Texas GOP Apparently Snatches Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Common sense prevails, almost. For a while, it looked like the Texas Senate was saying to baby slaughterers: “If you are going to slaughter babies, you have to do it in a clean medical facility and not in some chamber of horrors.”

Sort of a “Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here! This is the the War Room!” moment of surrealism. But the good news wass that it could spell doom for quite a number of these chambers of horror.

The Dems were, reliably, foursquare in favor of protecting the slaughterhouses from such minimal standards and fought tooth and nail via a long filibuster. Now, however, it appears the GOP may have wussed out and nullified the vote on a technicality of some sort. I hope not, but it fits the common GOP pattern of always bravely opposing abortion when they know it won’t actually become law while finding ways to weasel out when there is some chance the rhetoric might amount to concrete action (and therefore political consequences). After 30 years of the GOP phoning it in, I expect very little. We’ll see. Meanwhil

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  • Birgit Atherton Jones

    I don’t think they wussed out. It appears that the clock was not on their side. Let’s see what the second session brings before we accuse them of shirking their duty.

    • Joseph

      I’m pretty sure Mark is basing his reaction on actual history an behavioural patterns. Though I hope they haven’t *wussed out*, I suspect that they may have and wouldn’t be surprised in the least if they did.

      • Alexander S Anderson

        Exactly right. This alone wouldn’t be a sign of the GOP’s weak-knees if it was an isolated incident. Then it would just be poor planning. But this is part of a long standing behavior.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I don’t understand why “the clock was not on their side.” If they wanted this legislation so badly, why did they wait until the last minute?

      • Stephanie

        Exactly…I watched the live stream and waited as the PP crowd caused a stir, and the senators stood around for 15 minutes shrugging their shoulders and gawking at the crowd, tentatively hammering the gavel and quietly asking for “order”, as if that didn’t just give fuel to the PP folks to keep going, until they decided, oh, hmm, guess we can try to vote anyway over the noise, but OOPS, guess we were too late! Seriously? They didn’t seem especially eager to want to make the vote on time, I just can’t believe a bunch of people yelling was enough to render them powerless and grind everything to a halt, until they decided it wasn’t too late in the game.

        • Amanda

          If no one can hear the vote, it’s not on the record, opening it up to litigation. Better to wait for an inevitable second special session to decisively pass the measure. Though, I’m sure the mobs will be back and in full force at that time, too.

      • Amanda

        Because the house waited until the end of the week to pass the measure, which put it in “filibuster territory” in the senate. If you want to scrutinize leadership, look to the Texas House!

  • moseynon

    After the vote was taken, a thorny question remained: was the vote actually valid? The voting started before midnight, when the the legislature was legally still in its special session. However, the voting wasn’t concluded until shortly after midnight, when the special session of the legislature was no longer authorized by law.

    Democrats would have certainly brought forward a court challenge to the bill, if it were to move forward. A judge would then, reasonably, put a stay on the law until a ruling could be made. And the arguments in court, and subsequent appeals, might have been lengthy.

    My guess is that the Republicans may have decided that a quicker, more sure, way to make the law active is to pass it a second time.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I guess that question will be answered by whether or not they try again as soon as possible.

      • moseynon

        I think the legislature may need some time to recover. This past special session was pretty intense. Plus, it was tacked on, almost immediately, after the end of the regular session (the end of which, in itself, is typically exhausting as deadlines approach.)

        • Amanda

          The rumor I’ve heard is that a second special session will be called to begin on July 8th.

  • Dave G.

    First, a little point of order. Let’s make sure if we’re going to point out when the GOP fails, that we point out when it succeeds (no ‘congrats Texas “House”‘, that would be ‘congrats Texas “House Republicans”‘ when such a bill makes it in the first place.). So next time, like here in Ohio, when a vote against abortion is almost entirely along party lines, lets make sure we say ‘good job X State Republicans/GOP’. Esp. if when it fails we point out the party by name.

    Second, it appears that the reason, from what I’m hearing, is that the Democrats effectively muddled the procedure so that if the vote was taken, the Democrats would have no problem declaring it invalid. So it was let go, with reports already saying that Perry and the Republicans will try again, more cautious of such tactics. If they have support of course.

  • Athelstane

    I felt that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst was a squish – not just on abortion, but many issues – when he ran for the Senate last year against Ted Cruz. This only makes me happier that he felt short.

