How will the Dems handle the special session?

They have some options, but honestly, there’s not that much they can do.

Outnumbered and virtually powerless to block conservative priorities they oppose, Democrats in the Texas Legislature say they are keeping their options open as they prepare for a special session that is expected to revive the GOP elections bill they killed last month.

The line coming from Democrats across the spectrum: “Everything is on the table.” That includes another walkout like the one that doomed Senate Bill 7 in the final hours of the regular legislative session when Democrats broke quorum. But this time, such a move could now imperil the pay of their staffers, since Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed the funding for the legislative branch while telling lawmakers they could restore it in the special session that starts in less than a week.

“From a caucus perspective, since we’re going into the unknown, we have to keep every option open, which includes denying quorum,” said Rep. Jessica González of Dallas, vice chair of the House Elections Committee. “I think a lot of folks want to see what would be in [the elections bill] before making a decision.”

She said House Democrats are “trying to get a sense of where the majority of our caucus is,” but that consensus is “to be determined.” Similarly, Rep. Nicole Collier of Fort Worth said during a Texas Tribune event Tuesday that, “Right now, there has not been any type of resolution or concerted efforts.”

“Everything is on the table,” Collier said. “We’re not going to remove any options at this point.”

There are still a number of unknowns before Democrats can settle on a strategy, including what the full agenda will be for the special session, how Abbott will structure it and what the elections bill will look like. Abbott announced June 22 that the special session will begin July 8 but offered no other details, only saying the agenda would be announced before the session starts.

Democrats will also have to consider Abbott’s veto of funding for the Legislature for the two-year budget cycle starting Sept. 1. That gives lawmakers an incentive to participate in the special session — or potentially sacrifice their staffers’ pay. Abbott’s veto was in retribution for the Democrats’ walk out, but it affects more than 2,100 legislative staffers and individuals working at legislative agencies. (Abbott has acknowledged the lawmakers’ salaries are protected by the state Constitution.)

Last week, Democrats and staffers sued over Abbott’s veto, asking the state Supreme Court to reverse it. Abbott’s office faces a Monday deadline to respond to the lawsuit.

See here for some background. Dems may have a bit more wiggle room if they are successful in their lawsuit, but at the end of the day the Republicans have the numbers, and the Dems don’t have an obvious endgame. As you may recall from 2003, there’s only so long you can be out of state. If they stay and fight, they will eventually be steamrolled by the Republicans’ greater numbers. The plan has to be about how to lose in the best way possible, inflict some damage, rally the base, and just generally not come away feeling demoralized. It’s not an easy task, and I don’t envy them having to do it.

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One Response to How will the Dems handle the special session?

  1. Kibitzer says:


    Dems will have a “great” opportunity to bring on a constitutional crisis, and then let’s see who get’s the blame if the brinkmanship fails. That would be a big story. In the meantime, “Everything is on the table” is a good example of vacuous non-news.


    Better than under the table, I suppose, to play around with kitchen and dining room imagery.

    But everything on the table as opposed to not on the table, i.e., up for consideration? Seriously, by way of counterfactual, why would the Dems in the Lege get together and vote to — in effect — surrender? Why would they rule out, before the special session even gets under way, a potent tactical option, and commit themselves to never again use the ultimate weapon of obstruction.

    Not to mention that the word “table” is a technical term in parliamentary procedure, with inconsistent meanings in different parts in the English-speaking world.


    I support and applaud the walk-out on the ground that it was necesssary, but let’s not kid ourselves. This constituted a resort to the ultimate tool of obstructionism and was born of desperation. Nothing much to celebrate here, unless the standards of success have gone abysmally low.

    And it may have to be used again, or at least the implied, if not overt, threat of it.
    Why would Lege Dems want to show their hand now?

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