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All eyes on the Senate

I have three things to say about this:

Republicans hold a 19-12 majority in the Senate, but 21 senators need to agree to bring the bill to a vote, so Democrats have two members who can make a stand on the coming battles over the state budget, immigration, voter identification, redistricting and other hot-button issues.

“The Senate,” Republican Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston said, “is their Alamo.”

The fight to the death analogy is a good one considering the long odds Democrats face in fending off the expected wave of conservative legislation and budget cuts coming out of the House.

“People will get what they asked for: In spades,” said Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democrat from Houston. “And some of it may be bad. We don’t have the votes to prevent that.”

Patrick and his colleagues want to make sure the Democrats don’t have a shot.

Patrick wants to scale back to 19 the number of senators who need to agree to bring a bill to a vote — the exact number of Republicans in the chamber.

Patrick says that’s coincidental. The number 19 represents a 60-percent majority, which he says should be enough to bring a bill up for a vote.

“(The House) is going to be passing a lot of conservative legislation that Senate Democrats are going to want to block,” Patrick said. “If we allow 12 Democrats to stop everything, what was the point of the election in November?”

1. I’ve seen a lot of articles about the new GOP supermajority in the House, and they all mention the ability to pass Constitutional amendments on their own. None of them have yet mentioned that for those amendments to make it onto a ballot, the joint resolutions still need a 2/3 majority in the Senate as well. That’s a constitutional requirement, not something that is subject to the whims of Dan Patrick.

2. One wonders what Sen. Patrick thought the point of the 2008 election was, given the unprecedented level of obstruction in the US Senate from the Republican minority. The perspective sure is different when you’re the one in the minority trying to play defense.

Honestly, I can’t defend the two-thirds rule in the Texas Senate. As the Republicans in Washington have clearly demonstrated, at some point you just can’t depend on behavioral norms, and must try to create rules that don’t allow the tail to wag the dog, while still ensuring that the minority has some voice. But if the newfound progressive zeal for filibuster reform results in tangible changes next month to the US Senate’s hidebound traditions, pause for a moment and ask yourself just how much legislation in recent years was actually blocked by Texas Democrats and the 2/3 rule. Besides voter ID and (briefly) re-redistricting in 2003, I really can’t think of much. For better or worse, that’s just not how our team operates. I cannot conceive of Leticia Van de Putte handing a letter to David Dewhurst saying that the Democratic caucus will refuse to suspend the rules for any bill until their demands are met.

3. Be careful what you wish for, Republicans. I don’t think this election was about what you think it was about. We’ll see who’s right soon enough.

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  1. Joe White says:

    The Killer Bees were before your arrival in Texas, Mr. Catpetbagger. 😉

  2. Joe White says:

    *carpetbagger. Curse no preview or edit ability in comments!

  3. […] including a call to remove the exception that was carved out in 2009 for voter ID bills. I’ve said before that I have mixed feelings about such anti-majoritarian measures – they always look better […]