    But Dewhurst isn’t the main villain here. It’s the Moloch Brigade that showed up to employ mob tactics at the statehouse. And the current occupant of the White House who egged them on with tweets all day long yesterday.

    • Amanda

      Democratic house and senate members were motioning the mob to get louder too. It was really despicable to watch. For all their complaints on decorum and rules, they were ready to abandon their lofty principles in order to kill a bill that the majority of Texans (and legislators) supported.

  • Some legislators took a brave stand, introducing a pro-life measure unprecedented in any state, arousing extreme and vociferous local and national opposition, which they fought off even to the point of breaking a filibuster. And now, because the measure appears to have failed on a technicality, you’re guessing that they probably didn’t mean it anyway, and/or were a bunch of cowards.

    That doesn’t make any tactical or strategic sense, for starters. If they didn’t want it to pass, it would have been easy as pie to just let the filibuster run out the clock, so none of the Republicans had to actually vote for this controversial measure that they supposedly didn’t want to see passed. (Though why they let it get even that far, taking all that heat along the way, would remain a mystery.)

    Further, while you can cloak it in all the “apparently”s and “I hope not”s you want, it’s still beneath you to have greeted the failure of this bill by blowing raspberries at its supporters and suggesting the worst about them as they limped, wounded, off the field in defeat.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      You’re ignoring the fact they ARE cowards, the whole lot of ’em. They didn’t mean it now because they’ve never meant it before. The GOP loses too many votes when abortion is banned.

      • What an unfortunate comment. You should be ashamed of yourself.

        • Alexander S Anderson

          Really? The GOP will risk life and limb to prevent a tax increase, but they consistently cave on abortion. Face it, the party’s priorities lie somewhere else besides the great moral issue of our time.

          • These are not cartoon characters we’re talking about, and “the GOP” is not some vast homogenous blob. These Texas lawmakers are flesh-and-blood humans…some of whom may have been insincere, some of whom may have proved weak-kneed (though the evidence on that seems pretty scant so far), but most of whom showed great courage in pushing this bill forward.

            And the thanks they get from the likes of you is a sweeping blanket condemnation, and a snap judgment regarding their interior motivations and honesty and courage.

            This behavior is not merely wrong (unless you’re looking forward to being judged as harshly yourself), but also unwise on a practical level. If you make a habit of shooting your own wounded, you shouldn’t be surprised if you start to see more deserters.

            • Alexander S Anderson

              Thank you! For proving my point. Yes, we all must march lockstep with the GOP’s controlling oligarchs or else “they” will win. I’m sorry I’ve broken ranks, but ice gotten fed up. Yes, it’s great that someone had the courage to put this legislation up (even though it is a bit ridiculous, as Mark wisely pointed out.) But I’m not going to give them points for being bullied. I can’t stand this “blame the other side” game that both parties feel they must play.

              • You may think you’re replying to what I actually wrote; but you’re not. I advise you to stop embarrassing yourself in this thread.

  • KarenJo12

    It’s more than a technicality. The vote happened after midnight but someone altered the records to say it happened earlier. This is known, even in Texas, as “cheating.” Dewhurst would have been prosecuted had he approved the bill for the governor’s signature.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    Meanwhile, DOMA struck down. This society continues to disintegrate like wet cardboard in a rainstorm.

    • Dave

      And Prop 8! On the grounds that the “People of California” have no standing to bring the case! The sun is setting, folks. Prepare for nightfall.

      • moseynon

        I don’t think the Supreme Court’s decision on Prop 8 is surprising. It seems to be in keeping with prior cases. Quoting Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion: “We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” he said. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”


        • Dave

          I didn’t say that it was surprising. But what does that say for democracy, when the “will of the people” is null and void unless the state executives choose to stand behind it?

          • The “will of the people” can be enforced with the next election — if your elected officials won’t uphold the laws you want, get new ones (officials, I mean, not laws).

            • Dave

              Well, it’s kind of too late in this case, isn’t it? I agree with you in principle, but it’s still a troubling development when elected leaders simply refuse to enforce the law they’ve been elected to uphold, and only a few eyebrows are raised.

              • I get that it must be incredibly frustrating. But think of the implications — if the Court had ruled the other way, it would have signaled that it was ok to sue one’s elected officials if they did something you didn’t like. Would we then start suing them for enforcing a law we disagree with? For not enforcing a law exactly the way we would have? Such actions would subvert not only the legislative process, but would also mess with the necessary discretion the executive branch gets.

