Austin—December 1, 2018: The Texas House Republican Caucus met in Austin today to select a candidate for the House speaker race ahead of the full chamber’s vote on the first day of the 86th Session of the Texas Legislature in 2019. This is the first time the House Republican Caucus formally met to choose a single candidate before the floor vote for House speaker.
State Representative Dennis Bonnen (R – Angleton) earned the caucus’s nomination. Prior to the caucus meeting, Bonnen announced commitments from 109 members. The results of today’s caucus vote are not binding; members can vote for someone else on the House floor. However, the new process is designed to ensure that no speaker candidate may subvert the Republican majority by colluding with the Democrats and only gathering a handful of Republican supporters, which was the strategy used by Joe Straus in 2009.
Bonnen’s advancement toward the speakership comes after Joe Straus’s retirement announcement last year. Straus’s departure from the House, along with that of his crony Byron Cook, was cause for celebration for Pro-Lifers in Texas. Under Straus’s and Cook’s control, Pro-Life legislation was stalled, killed, and obstructed. Straus routinely referred all Pro-Life bills to the House Committee on State Affairs, chaired by none other than Cook, so the two could ensure that life-saving bills were held indefinitely or otherwise prevented from reaching the floor.
The departure of Straus and Cook, two of the Pro-Life movement’s most powerful adversaries in the Texas Legislature, presents a significant opportunity to select a new speaker who fully supports the platform planks of the Republican Party of Texas, including Pro-Life legislative priorities.
Bonnen’s record in the House makes Pro-Life groups optimistic that, as speaker, he would advance Pro-Life priorities in Texas’s lower chamber. For the past four sessions, Bonnen scored 100% on Texas Right to Life’s Pro-Life Scorecard. In the 2017 session, Bonnen assisted his brother, Representative Greg Bonnen, M.D., in working with stakeholders to pass the DNR Consent bill, a life-saving measure that was one of Texas Right to Life’s priority bills.
Additionally, on multiple occasions, Bonnen voted in support of a life-saving amendment that would protect disabled preborn babies from discriminatory abortions. Many supposedly “Pro-Life” Republicans openly opposed the amendment, but in both 2015 and 2017, Bonnen stood with the committed Pro-Life members in support of advancing this important reform. In 2017 when the amendment came to the floor, Bonnen had an excused absence, but he went out of his way to register a statement in the journal indicating he supported the Pro-Life amendment.
Texas Right to Life is optimistic that Dennis Bonnen will be a drastic improvement over the failed leadership of Joe Straus. Bonnen’s likely ascent to speaker of the House in January represents a significant step forward for the Pro-Life movement in Texas, as Bonnen has expressed his commitment to allowing conservative and Pro-Life bills to come to the floor for debate. This is a vast improvement over the overt obstruction of Straus and his cronies, who attempted to block last session’s Dismemberment Abortion Ban, despite the fact that 72 House members signed on to the bill and publicly expressed support.
While Texas has a strong Pro-Life record, there is still much work to be done to protect vulnerable lives, including the preborn and hospitalized patients, in Texas. The House Republican Caucus’s decision to back Dennis Bonnen for House Speaker is a positive step.