You know that redistricting negotiations have really fallen down when Tom DeLay swoops in to try and get a deal brokered.
"I'm a Texan trying to get things done," said DeLay, R-Sugar Land, as he spent hours engaged in cross-rotunda shuttle diplomacy between House Speaker Tom Craddick and the state Senate leadership.
"There is progress being made. People are working together," DeLay said. "We're close. We're just working out the specifics."
Legislative sources said DeLay told Craddick last Friday that he did not want the fight over Midland to kill the entire map, which would give the Republicans at least six additional seats in Congress.
"I'm not going to talk about specifics," DeLay said when asked Monday about that discussion with Craddick.
DeLay met for several hours Monday morning with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Republican Sens. Todd Staples of Palestine and Robert Duncan of Lubbock, who are the lead Senate redistricting negotiators.
DeLay spent most of the afternoon meeting with Craddick and two of Gov. Rick Perry's aides, Chief of Staff Mike Toomey and Deputy Chief of Staff Deirdre Delisi.
After meeting with DeLay, Craddick left the Capitol for about an hour to get a haircut. He refused to talk to reporters.
DeLay then spent much of the evening shuttling between Craddick's and Dewhurst's offices. At one point, Duncan emerged from a meeting with DeLay -- whose nickname in Washington is "the Hammer" -- holding his arm as if it had been twisted.
"There still is no deal," Staples said early in the evening.
Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, said that what he knew of Perry's proposal for Central Texas was unacceptable to him. He said it would turn the district of U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, into a district dominated by Tarrant County voters.
Averitt said he supports a proposed Senate map that likely would elect a Waco Republican to replace Edwards.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, and two members of the governor's security detail flanked DeLay as he strode about every half-hour from Craddick's office to Dewhurst's office.
"We're close," DeLay said Monday afternoon. "Just working out the specifics."
Yet negotiators ended the day with nothing resolved.
Brady said the negotiations were tough because every change caused a ripple effect in other areas of the state.
"Texas is the equivalent of five states," Brady said. "If this were South Dakota, it wouldn't be so tough."
The back-and-forth hiccupped about 8:30 p.m., when Mr. DeLay arrived at Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's office to discover that Mr. Dewhurst and lead negotiator Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, had left.
It was unclear when the talks would resume, as Mr. DeLay tried to broker a deal that has so far defied the mediation skills of Gov. Rick Perry ≠ who was out of state Monday to ceremoniously ring the New York Stock Exchange's closing bell.
Let's get back to the negotiations. How are things going, guys?
One negotiator likened the discussions to a divorce dispute, where the parties begin with major disagreements and end up squabbling over custody of a lawnmower.
"I mean, we're fighting over Deaf Smith County, a place most people couldn't find with a map," said the negotiator, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. DeLay laughed and declined to comment when asked whether Republicans should have sorted out their differences while Democrats were in New Mexico, blocking a quorum for six weeks.
DeLay may find the question of why Republicans still don't have this issue worked out among themselves, but some other Republicans aren't laughing. Let's see how many familiar themes we can find here.
"This is the strangest thing I've ever seen in my 14 years in the Texas House," state Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, said Monday. "One would certainly think that the Republican leadership would have had an agreed-to map before we went into all of these special sessions. And here we are nearing the end of the third special session, and we still don't have an agreed-to map.
"I am getting e-mails by the bucket saying, 'What are you guys doing down there?' "
State Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth, called on both players in the impasse to put the state's overall interests ahead of any local concerns.
"There is frustration out there with our constituents that we're bogged down with redistricting," said Brimer, who served 14 years in the House before moving to the Senate this year. "I'm frustrated, too. I wish these guys from West Texas would quit thinking they run the whole state. It's time to do what's best for Texas."
"When Texans learn that all of this is costing them $57,000 a day, not to mention the $10 million, at least, it will take to defend any map from the legal challenges, they're going to be hopping mad," said state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, an El Paso Democrat who was among the 11 who left for Albuquerque.