                And I don’t think it is too late, in that if the next people to take office decide to enforce the proposition, or hold a new one, etc.

                • Dave

                  I don’t really follow you. I thought that one of the jobs of elected officials was to uphold the law. Apparently not really. But this country is going to be a thing of the past in a relatively short period of time anyway, so I won’t worry myself too much about some of the minor symptoms that accompany a nation in terminal decline.

                  • Executives are given some discretion in how they enforce and uphold the law. That’s why, for example, wacky laws from hundreds of years ago may still be on the books but are totally ignored. I can’t really explain in more detail right now, have a train to catch.

                    • Dave

                      Well, as long as the law is “wacky” in the opinion of the executive, I guess it’s OK. 😉

                    • I thought about it on the train (and is there a Patron Saint of Public Transportation? Because I got really lucky), and I think my question for you is:

                      Do you disagree on the merits, in that you think the elected leaders are wrong on the merits for refusing to uphold marriage as being between one man and one woman only? Or do you also disagree procedurally, in that they should enforce a referendum a majority of the populace wanted, no matter what that referendum was? If instead the people had voted to, say, make abortions totally legal with no restrictions, would you still hold that the elected officials are wrong to refuse to enforce it, even if you agree with the outcome?

                    • Dave

                      Good question. Obviously, I believe the CA officials were wrong on the merits. If a public official finds it impossible in conscience to enforce or uphold the law, then the proper response would either be to resign or perhaps to file a lawsuit against the law, if that is an option.

                      One other thing I don’t understand: if the federal courts don’t have standing on the issue, wouldn’t that vacate the prior federal court rulings on Prop 8 as well?

                      Anyway, basically I feel that the issue of standing was the SCOTUS’s (perhaps valid) way of weaseling out of the issue.

                    • I haven’t read all the relevant decisions, and it’s been quite a while since I practiced; with those caveats:

                      It’s not that federal courts don’t have standing, it’s that the current parties (civilians trying to appeal the federal court’s decision) don’t. The original plaintiff did have standing, because she was denied a marriage license, and the defendants were state officials including the governor. Those original defendants refused to pursue an appeal when they lost, and the current parties stepped in, trying to intervene to get the decision appealed. It is they who have no standing under the Supreme Court’s ruling, and since the parties who do have standing aren’t going to appeal, the case is over. The original district court decision finding Prop 8 unconstitutional stands.

  • fiestamom

    This is the Texas GOP’s fault? The Democrats used mob rule and shouted down the legislative process because they didn’t have the votes to stop the killing of babies. Now they are celebrating this “victory”. Last night Barack Obama tweeted that “something special is happening” in Austin.

    But you spent the time to write a post about the GOP phoning it in?

  • Dan Li

    And we have lost it. Omnes Sanctis et Sanctae Dei, Orate pro nobis!

  • This is in no way the fault of the Texas GOP. This is the fault of the obstructionism of State Senate Democrats, most prominently pro-choicers’ latest heroine, State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who ran out the clock on the special legislative session’s authority under the Texas Constitution, using a filibuster to deny basic human rights to the unborn, just as filibusters were once used in the U.S. Senate to deny basic human rights to black people. Davis and the disruptive pro-choice protesters who helped her run out the clock belong to a shameful tradition of parliamentary obstructionism in the service of inhuman cruelty. By the time the Texas GOP was able to pass the bill, it was 12:03 this morning. Under the Texas Consitution, their writ had ceased to run at midnight. In a nation of laws, that is not a mere “technicality.”

    Happily, there is much reason to hope that Gov. Perry will call another special session, and Davis and the other smug servants of Moloch will be defeated.

    A personal note: Having entered the Church as a man of the economic left, I have continued voting for Democrats in local elections, even as I have abandoned them over the supposedly only national issue of abortion. The single-minded zeal of my own Democratic Party–for which, to my shame, I voted in local elections last autumn–in my own adopted State of Texas has taught me a bitter lesson. Anyone who has read my comments here knows what a bleeding heart liberal I am. But Texas Democrats have shown themselves to be, first and foremost, the Party of tearing children limb from limb in the womb. It won’t be forgotten. Nor will the admirable dedication of the Texas GOP to continuing to fight this issue. However very much I disagree with them on other issues, the Texas GOP has my vote now.

