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House Nearly Blows Up Its Own Rules to Stop Freedom Caucus

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If you’re looking for a tense yet entertaining political show, or if you just like watching conservatives seize control of the legislative process, tune into the Texas House when its considering items on the “Local and Consent Calendar.”

As background, there are two calendars in the Texas House: Local/Consent (L&C), and General. Items on the General Calendar are laid out, debated, objected to, and voted on, just like you’d expect from a normal process. L&C bills are presumed to be non-controversial and therefore typically sail through at hyper-speed and never receive a vote.

While conservatives in the Freedom Caucus might have little sway in the debate on the general calendar items – there are only 12 members – they sling enormous weight around on the L&C Calendar. It only takes a 10-minute speech, or 5 members’ signatures, to pull bills off this calendar.

Tuesday, the House had 161 bills on L&C. Rep. Jonathan Stickland stood at the back microphone virtually the entire time – 4 hours – and terrified members who feared he might be standing there to kill their bills.

He allowed many bills to pass through without question. Several, he spoke on for 3 to 5 minutes and stood down. But there were around 2 dozen that he and his fellow Freedom Caucus members killed.

At one point, Rep. Travis Clardy laid out HB 1369 and refused to yield time for a question from Stickland. The Speaker then told Stickland, procedurally, he could either come to the front microphone and speak for 10 minutes against the bill, or he could stand down and let it pass.

He chose to speak.

As he took the front microphone, the clock began ticking. He began to read the bill word-for-word.

Clardy stood at the back microphone attempting to ask questions about why Stickland opposed the bill. Stickland, reciprocating Clardy’s refusal to yield, also refused to yield, saying, “I will not yield. I will never yield.”

Stickland was interrupted from his reading of the bill several times, each time telling the body, “Members, I’ve lost my place. I’m going to have to start over.”

Finally, Rep. Dan Huberty begged Clardy to withdraw his bill and let the body move on. Clardy withdrew the bill.

At another point, Rep. Tomas Uresti was blocking the back microphone and the Speaker had to instruct him to move for Rep. Briscoe Cain to ask a question. Moments later, Uresti was seen on the video snatching the microphone away from Cain and could be heard saying, “How does that feel?” The Speaker demanded Uresti cease this behavior and allow Cain to continue.

After about 4 hours of abnormally sluggish progress on the L&C agenda, Rep. Senfronia Thompson raised a motion that would have had blown up the House rules governing the procedures on this Calendar.

She moved to take up all withdrawn bills, or all bills which had been removed from the L&C by speakers or signatures. If she’d been successful, each bill would have been given a 10 minute layout followed by an immediate vote.

The motion effectively attempted to nullify all of the Freedom Caucus’ actions in the previous 4 hours.

Rep. Matt Rinaldi moved to amend Thompson’s motion to add bills to the list. Those bills were all Republican Party priority pieces of legislation, including Constitutional Carry and the abolition of abortion. Thompson, fearing a debate on abortion, withdrew her motion.

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