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No pre-clearance needed

The Justice Department has issued a ruling saying that the Senate did not need pre-clearance from them in order to do away with the 2/3 rule in a special session on redistricting.

“Our analysis indicates that the practice in question is an internal legislative parliamentary rule or practice — not a change affecting voting — and therefore is not subject to the preclearance requirement,” Joseph Rich, chief of the voting section in the Justice Department’s civil rights division wrote to state officials.

Federal law requires changes to voting patterns or districts in southern states to be considered by the Justice Department before taking effect to ensure that minorities’ voting rights are protected.

The ruling could affect a court hearing in Laredo on Wednesday, where a federal judge is expected to review the Democrats’ lawsuit and the Republicans’ motion to dismiss. The Democrats also have challenged Dewhurst’s move on other legal grounds but much of their argument rested on the claim that waiving the two-thirds rule requires federal approval.

I don’t know if this will have any effect on the federal lawsuit, but I can’t say it’s a good sign for the Democrats. The lawsuit is their best hope to either scuttle redistricting now or at least give them cover to return home without being dragged back to Austin. If the lawsuit gets dismissed, or if an unfavorable ruling gets handed down, their only option is a continued holdout.

Still no word yet when the next session will be, but Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is threatening more sanctions for when it does occur.

Dewhurst said he had advised the boycotting Democrats that he intends to propose changes in Senate rules that would lay out penalties against members who deliberately break quorum.

Republican senators levied fines and other penalties against the Democrats who left, but the Democrats contend those measures are invalid because the Senate had no quorum when it voted on them.

Once again, how one can change the rules in the absence of a quota is left as an exercise for the reader. Sure is a good thing there won’t be any residual acrimony when the Democrats eventually return, right?

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2 Comments

  1. Both sides are making ridiculous legal arguments now… Democrats are whining that removing the blocker bill is a vioation of the Voting Rights Act, when it clearly isn’t by any stretch of the imagination. And Republicans are doing business that can’t be done legally under the Senate Rules.

    Fortunately, it’s the Democrats who look worst in all of this because they’re perceived as having run off with their tails between their legs. The public is split fairly even on redistricting, but a super-majority disapprovess of quorum-busting.

  2. Redistricting Updates from Off the Kuff

    Yeah, I’m just getting back into the routine, here in Austin, so I’ll be back to covering the details of the redistricting fight soon, but for now, Charles has great coverage. Today, the Democratic lawsuit saying that Republicans intent to…