Ailing Sen. Mario Gallegos’ absence from the Capitol leaves his fellow Democratic state senators one vote shy of a procedural tool they can use to block legislation.
Republicans did not take advantage of the situation Friday to force a vote on a contentious bill that would require voters to present identification, which Democrats have blocked.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said senators told him they “didn’t want to take it up today out of respect for Senator Gallegos.”
But he was noncommittal about his plans for next week, saying he believes a vast majority of Texans support the idea.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I would like to see it passed.”
Dewhurst has shown his true nature this session, so take him at his word here.
Democrats won’t disclose how they will respond if Dewhurst brings the voter ID bill up for debate.
Options could include breaking quorum or filibustering, either of which would kill other legislation in the waning days of the session.
“I’m not going to expose our strategy,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “We’re looking at this on a day-by-day situation. Certainly, the Senate realizes that we have really important bills and work that needs to get done.”
She warned that bringing up the voter ID bill would distract from the Senate’s need to finish work on budget, transportation, border security and air quality bills.
I figure everyone will be prepared to filibuster on Monday. I’d have to do a thorough search of my archives, but I recall there were some changes made to the rules for establishing a quorum in the aftermath of the Ardmore/Albuquerque exoduses (exoda?), so I don’t think that strategy will be reused. But I could be wrong, and I don’t doubt that everyone is poring over the rules this weekend to see what all the options are.
Honestly, if Tuesday the 22nd is the hard deadline for passing bills, then filibustering has got to be the weapon of choice. Worst case scenario, you need to talk for a maximum of 48 hours, and you’ve got ten people who can each take a turn. That would kill every other bill as well, but that’s the reason this is such a potent threat. What’s more valuable to David Dewhurst? We’ll find out on Monday.
One more thing:
[Sen. Gallegos] had diagnostic surgery Friday, and has not gotten the green light from his doctor to return to Austin.
Gallegos received a liver transplant earlier this year and missed most of the legislative session. He has been in Austin for the last couple of weeks, against his doctor’s wishes. Gallegos pleaded with his doctor to delay the procedure he had Friday until next Thursday, after the deadline for passing bills.
“This was a matter of medical urgency that the doctors weren’t willing to put off for one day,” said Gallegos’ spokesman Harold Cook, who said the senator was being checked for infection in or around his liver.
“It’s been frustrating to him that he hasn’t gotten better faster. There’s a reason his doctors didn’t want him up here. His body isn’t ready yet.”
Sen. Gallegos was at Melissa Noriega‘s election night party last Saturday. He looked good. I took an opportunity at that time to shake his hand and thank him for everything he’s done this session. I’d like to take this opportunity to do so again.