Establishment Republicans Team with Dems
to Defuse Move that's Free Advertising for Ally
January 13, 2021
Nearly three dozen Texas House Republicans appeared to be taking a stand against fake news and the liberal media on Wednesday when they voted to put end an end to their ability to spend budgeted funds on subscriptions to publications that cover state politics and government.
But GOP establishment moderates used the power play to reassert their control of the Legislature's lower chamber on the second day of the regular session when the House shot down the proposal on a 110-35 vote that included a lone Democrat on the losing side.
GOP State Rep. Matt Schaefer of Tyler pitched the subscription ban initially under the banner of fiscal austerity in a chamber where he said representatives hadn't had a Capitol budget increase in eight years.
But Schaefer cut to the chase as the original Texas Freedom Caucus chairman when he argued that it had been a mistake for the ruling Republicans to allow the use of taxpayer funds to pay to read publications that he portrayed as creatures of the far left like the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle.
Schaefer - the original chairman of the hard right group known as the Texas Freedom Caucus - contended that the leftist media had published stories with headlines that had been detrimental to "certain" political interests in an apparent reference to conservative Republicans like himself.
Schaefer appeared to show his true hand, however, when he revealed that several fellow representatives had been upset after having requests for state-paid subscriptions to an online publication called the Texan denied by House officials under policies that the Administration Committee had in place.
While Schaefer had 34 Republicans and a lone Democrat in his corner with State Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg, the tea party author came up empty after veteran Republican State Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth led the successful fight to kill the amendment that 64 Democrats teamed up with 45 GOP colleagues to table with his encouragement.
The Texan was founded by former tea party lawmaker Konni Burton after she was unseated in 2018 by Democratic State Senator Beverly Powell of Burleson. While the Burton news site is unapologetically slanted to give readers on the hard right what they want to hear, the Texan can be a credible source of factual information within the spin that it weaves.
Geren indicated that he hadn't been familiar with the Texan and speculated that the subscriptions had been denied because it's a relatively new publication. Geren said he wouldn't have had any objections himself if the House rules allowed their colleagues to pay for subscriptions through state office accounts.
But Geren in vintage fashion found a way to bury the Schaefer amendment without the need to portray the Schaefer amendment as a thinly-veiled bid to boost a high-level ally's private business amid the guise of budgetary conservatism and mainstream media bashing.
Geren opposed the Schaefer proposal on the grounds that lawmakers like himself rely on local newspapers to keep up with what's going on in their districts for the sake of representing their constituents in Austin as effectively as possible. Geren has been a prime example of how the legislators who have the most and the best information that they can trust have always been the most successful in the political arena.
State senators have long been required to spend personal or donor money on most of the subscriptions they buy, their counterparts across the rotunda have been able to subscribe to conventional newspapers, news magazines and other sources of news that are generally viewed as mainstream and nonpartisan.
Independent online publications like the Quorum Report and Capitol Inside would have been hardest hit by the Schaefer amendment as small businesses that are based in Austin and have long been two of the chief sources on Texas campaign and legislative news and information on both sides of the aisle.
More than half of the legislators who backed the Schaefer subscriptions defunding proposal are current Capitol Inside subscribers or have been in the past. The web site that turns 18 years old this month has been popular with lawmakers at all points on the political spectrum from diehard liberal Democrats to hardline conservatives who've been some of the biggest fans.