May 16, 2007
Senate at recess: Now what?

Despite rumors of rules gamesmanship in the Senate, they have recessed for the day without taking up any House bills. That doesn't mean the Dems are out of the woods on HB218, just that it's been pushed back for a day. Which means there's still a chance for David Dewhurst to re-live the Tuesday he'd like to forget.

If he really didn't care about passing the voter ID bill, and just wanted to pay lip service to the GOP agenda, he had cover. The Democrats' 11-member opposition would have let Dewhurst watch HB 218 expire with the session. His high regard for the rules of the Senate, he could say, wouldn't allow him to break the two-thirds rule, or risk stalling the lawmaking process with a filibuster. Unfortunately, a potential future political rival -- Sen. Dan Patrick -- was on record against the two-thirds rule.

If, however, what he really wanted was to flex his power at the helm of the Senate and ram the bill through, it would have been easy Tuesday, with Sen. Carlos Uresti (D--San Antonio) home sick with the flu during the morning call. With just 10 Democrats around, the path was clear to bring HB 218 to the floor.


Uresti says Dewhurst knew he was home sick Tuesday morning, because he'd called in to the Secretary of the Senate's office earlier, "out of courtesy. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do, just to let them know," he says. Dewhurst must also have known Democrats would rush to get Uresti back to the floor, and he didn't have all day. Still, he let Democratic Senator Eliot Shapleigh quiz the bill's sponsor, Troy Fraser, on "the history of this issue... into the 1940s, and all of the history of how this hinders the right to vote," among other questions.

That exchange alone took ten minutes, before Sen. Dan Patrick raised a point of order against debating the bill without voting to consider it. When the vote did come up, Sen. Glen Hegar wasn't on the floor to vote with other Republicans, something easily prevented by better communication from the top. Benkiser, and other results-oriented GOP leaders, will want to know why Dewhurst saw fit to take his sweet time to finally bring up the bill, and didn't have his bloc of Republican votes in line.

Indifference to the rules and and an inability to follow through - there's a combination that just screams "Governor material!", doesn't it?

Dewhurst also had to disavow a letter written on his own stationary that trashed Democrats and Sen. Whitmire. See here, here, here, here, and here for more.

Can I get a motion to adjourn here? Please?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 16, 2007 to That's our Lege