Texas House Speaker Refuses to Cede Post

The Associated Press
Saturday, May 26, 2007; 10:32 PM

AUSTIN, Texas -- Hours after lawmakers who tried to overtake the speaker's podium seeking to oust him were physically restrained, House Speaker Tom Craddick charged through a rowdy floor session Saturday without ceding his coveted post.

The House parliamentarian resigned on the verge of tears earlier as Craddick beat back a rebellion from opponents seeking a vote on his leadership.

Democrats and Republicans alike complain that Craddick has ruled with an iron fist. They say his win-at-all-cost style often forces them to vote against the interests of their own districts.

Throughout the day Saturday, several Craddick opponents hovered around the chamber's back microphone to take turns sniping at his rulings. But Speaker Pro Tem Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat, refused to recognize lawmakers who sought to make a motion to unseat Craddick.

Craddick's third two-year term does not expire until the next legislative session convenes in January 2009, but discontent in the chamber is fueling a plot to force him out before the session ends Monday. In the last week, four Republicans, including Rep. Fred Hill, have filed their candidacies to be speaker if Craddick is ousted.

Capping a week of simmering discord, Hill made a request Friday night that would allow the 150-member chamber to vote to oust Craddick. Craddick, often called the most powerful man in state government, refused to recognize Hill to make the motion, then hustled back to his office suite amid a cacophony of boos.

Democrats trying to overtake the speaker's podium were restrained by House sergeants-at-arms as they tried to grab the microphone.

"It is clearly an abuse of power and of office," Republican Rep. Todd Smith of Bedford said later.

To oust Craddick before his term is up, a lawmaker must make a parliamentary maneuver known as a motion to vacate, and a majority of the House must vote in favor of it.

It's called a privileged motion, and a lawmaker must be recognized by the speaker before he or she may speak to the House to make such a motion. The issue Friday night was whether Craddick was obligated to allow lawmakers to speak if they wanted to.


Associated Press writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press