    • Let us be careful to distinguish between the tactics and the cause.

      The filibuster is a legitimate parliamentary tactic in certain legislative bodies; and in service of a righteous cause, it is not only licit but can be heroic. There is no shame in Sen. Davis’ “parliamentary obstructionism”, though there is plenty of shame in what she filibustered *for*. Let us not commit the error, typical of (though not exclusive to) the Left, of being outraged by the mere fact that people who have a different view have the effrontery to oppose us according to the rules of our political process.

      Protests in the gallery that seek to obstruct the legislative process by shouting it down are not legitimate, and are shameful even if mounted in service of a righteous cause; and so even those on the same side of the issues ought to have–were they possessed of a sense of honor and decency–condemned their tactics.

  • R Flaum

    There was one really weird bit where Dewhurst seemed to actually tell the protestors in the gallery how to beat the bill — he kept calling for order, and finally said “if we don’t get order, I’ll have to suspend the vote until order is restored.” Of course, the protestors knew that if they could delay it past midnight then the session would be over, so they just kept shouting for the next fifteen minutes until midnight had passed.

    • Amanda

      The mob effect was unprecedented. Senate gallery decorum is typically strictly enforced. Unfortunately, the whole statehouse was full of protestors and troopers were spread thin, so they were unable to clear the gallery. I wondered, though, why the gallery was not cleared an hour or so beforehand when they made their first outburst. I honestly think the lt. gov. didn’t know how to proceed… no one could hear the votes and Dems were trying to call point of orders to further stall the process… it really is better to begin again in another special session when the stall tactics cannot be used and members can actually debate the merits of the bill.

      • R Flaum

        They were parliamentary inquiries, not points of order — points of order, in the rules of the Texas Senate, wouldn’t have precedence over Estes’s Motion to Table (this is unusual — in most legislatures, points of order have precedence over everything). Instead, the Dems used parliamentary inquiries.

        Problem from Dewhurst’s perspective is that ordering the galleries cleared is itself a debatable motion, which would give the Dems that much extra material for stalling.

        • Amanda

          Yes, the parliamentary inquiries stalled the process. But Dems stated that they were trying to call points of order before the final vote that were ignored. Because of the loud mob, no one could be heard.

          • R Flaum

            Ah? Must’ve missed that part, sorry.

  • Amanda

    The governor just called a second special session to begin July 1st… if they get started right away, the procedural stall tactics won’t be enough to kill the bill since a majority of legislators support it.

    • Fiestamom

      In the spirit of fairness,I hope there is a update to this post.

  • Lone Star

    The governor has called another 30-day special session starting on July 1st and I predict (you heard it right here!) that this bill WILL pass. I think the bill’s supporters learned some important lessons last night.

    • R Flaum

      You know, looking at the parties’ positions a bit more, it doesn’t seem like they’re quite directly opposed. The GOP is mainly in favor of the restrictions past twenty weeks, whereas the Dems are most strongly opposed to the 30-mile rule. Possibly they’ll hammer out a compromise that has the first but not the second?

      • Amanda

        I do wish they would work on the bill a bit more. There was some concern, too, with the administration of the abortion drug, since the bill requires a certain dosage to be delivered in an ambulatory surgical center, but the dosage is not what’s commonly used in practice. So much of the debate focused on that and the doctor admitting privileges. I want to hear them actually debate the 20 week provision… the only one I heard from Senator Davis during her filibuster is that it would prevent women who didn’t know they were pregnant from getting an abortion… um, really? That’s all you’ve got?

        I’m curious to see what bill they end up filing… are they going to tweak anything because they were not willing to do so during the committee or floor process. Clinic standards and a 20 week ban are the strongest points of the bill. I hope they do tweak other provisions to show that their goal is to make a strong bill that does protect the health of women and children.

  • Elmwood

    The GOP probably did wuss out. Our “pro-life” GOP governor of AK has said his first agenda was oil tax reform (he also lessened cruise ship taxes and discharge standards). When some weak pro-life legislation was brought forward, it was dismissed by the GOP because oil tax reform was first priority.

    Guess what, big business got what they wanted, social conservatives got nothing… funny how that always works with the GOP. Person-hood protection for corporations? Sure no problem! Wall Street deregulation? Of course! Military industrial complex funding and wars? Absolutely! Pro-life legislation? Let’s not get too hasty….