Texas Republicans trying to save portions of border security bill

House Republicans salvaged portions of Rep. Matt Schaefer’s (R-Tyler) border security bill after it was lost due to a successful point of order by Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas).

Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) sustained the point of order against his own priority legislation, House Bill (HB) 20, on the grounds that the bill caption did not give proper notice and the bill contained multiple subjects.

After HB 20 was lost, the House passed an amendment to HB 7 by Rep. Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City) — creating a grant program for border security infrastructure — to establish the border protection unit HB 20 would have fashioned.

However, the unit would be significantly limited compared to Schaefer’s proposal. County commissioners courts would have to approve the operation of the unit in their jurisdictions. It also excludes non-commissioned officers from the program.

Texans for Strong Borders, an interest group that backed Schaefer’s bill, said Guillen’s amendment is a “toothless” version of the bill that will “not change the enforcement paradigm.” The group said on social media the new version also excludes mention of the “invasion” powers under Article I, Sec. 10 under the Constitution.

Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, one of the staunchest proponents of the strategy of declaring an “invasion” on the border and invoking constitutional defense provisions, said passing HB 7 with the diluted version of Schaefer’s proposal would merely limit the governor’s ability to act by requiring approval of commissioners courts.

The Republican Party of Texas commented on social media, “Since Speaker Phelan killed the strongest border security measure of the session last night, it is now incumbent on Gov Abbott to address border security immediately.”

Thursday is the deadline for the House to pass its own bills, and the cutoff to add items to the calendar was Tuesday.

Schaefer pitched HB 20 as a response to escalating illegal immigration and fentanyl poisoning desks. Democrats said it would have inevitably led to racial profiling and unlawful detentions by inadequately trained personnel.

On the floor Tuesday night, Schaefer argued in rebuttal that all border unit officers would have had to comply with law and the bill was designed to assert the state’s constitutional right to self-defense.

Phelan sustained the point of order against Schaefer’s bill on the advice of the chamber’s parliamentarians. The speaker said the bill would have constituted a declaration of war, which goes beyond self-defense and was not mentioned in the caption.

The House chamber was considering HB 7 on third reading at the time of publication. The House rejected an amendment by Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) to axe the provision that requires the approval of the commissioners court. The vote was 82 ayes to 63 nays; amendments on third reading require a vote of two-thirds of the body.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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