After sudden sine die, House GOP has`very civil’ meeting on `process’

The morning after sine die, 80 some members of the House Republican Caucus met for about 90 minutes behind closed doors at the John H. Reagan Office Building near the Capitol Wednesday, and emerged talking positively about the discussion and the prospect for party unity.

“It was a good caucus discussion that we had and, you know, being unified going forward, its going to be awesome, it’s going to be really good,” said Rep. Ron Simmons, the Carrolton Republican who sponsored the “privacy” legislation in the House, intended to bar localities from making their own transgender-friendly bathroom policies, that failed to get a hearing or a floor vote during the special session.

The caucus, which includes 95 of the House’s 150 members, met shortly after Gov. Greg Abbott, in a radio interview, criticized House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and the House for not having an up-or-down vote on Simmons’ bill and, altogether, the governor said, nine of the items on the governor’s special session agenda.

In that, Abbott was echoing Tuesday night’s post sine die rhetorical blast at Straus from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

RELATED: Special session ends abruptly, with key issue unresolved

The caucus meeting was called by members of the House Freedom Caucus and a couple of other of like-minded members who have been most restive with Straus’ leadership.

While the discussion did focus on ways that the caucus might express its preference for speaker before the full House elects a speaker, it was by all accounts a positive conversation not directed at or against Straus.

“We wanted to talk about how the people appreciate everybody’s service,” Simmons said. “We are going to get back together in a few weeks in our caucus retreat Sept. 21 and 22. Just very good discussion. You know we didn’t meet one time during the session, so it was very good.”

Asked if the tone of the meeting reflected confidence in Straus’ leadership, Simmons said, “We didn’t talk about that but the last standing ovation in there was for the service he gave us this session and potentially going forward. “

“We just don’t know,” Simmons said. “We know the caucus needs to be able to come together and make sure we’re always behind our leadership, whoever that is. We’ve only had two Republican speakers since Reconstruction, so we don’t have that much history to go on.”

READ: 5 takeaways from the summer special legislative session

“From the Freedom Caucus perspective we were very encouraged about the meeting today,” its chairman, Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, told a scrum of reporters. “It was healthy, positive, it was definitely an action-oriented approach. I think the conversation is going to continue and I think it is going to continue in a positive way.”

“It was a very positive meeting, everybody agreed discussing the process is good. Everybody left thinking, hey, this is a good conversation to continue,” said Rep. Matt Krause, a member of the Freedom Caucus from Fort Worth.

“Should we have a process in place by which we get together before every session, so that the caucus can come to some kind of decision about who the speaker should be?” Krause said. “I think there was a consensus that this is healthy discussion that needs to continue.”

“And that could be Joe Straus,” Krause said. “We all voted for him last time. We could go through this whole process and then Joe Straus is the one who comes out of it and, if so, we all vote for him on the House floor.”

Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, who heads the Texas Conservative Coalition, a legislative caucus, said it was “just the start of the dialogue.”

“It was a very civil discussion,” he said.

Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, in his second term in the House, said, “that was probably the most well-attended caucus meeting I’ve seen and it was just a totally frank discussion of what we do going forward.”

“It was just about continuing a dialogue so the members could be unified going forward and I thought it was the most constructive conversation I’ve seen among Republicans since I’ve been in the Legislature,” he said.

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