Sins of Omission and Commission

Thanks to their legislative leadership, conservative House members are preparing to go home with no wins, no fights and not much of a record. It’s quite a campaign slogan the House leadership is asking them to adopt: “I did nothing I promised, and we attempted even less!”

That might play at cocktail parties, but probably not so well with voters at home who actually expected results.

Texas Monthly blogger Paul Burka has noted this trend today, writing that the House calendars have been “innocuous” with debate proceeding “at a snail’s pace.” He writes:

I do not believe this is happening by chance. It is the strategy of the leadership. The last thing the Straus team wants is a lot of vigorous debate between R’s and D’s and long lines at the back microphone, nor do they want want (sic) to give the tea party members anything to get riled up about. So the calendars will continue to be boring and innocuous under the watchful eye of Calendars chair Todd Hunter. I’m not guessing about this; I aired my suspicions to a Straus insider and got an affirmative answer. No long calendars. No contentious bills that could blow up the session. No chance for the tea party freshmen to do their thing. Let’s just get the hell out of Dodge. That’s the plan, man.

The House leadership wants to avoid debate and an accounting of this session, something they know debate would provide. Perhaps they don’t realize that doing nothing is pretty much the same thing as doing bad, when there was the chance to do good.


Speaker Joe Straus' leadership doesn't want 'tea party freshmen to do their thing'
I think my Catholic friends refer to it as sins of omission and commission. I’m reminded of the parable of the talents.

Two sessions squandered – one with a super-majority, the other with a near-super-majority – and not much of a substantive set of reforms to show for it.

Whether it is protecting religious liberties or defending life, reforming the budget or cutting taxes, this Texas House is doing nothing. If they could do less, they probably would.

But as Mr. Burka reports, that’s exactly how the House leadership wants it: nothing bold, nothing substantive, nothing conservative. And that’s what your House members gave you when they supported the current leadership team.

I am reminded of this quote from Margaret Thatcher: “To me consensus seems to be: the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner ‘I stand for consensus’?”

Teddy Roosevelt once said that when faced with a choice “between righteousness and peace,” we must chose righteousness. Any fight for right-thinking reform that was in the more senior members has been disturbingly absent since before the start of the session. They have seemed more concerned with protecting their pensions and getting in the good graces of the spendoholic lobby, than in doing what they once claimed to believe. Those swanky cocktail parties and generous campaign donations are just too tempting…

It’s a real problem for the GOP. Voters are going to start asking pesky questions about why they should bother. Yeah, they talk big as conservatives when campaigning, but deliver precious little to the table when governing. Worse, they don’t even seem to be trying. Or caring.

UPDATE: Mr. Burka has corrected his spelling of innocuous, so I updated the quotes above and removed the “(sic)” notations.