AUSTIN, Texas — The majority of Texas House Republicans agree to only support a speaker who will not appoint Democratic committee chairs 

After his runoff win, Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, is focused on the fight to keep his position as Texas House speaker. So far, two GOP representatives, Tom Oliverson and Shelby Slawson, announced they’re challenging Phelan for the leadership spot.

What You Need To Know

  • A majority of Texas House Republicans have signed a pledge signaling they will not support a speaker who appoints Democratic committee chairs

  • Current speaker Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, narrowly won his primary runoff race recently. He has appointed Democrats to committee chair positions in the past

  • Phelan currently has two announced challengers for speaker

  • Texas Republicans say Democrats hold up legislation 

Oliverson reacted to Slawson’s entrance into the speakership race, saying on X that he “welcomes another reformer into the race for speaker.” 

“Republican voters are fed up with business as usual in the Texas House,” said Slawson. 

In a letter, 46 House Republicans and GOP nominees pledged to only support a speaker candidate who will not appoint Democratic committee chairs. Phelan declined to comment on the letter but has stuck to the House tradition of appointing some chairs from the opposing party. Slawson says Democrats need to be removed from chairs to pass her party’s preferred legislation. 

“We’ve had a bit of a blockade with some Democrat chairs who are in a position where they don’t want to advance legislation that for some of their voters in their constituencies is disagreeable,” said Slawson. 

Political experts say Democratic chairs do not have such power, as they are often still the minority party on the committees they chair. Phelan appointed eight last session out of 34 committees.  

“If you look at who’s blocking many of the conservative bills that come out of the Senate, it’s really more often than not a committee chair that’s a Republican and a strong ally of state Speaker Dade Phelan,” said Mark Jones, a Rice University professor of political sciences.

To be elected speaker, a member needs to secure 76 votes, a majority of the 150-seat chamber. With a majority of incoming House Republicans seeking a candidate who won’t pick Democratic chairs, Phelan faces more obstacles but could still win with full Democratic support and a dozen Republicans. 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick addressed that scenario, saying on X, “That would be a kick in the teeth to Texans, who elected an overwhelming Republican House majority.” 

Experts suggest Democrats can leverage the GOP infighting to their advantage. 

“Conservative Republicans are running a risk if they prevent Phelan from obtaining reelection via the Republican caucus. They may force him into the hands of Democrats, who will demand in exchange for their support that Phelan block many of the conservatives,” said Jones. 

A number of Republicans who signed the pledge face Democratic opponents on November’s ballot. Though more Republicans could denounce Democratic committee chairs before the end of the year.