State Rep. Charlie Geren, a Fort Worth Republican in his second term in the House, said many of the Texans he knows have already made the calculation. And Geren said he gets an earful on the topic from his customers at the Railhead Smokehouse in Fort Worth.
"Every time I go into the restaurant, I hear about the $57,000 a day it's costing the state for these special sessions," Geren said. "I get calls every day saying with the money we're spending, we could be funding more of CHIP [the state-paid Children's Health Insurance Program] or some other program. And they're right."
"How does this end? Somebody's got to blink," Brimer said. "The governor has got to be the one to go tell somebody to back off. If he's going to avoid having to call a fourth special session, he'd better get the third one wrapped up."
Goodman expressed doubts that a solution would be that simple.
"I don't think the governor has the political capital to get it done," Goodman said. "I don't think Tom Craddick is going to bow to the will of Rick Perry any more than he would bow to the will of Robert Duncan or [Lt. Gov,] David Dewhurst."
Gene Acuna, Perry's spokesman, said that although the governor was in New York on state business Monday, he has been active in the effort to find a solution.
"The governor's office has been actively and appropriately engaged in the process," Acuna said. "We are involved."
Whatever finally happens, the effects of this exercise will be felt for awhile. I know the GOP leadership doesn't care, but I for one will be pissed if I don't get to cast a meaningful vote in the Democratic Presidential primary. There's also the potential costs of moving primaries around.
A typical primary runs the state about $10 million, said Jonathan Black, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state's office. If the entire primary were to be moved to another date, there would be no added costs.
But if legislators decide to split the primary into two ó one for congressional seats and runoffs and another for all other races ó the state would have to come up with $7.2 million more.
In Bexar County, a primary costs about $250,000, said Bexar County Elections Administrator Cliff Borofsky. If the Legislature decides to have a split primary, that cost would double. Local party offices would pick up some of that tab, he said.
What has been lost during these fabricated hostilities is that these cities and towns ó Abilene, San Angelo, Lubbock, Brownwood, Sweetwater, Big Spring, Midland/Odessa ó share a vast range of common interests that is being overshadowed and disrupted by petty, provincial bickering. These cities should be working together for the mutual benefit and economic development of all of West Texas, not working against each other for the narrow, small-scale advantage of one or two.
Abilenians donít have anything against people in Lubbock or Midland or anywhere else in West Texas, and aside from the jockeying for position forced by redistricting, residents of those places wouldn't have anything against us, either. Divisiveness among ourselves will only lessen this rural regionís political status and further enhance that of the faster-growing metropolitan areas to the east.
No matter where we end up with congressional districts, rifts have been torn between communities that will not be repaired overnight. The creation of antagonisms where none previously existed may be a more significant, longer-lasting and detrimental effect of redistricting than any advantage that might be gained by temporarily altering the partisan makeup of Congress.
Finally, here is Rep. Jim Dunnam's account of what happened on Sunday.
A number of House members were present for the 2:00 PM House session Sunday. We arrived early, intent on objecting and amending the motion to adjourn, which we knew would be coming. Along with other members present, I asked our Deputy Parliamentarian specifically how we could be assured that our objections to the motion that day would be timely considered by the Speaker. She informed me that all we had to do was orally object when the motion was made.
I was not privy to our Parliamentarian's conversation with the Speaker prior to convening on the dais, but we assume she advised the Speaker of our intentions since they spoke on the dais before the roll call. Immediately after gaveling in the House, which totally ignored the proper order of business, the Speaker announced that Rep. Phil King was moving to adjourn. All of the Democratic members present objected repeatedly, in the end yelling our objections since the Speaker appeared intent on ignoring us.
The Speaker immediately left the dais and the Sergeant's office proceeded to shut down the House chamber as we informed the Parliamentarian that we had sufficient members and wanted to appeal the ruling of the Speaker regarding the adjournment motion. In brief, everyone from the Parliamentarian to the Journal Clerk and Chief Clerk left the chamber almost immediately.