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Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan bucks his own party by appointing Democratic committee chairs

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan talks with members of the Texas House during the 2021 legislative session.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan talks with members of the Texas House during the 2021 legislative session.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on Wednesday announced the appointment of nine Democrats as committee chairs, defying the Republican Party of Texas and other GOP activists who called on him to end the tradition.

Speaking on the House dais, Phelan, R-Beaumont, told members of his chamber the appointment process was “not any easier this session than it was last session.”

“My goal is for every single one of you to have the tools you need to be a vital part of this House and accomplish what you came here to do,” he said.

According to Phelan, of the 37 committee chairmanships, nine will go to Democrats: Business and Industry, Corrections, County Affairs, Criminal Jurisprudence, Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, Natural Resources, Resolutions Calendar, Transportation and the Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety.

Last session, in 2021, Phelan appointed 14 Democrats and 21 Republicans as committee chairs.

Even though this year’s percentage of Democratic chairs is smaller, it’s still significant — mostly because the Republican Party of Texas was pressuring Phelan into banning Democratic chairs outright.

According to the Texas Tribune, the party ran radio ads in Phelan's House district, claiming he was "teaming up with Democrats to kill our Republican priorities."

A few weeks ago, GOP activists flooded the House gallery to signal they didn’t want Phelan to move forward with his tradition of appointing members of the minority party to important leadership roles.

Banning Democratic chairs was also one of the Republican Party of Texas’ legislative priorities for the 88th Texas Legislature.

Jill Glover, the legislative priorities committee chair of the party, told The Texas Newsroom in a text message she was displeased with the decision, but is now looking forward.

“While we are disappointed to see Dem chairs appointed, as Republicans expect Republicans to lead, our grassroots efforts clearly had an effect as there are less Dem chairs this session than last,” Glover said. “Now we look forward to the [party's] priorities bills moving through the committee process and to the Governor’s desk.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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