raised a motion to suspend the rules so his committee could hear an important education bill the very next day. It passed without objection, and it was several minutes later before conservatives noticed what happened.

At that time, desk-mates Cain and Stickland complained that this was not enough notice for their constituents to come down to Austin and testify on the legislation in question. But it was too late to object.

Today’s performance by Cain may demonstrate that conservatives are on high alert. It could be a glimpse into showdowns to come.

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