GOP Caucus condemns House Speaker Dennis Bonnen over secret recording

Texas Tribune News

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen at a press conference on Senate Bill 2 at Wallyís Burger Express in Austin on June 12, 2019.
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen at a press conference on Senate Bill 2 at Wallyís Burger Express in Austin on June 12, 2019.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

After meeting behind closed doors for roughly four hours on Friday, the House GOP Caucus released a statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms” language used by Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and one of his top lieutenants during a meeting that was secretly recorded by a hardline conservative activist.

“Both members violated the high standards of conduct we expect of our members,” the statement said. “Their conduct does not reflect the views of our Caucus membership.”

The audio of that June 12 meeting featuring Bonnen, conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, the former caucus chair, was released Tuesday by Sullivan, who heads Empower Texans. Since then, a small but growing number of Republicans and Democrats have called for Bonnen, a first-term speaker who relished in a successful 2019 legislative session, to resign from his post.

The statement didn’t directly address the calls for resignation. But it did vaguely refer to caucus rules for selecting a speaker within the party.

“Constitutionally, the Speaker can only be elected or removed when the House is in session,” the statement said. “A process in our Caucus bylaws presently exists to nominate a Caucus-endorsed Speaker candidate, and we intend to abide by those provisions accordingly.”

On the recording, Bonnen can be heard offering Sullivan media access for his organization and suggested the group go after a list of 10 Republicans during the 2020 primaries. Bonnen also made a number of disparaging remarks about Democrats, referring to one as “vile” and another as a “piece of shit.”