See update at the end of this post.
It is rare in life that the blame can be squarely, unequivocally, and absolutely placed on the shoulders of one person.
If you look at just last night in the Texas Senate, for example, you might have a hard time singling out a person to blame for how the night went down. Which way did the ruling on any given point of order go? Was it the right analysis? Was it technically an allowable decision, even it the analysis was wonky? Should Senator Van De Putte’s parliamentary inquiry have been heard before the vote was called? Which vote was called? When? Did someone really think he (or she) could get away with changing the time stamp?
Good news! You don’t have to become an armchair expert in the rules of the Texas Senate. Here’s all you need to know about the outcome of SB5 in the first special session of the 83rd legislature:
Blame Rick Perry for the bill’s failure to pass.
Only the governor can call a special session. He called it. It lasts a strictly defined length of time, and not a second longer.
Only the governor can add an item to the special session—adding it to the call, if you’d like to use the term of art.
Governor Perry, with his infinite and oh so predictable hubris, did not add abortion to the call until midway through the session.
There is no question that, if Perry had added abortion at the beginning, SB5 would have passed. As we saw last night, there are only so many tactics that a minority party can use to slow the majority, and slow, not stop, is generally all the minority can do.
Now, Perry faces a choice. He can call another special session. After all, the filibuster and ensuing brouhaha killed not only SB5, but other legislation.
Here’s why, even if you support SB5, you should ask Governor Perry to just stop.
If you are someone who respects fair play, say enough is enough.
At a certain point, if you simply cannot do your job, you don’t get another shot at it. You need to wait for the next regular session. Third graders playing hopscotch get do-overs. Old friends playing low-stakes golf get do-overs. Grown people doing the people’s business who’ve already had a full session plus a special session do not.
If you are a fiscal conservative, say enough is enough.
Special sessions cost money. What, suddenly all of these militant fiscal conservatives are willing to spend like drunken conventioneers on expense accounts just to try a third time to pass a bill they could not pass in two other efforts? (Two if you ONLY count the 83rd session—similar legislation comes up almost every session these days and has not yet passed.)
If you resent having state politics hijacked so Perry can try to set up another run for the presidency in 2016, say enough is enough.
This was never about abortion. This was about giving Republican politicians from Perry on down the opportunity to say they took a strong stand against abortion in order to look good in front of Republican primary voters. Doesn’t capitulating to the rule of law in the face of an angry mob, which is their frame, not mine, give them the same bragging rights? Doesn’t it even make them seem like the victims and underdogs?
I’m a cynic. I fully expect Governor Perry, at the urging of Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and others, will call a second special session. Abortion will be on the call from the get-go. Bad, dangerous legislation will be passed.
But it will be a Pyrrhic victory (or a PyrRick one, if you want to make a bad Perry pun, which I do, given how giddy I am right now). Texas demographics are changing, and last night’s behavior by Dewhurst and other was the beginning of a last gasp and last grasp for the Republicans. We may be able to pull off some upsets in 2014, but by 2016, the pendulum will begin to swing back.
The gloves have come off in the Senate. I saw Senator Whitmire’s face. As the longest-serving member of that body, he delivered a very eloquent speech about what it truly means to respect traditions and honor fellow members. Others echoed his words and sentiment. The Republican majority then voted to spit in the eye of tradition, collegiality, and decency.
The gloves have definitely come off in the House. They were barely on there to begin with, but when they cut off testimony and dismissed the voice of the people, they made a mockery of the process.
Most critical, however, is the fact that people are now fully engaged.
Stick with it.
The work ahead will be hard, and there will be setbacks. There are still many legislative districts in Texas that are drawn so that Republicans can win, and a few more will. Rep. Jodie “Rape Kits Clean You Out” Laubenberg might get re-elected. Senator Wendy Davis might face a challenge in her district that she can’t overcome this time.
But remember, demographics are on our side. If we can maintain pressure, if we can register voters, if we can work get out the vote efforts like our lives depend upon it—which for some people is not hyperbole—we can take back Texas. If we realize that in coalition we can do what we’ve been unable to do separately, we can start winning elections. We can turn Texas blue.
For now, however, if we have to go back to Austin for a second special session, get ready. We must continue to stand witness to their attempts to strip us of our rights. Stay tuned.
A friend texted me this morning and suggested it will be interesting to see what Perry does. My response:
Has ever Perry passed on a chance to screw women’s health in order to score political points?
Back came the response: touché.
This afternoon, I learned that Gov. Perry will be addressing the convention of the National Right to Life organization in Dallas, today or tomorrow. If I were a betting woman, which I’m not, I’d say that is where he’ll announce it. I hope not. But, again, he simply cannot stand being bested, especially when it comes to a red meat issue for his base. We’ll see.
Update #2 – 8 minutes later, basically
Well, I was wrong. Rick didn’t wait. In fact, the news broke while I was updating the blog.
My friends, we need to prepare for the strong possibility that these bad bills will go through this time around, and things will get very ugly in Texas for a few years. We’ll fight in the special session, of course, but now is also the time to get strategic about the long game while figuring out how to allocate limited resources to mitigate short-term damages.
Stay tuned. Stay strong. Stay engaged.