After session, Louisiana House Republicans fight among themselves 2023

Republicans in the Louisiana House opened the legislative session by voting as a bloc to adopt a budget that didn’t raise the state’s spending cap and promising to hold the line.

Retaliation, financial errors, and name-calling terminated the session. Conservatives have been insulting House Speaker Clay Schexnayder on radio and social media for days.

Several members said the feud between Schexnayder’s leadership team and House conservatives had simmered for four years since he turned to Democrats to win the speakership.

Senators and Gov. John Bel Edwards have rebuked House leaders for their harsh budget cutbacks in the last hours of session. After Democrats were rewarded in the budget over conservatives on the wrong side of Schexnayder, conservatives in the House vowed to install a more conservative speaker.

Schexnayder and Edwards said the tumultuous session ended up obscuring years of financial achievement. Schexnayder said the current budget legislation included hundreds of millions of dollars in debt payments and state savings reserves, which were drained or nonexistent a few years before.

“Those who want the best for the state will continue to work through the final documents and find solutions when necessary,” the speaker stated. “Those who bully their colleagues and call names instead of seeing the big picture and the enormous accomplishments we’ve achieved disappoint me.”

Schexnayder completed his final regular session as he began: Estranged from House conservatives, supported by a tiny group of Republicans, and in a shaky but firm alliance with House Democrats, who received $1 million each in spending projects for backing Schexnayder on budget concerns.

GOP mudslinging

After being mostly sidelined since Schexnayder took control in 2020, conservatives promise to pull the House to the right and take power. After the House and Senate voted on budget proposals without reading them, they’re not holding back.

Rep. Alan Seabaugh, a Shreveport Republican who heads the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, declared last week on a north Louisiana radio station that Nancy Pelosi is nasty but brilliant. Baton Rouge’s House speaker isn’t smart. He’s stupid.”

The House has historically been the more turbulent house, with 105 members who often disagree noisily, but Republican hostility has reached new heights.

Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City, labeled Schexnayder a “fake Republican” on Twitter, stated in an interview that the speaker should resign, and called unidentified colleagues “prostitutes” in another post.

Reps. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, and Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs, said House leadership had lied about the final measures on the radio. Rep. Blake Miguez of New Iberia, the House Republican chairman, accused Schexnayder of “silencing the voices of hundreds of thousands” of Louisianans by not taking questions before the budget votes.

The closing minutes resembled a banana republic, according to McCormick.

House Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee warned conservatives that their efforts to obstruct a procedural vote on the budget limit—which delayed the process by several days—would pose a time crisis.

Magee, R-Houma, said, “They thought we were lying to them because they think there’s a conspiracy theory around every corner.

In an interview, Seabaugh said he’s considering suing over the budget because the speaker disregarded procedural norms. He stated conservative-Schexnayder hostilities had been “festering” for four years. Seabaugh and many other members alleged Miguez would routinely convene GOP delegation meetings, only to have Schexnayder hurriedly schedule a lunch or other event to weaken the delegation. “Petty politics,” said McCormick.

Over the last four years, Seabaugh noted, many Clay voters have expressed buyer’s remorse. “He burned many bridges. I doubt he’ll get more than a couple of votes for secretary of state.

Schexnayder admitted he scheduled delegation meetings and meals in the speaker’s apartments. He stated he usually did so at the height of COVID-19 to allow members who were uncomfortable with delegation meeting attendance a safe place to assemble.

“Everyone was invited,” he claimed. “It never tried to undermine anyone.”

Funding frustration

Seabaugh and other conservatives have also complained that Democrats, save for Rep. Robby Carter of Amite, received around $1 million in projects during budget discussions.

Rep. Sam Jenkins of Shreveport, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, verified that leadership gave Democrats $33 million in projects and that the caucus divided it 50-50. He asked Schexnayder and Carter why Carter was left off, but they declined.

The House leadership’s budget cutbacks to punish particular members have hit numerous vital initiatives. In the last hours, money for the Jimmie Davis Bridge from Shreveport to Bossier, a critical Port of New Orleans project favored by legislative leaders, and a long-sought Acadiana state highway were cut. House lawmakers removed $100 million from the Louisiana Department of Health late.

Edwards has tried to reverse the cuts and fund crucial initiatives. Senate leaders are unhappy; the Health & Welfare and Finance committees have scheduled hearings on the budget revisions’ disarray.

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